There are a million reasons why one might pursue a college degree later in life — marriage or children became a priority, lack of funding, different opportunities — but no matter the reason, obtaining a college degree remains a goal for thousands of working adults each year. In fact, almost 40% of postsecondary learners are adults. Forty-six percent of those between ages 25 and 29, and 66% of those over age 39, are pursuing their education while also working.
Whether you’re looking to reach the next step in your career, change careers altogether, or just finally earn a degree, the first step of heading back to school is to choose a degree program. And that’s where we come in.
Below, we’ve highlighted 30 great degree programs for working adults. While hundreds of different degree options exist, we chose these 30 based on considerations such as: career prospects; average time to complete the degree and the availability of fast track programs; flexibility of the degree, and the possibility of trading life experiences for degree credit.
Accounting technician, actuarial analyst, certified accountant, company secretary, forensic secretary…. The list of potential careers one can pursue with a degree in accounting is seemingly endless. Because so many institutions offer accounting, this particular degree program is a great choice for busy working adults. Required classes, which you’re likely to find available online or in a classroom and at all kinds of times and paces, will likely include business law, auditing, and tax accounting, plus a handful of math classes.
Convenient and versatile, anthropology is a great degree program for working adults. Because it’s a relatively popular major, anthropology is widely available at any number of colleges, both on-campus and online. Anthropology covers the study of humans and other primates, how they communicate and how they evolve, and offers myriad specializations like cultural anthropology, primatology, archaeology, and language. Once you’ve obtained your degree, career options are many, and include anthropologist or archaeologist, archivist, curator, exhibit designer, forensic scientist, historian, or sociologist, to name but a few.
Business is an easy addition to our list of 30 great degree programs for working adults simply because of all the different options one can choose while pursuing this degree. For starters, a business degree can be used to obtain any number of possible jobs ranging from a manager in a company to a personal financial advisor. Students working towards a bachelor’s degree in business can choose from a number of courses, many of which are well suited for online degree programs.
Whether you’re looking to advance in your existing career or you want to pursue something entirely different, a degree in business administration is a good choice. This versatile degree can prepare you for just about any job in the business world, and likely classes will include marketing, accounting, and financial management, among others. Business administration is offered by a number of colleges both online and in a classroom, and pursuing the degree can be spread out over time or condensed into an accelerated program.
Communication is the study of all the ways in which we communicate as a society: the internet, television, mass media, political rhetoric, etc. Such a wide-reaching major is a great option for working adults interested in a degree program that will offer new career opportunities. A bachelor’s degree can be pursued on campus or online, at your own pace or accelerated, and topics of study will include group communication, transcultural communication, persuasion, rhetorical criticism, and research methods, among other subjects.
As the second most popular degree program (business is first), computer technology is a smart option for working adults who are looking to obtain a college degree. A bachelor’s degree in computer technology is likely to include courses such as computer networking, database management systems, and systems analysis, all of which are well suited for online classes. Such flexibility, as well as the fact that many of the top computer technology degree programs allow for an accelerated pace, make this degree program perfect for a busy working adult.
Conflict is everywhere, and for every family fighting over a will or nations fighting over resources, there is a need for those with degrees in conflict management. This fascinating degree program covers the entire process of conflict — from origins to resolution — and will teach you such things as peacemaking skills and the philosophical ideas most commonly behind conflict. It’s possible to find this degree on a campus or through an online program.
Creative writing isn’t a major for everyone, but it might be perfect for a working adult in search of a flexible, fun, and interesting degree program. If you’re searching for a career change, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in creative writing can lead to jobs in editing, publishing, journalism, and advertising. On the other hand, many adults who go back to school choose creative writing simply because they love to write. This degree program, which can easily be done online and/or at an accelerated pace, will give you ample opportunity to create your own work in various themes and genres.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts a major increase in jobs such as police officers, correctional officers, and fraud investigators, among others. With this in mind, it’s a good time to pursue a degree in criminal justice. Whether you choose a criminal justice degree program that’s in a classroom or online, traditionally paced or accelerated, your class list is likely to include courses like law and psychology.
With a degree in cybersecurity, you will be set to pursue the increasingly important job of preventing things like hackers, cyberterrorists, and network outages. Options abound when it comes to studying cybersecurity. While a number of brick-and-mortar schools offer cybersecurity degree programs, so, too, do plenty of online programs. Other options include choosing to find a program that offers cybersecurity as its own degree, or making cybersecurity a concentration of a degree in a related field like network administration or even criminal justice. Such flexibility makes cybersecurity a great option for busy working adults.
Careers in data science are some of the most rapidly growing, making this the perfect time for working adults to return to school to pursue a degree program in this exciting industry. Data science itself a pretty broad field, but very generally consists of the organization, storage, and analysis of various data sets. It combines technology with other disciplines like economics, mathematics, business, and engineering. Because data science is so heavily rooted in technology, it may just be the perfect degree program for a busy working adult to pursue online.
Whether you’re looking to teach elementary school, high school, or just work at a school in an administration role, you won’t have to look hard to find the perfect education degree program to fit your needs. A number of accredited schools offer online degree programs, but students are still required to fulfill “fieldwork” in their geographical area. However you choose to pursue your education degree program, expect an exciting list of classes that includes everything from child psychology to classroom management.
Working adults who enjoy math will likely find a degree program in finance to be right up their alley. Finance degrees can be pursued on campus or online, with many institutions offering accelerated or flexible programs. As you learn about what it takes to fundraise and invest for companies and organizations, you’ll take classes like financial management, analysis of financial statements, and financial markets and institution, among others.
A never-ending demand for graphic design makes this degree program a great option for working adults. A number of accredited colleges, many of which are respected art schools, offer graphic design as a flexible online major. Over the course of the degree, which could take anywhere from one to four years, you’ll take fun hands-on classes to learn the basics of good design, how to create a visual statement, and use the most cutting-edge computer programs to design everything from promotional posters to websites.
Health Sciences is a broad degree program that can prepare anyone of any age for any number of careers related to health. In general, this exciting degree program will teach you about the ways in which humans age and care for themselves. Expect to take classes on exercise science and public health, though most degrees allow students to eventually choose a specialty such as health information technology or nutrition.
Like nursing, which also makes our list of 30 great degree programs for working adults, healthcare administration is an in-demand career, and is, therefore, a great option for an adult returning to school. Fortunately, a bachelor’s of science degree in healthcare administration is a popular degree program and is offered by a number of colleges and universities nationwide. It’s even possible to pursue the entire degree through an online program, making it a great option for a working adult in need of a flexible learning schedule.
Having people knowledgeable about the topic of homeland security is becoming more and more important, which makes this an ideal degree program for working adults looking to go back to school and on to a new career. Students studying homeland security, which is called emergency management by some schools, will learn the leadership skills necessary to prepare for, respond to, and recover from any kind of disaster. These skills include learning how to secure borders and airports, organizing emergency plans, assessing risks, and identifying weapons of mass destruction, among so much more.
Human Resources Management
A bachelor’s degree in human resources management can lead to a list of careers that is practically endless: school counselor, human resources manager or assistant, labor relations manager, safety specialist, and rehabilitation counselor, among so many others. This versatile degree will teach you all you need to know about handling employment issues, from training staff and organizing pay to ensuring a workplace is a safe and healthy environment.
The computer and technology industries are booming, and things aren’t likely to slow down any time soon! Best of all, there are dozens of reputable information technology degree programs available at the associate’s and bachelor’s levels, at paces both traditional and accelerated. Busy working adults interested in pursuing a degree program in information technology should scout out potential programs carefully, as this versatile degree could mean that some programs focus more on technical and communication skills, while others include various business tenets as well.
The liberal arts often get a bad rap, but we happen to think this degree program is just perfect for a working adult returning to school, especially if you are looking to better yourself through education. The liberal arts are all about exploring new ideas — or rather, reading about the big ideas which have lasted over hundreds of years and which have helped to shape the Western Heritage. By the time you’ve achieved your liberal arts degree, you’ll be able to communicate effectively, understand broad fields of knowledge, and reason critically.
Management & Leadership
A degree program in management and leadership is ideal for many busy working adults looking to go back to school in order to achieve the next level in their established careers. Over the course of the degree, you’ll focus on learning timeless leadership skills such as team building and mediation, while also diving into business topics like finance and communication.
The field of marketing requires an interest in both creativity and analysis, and pursuing a bachelor’s degree program in marketing will prepare you to create a product, then sell it to the right group of people. The degree program consists of classes that will teach you about consumer behavior, marketing research and strategy, and advertising and promotion. And since marketing is such a popular major, this degree program is offered by dozens of schools at varying paces.
Suggesting a military history degree program to working adults looking to go back to school may seem like it’s coming out of left field, but this degree program has tons of potential. Studying military history includes exploring military science, learning about a history of human conflict, and understanding how various conflicts have shaped our culture and civilization. Best of all, a bachelor’s degree in military history is versatile. Some pursue this degree to expand their knowledge, others go into teaching, while still others find positions in the government, NGOs, or public administration.
Nursing remains one of the most in-demand professions, so it’s never too late to pursue a degree program in nursing. Busy working adults will be happy to learn that the path to becoming a registered nurse is a surprisingly flexible one. According to The Occupational Outlook Handbook, nursing jobs are available to those with a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. With so much flexibility, any working adult should be able to find the right nursing degree program to fit into even the busiest of schedules.
If you have an interest in law, enjoy critical thinking, and consider yourself detail-oriented, then a degree program in paralegal studies might be just the ticket. To obtain a job as a paralegal, a certificate or bachelor’s degree will be required, both of which are offered by a number of institutions. Depending upon your needs and schedule, a paralegal studies degree program can easily be obtained online in an accelerated format, or in a classroom at a slower, more traditional pace.
If you’re fascinated by people and the workings of the mind, then a program in psychology might be worth considering. As you pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you’ll take a fascinating variety of classes such as perception and sensation, research methods in psychology, abnormal psychology, personality, learning, and neuroscience, to name but a few. If practicing psychology is the ultimate goal, then you’ll need to pursue a graduate degree. Fortunately, psychology is a popular major, and both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are widely available on campus and online.
If you’re excited about the idea of bettering both yourself and your community, then look no further than a degree program in public administration. Public administrators work with local governments to bring together diverse groups of people for the betterment of all. Job tasks might include developing educational programs for at-risk youth, helping a neighborhood organize a Block Watch, or any number of other pro-community ventures. A degree program in public administration can be found at many institutions, both on-campus and online, and will include classes like economic development, grant writing, public policy, structure of state government, and community analysis, to name but a few.
The possibilities are endless with a degree in sociology, the study of people, and the roles they play in society. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology usually includes learning all about today’s culture — from the mass media to the Amish. Its availability on nearly every college’s list of majors makes sociology a great degree program for working adults. Even better, a sociology degree can lead to such careers as a community organizer, sociologist, public interest advocate, probation officer, or any number of other flexible and interesting careers.
Life is too short to be doing you don’t like, so if you love sports, why not pursue a degree program in sports management? With a degree in sports management, you can represent professional athletes, build and manage collegiate athletic programs, work for your favorite football team, or just about anything else that has to do with sports. Over the course of the degree program, which can be done online in an accelerated format, you’ll learn how to apply legal and business principles to the worlds of sports and fitness.
Pursuing a degree program in web design is great for working adults thanks to the fact it’s ideal as an online program to be completed at one’s own pace. Plus, it’s offered by most schools, making it a convenient choice of program. Over the course of earning your degree, you’ll learn how to create, design, edit, and launch websites. You will also gain a working knowledge of things like internet policies, e-commerce, web languages, and much more.