There are many reasons why one might pursue a college degree later in life — it’s time for a career change, you’ve reached an impasse in earnings potential, or you’ve found new interests — but no matter the reason, it’s never too late to earn a college degree. In fact, this is a goal for thousands of working adults each year, as nearly 40% of postsecondary learners are working adults. Forty-six percent of those between ages 25 and 29, and 66% over age 39, are pursuing their education while also employed.
Whether you’re looking to reach the next step in your career, change jobs altogether, or earn that degree you’ve been dreaming of, the first step as you head back to school is to choose a degree program.
Below are 30 great degree programs for working adults. While hundreds of degree options exist, we chose these 30 based on considerations like career prospects, average time to complete the degree and the availability of fast track and accelerated completion options, flexibility of the degree, and the possibility of trading life experiences for degree credit.
Have you been told that you’re good with numbers? Accounting technician, actuarial analyst, certified accountant, company secretary, and forensic secretary are just some of the jobs available for individuals with an accounting degree. In fact, an accounting degree can open doors to endless career options. Accredited colleges and universities offer online bachelor’s in accounting degree programs that are ideal for busy and working adults. Some school offers accelerated and online options for both undergraduate and graduate accounting degrees. Examples of courses offered in undergraduate programs include applied microeconomics for business, business law and ethics, and principles of accounting.
Whether you’re looking to advance in your existing career or want to pursue something new, a degree in business administration is a good choice. This versatile discipline can prepare you for just about any job in the business world. Classes cover a broad range of business-related topics like accounting, financial management, marketing, and strategic marketing. Business administration is a popular degree for undergraduates and offered online by colleges and universities. Also, accelerated BBA programs are common. These programs can be completed in less time than traditional programs. In fact, some BBA programs may be completed in 24 months.
Communication is the study of the ways in which people communicate as a society. Through the internet, television, mass media, political rhetoric, and more, people communicate. The 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 in communications can be pursued on campus or online. Students may also work at their own pace following traditional or accelerated programs. Courses cover a variety of topics, including digital communication, media law, research methods, and theory and ethics. Specializations for this program are also available and allow students to dig deeper into areas of interest. Some specializations include film and video production, graphic communication, international business, and public relations.
As the second most popular degree program after business administration, computer technology is a smart option for working adults 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. The major’s flexibility, as well as the fact that many of the top computer technology degree programs offer accelerated formats, make this degree program perfect for non-traditional students with outside obligations.
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, and are passionate about writing, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in creative writing can open doors to jobs in advertising, journalism, media, and publishing. 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 completed online and/or at an accelerated pace, will give you ample opportunity to create your own work in various themes and genres.
If you’ve ever entertained working as a correctional officer, paralegal, police officer, or probation officer, it’s not too late to acquire the education you need to work in the field of 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 cover topics in law and psychology. Some of the courses you will take as an undergraduate majoring in criminal justice include criminology, law enforcement, research methods, and the U.S. justice system. Specializations in criminology, homeland security, human services, and legal advocacy allow students to hone their skills in a particular area of interest.
With a degree in cybersecurity, you will acquire the skills needed to pursue the increasingly important job of preventing network attacks. From the prevention of cyberterrorists to hackers and network outages, you will gain valuable skills that can be carried into many computer-related careers. Flexible learning options abound when it comes to studying cybersecurity. While a number of brick-and-mortar schools offer cybersecurity degree programs, schools also offer accredited online programs. Cybersecurity programs exist as standalone degrees or as concentrations that can be added to a degree in a related field like network administration or even criminal justice. Such flexibility makes cybersecurity a great option for busy and working adults.
Data science careers are some of the most rapidly growing and lucrative jobs, making this the perfect time for working adults to return to school to pursue a degree program in this exciting industry. Data science is a pretty broad field. However, classes hone very specific skills, such the analysis, organization, and storage of various data sets. The discipline combines technology with other disciplines like economics, mathematics, business, and engineering. Because data science is so heavily rooted in technology, it is the perfect degree program for busy adults who wish to study online. Having a passion for research, data collection, and mathematics helps.
Whether you’re looking to teach elementary school, high school, or just work at a public institution in an administration role, you won’t have to look hard to find the perfect education degree program to fit your needs. As one of the most popular online programs offered by accredited colleges and universities, education is a top choice for busy and working adults. While classes are delivered online, students must fulfill “fieldwork” in their geographical area. Fieldwork includes gaining experience in the classroom, which can often lead to permanent work. Most undergraduate education programs begin with a range of liberal arts core classes; however, major-driven topics ramp up during the third and fourth year of study. Courses cover curriculum topics like child psychology and development and technology in teaching.
In the past, engineering degrees were only offered in the traditional classroom. Courses are now offered online. In fact, some of the nation’s top, accredited, and ranked institutions offer online engineering degrees for both undergraduates and graduates. Students may also specialize their engineering degree to better align with career goals and interests. The most popular specializations include civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and software engineers. Graduates of engineering programs have gone on to work in fields of architecture, computer systems design, government, and telecommunications. Engineering is an ideal degree for working adults due to the field’s favorable job outlook and higher than average earnings potential.
Working adults who enjoy math will likely find a degree program in finance exciting and interesting. Finance degrees can be pursued on campus or online, with many institutions offering accelerated or flexible programs. As you learn what it takes to fundraise or invest for companies and organizations, you’ll take classes like analysis of financial statements, financial management, and financial markets and institution. Finance degrees also offer a highly favorable return on investment, as entry-level careers often offer higher-than-average salaries.
In search of a broad health career that can prepare you for a number of career paths in healthcare? Health sciences is an exciting degree program designed to 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. The major requires a strong background in basic sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. Graduates of health sciences programs have gone on to secure roles as community health or public health workers, health educators, and patient care advocates.
Like many healthcare degrees that have earned a spot on our list of 30 great degree programs for working adults, healthcare administration is an in-demand career ideally designed for adults returning to school. Fortunately, a bachelor’s of science degree in healthcare administration is a popular degree program offered by a number of colleges and universities nationwide. Schools offer accredited online options, making the programs convenient for working students. In healthcare administration programs, expect to take a mix of business, healthcare management, and some health-related courses.
Students passionate about national security and combatting domestic terrorism should consider a degree in homeland security. Students studying homeland security will learn the leadership skills necessary to prepare for, respond to, and recover from any kind of national disaster. These skills include learning how to secure borders and airports, organizing emergency plans, assessing risks, and identifying weapons of mass destruction. Flexible online programs are available.
Human Resources Management
A bachelor’s degree in human resources management can lead to a number of careers, including human resources manager, labor relations manager, rehabilitation counselor, or safety specialist. 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. Online options for human resources makes it a great program for working adults.
The computer and technology industries are booming, and won’t likely slow down any time soon. As a result, dozens of reputable information technology degree programs are available at the associate and bachelor levels, at paces both traditional and accelerated. Busy working adults interested in pursuing a degree in information technology should scout out potential programs carefully. It is important to pursue only accredited programs and find the one best suited for your career goals. Some programs focus more on technical and communication skills, while others include various business tenets.
A liberal arts degree usually consists of a major in creative arts, history, literature, philosophy, or writing. However, some schools offer liberal arts as a standalone degree. A degree in liberal arts offers a broad education ideally designed for adults who love to learn. Some schools even brand their liberal arts degree as a lifelong learner program. Graduates of liberal arts programs may find work in communications, journalism, or sociology roles. Jobs may include health educators, historians, or technical writers.
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 already-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. In some programs, you’ll earn a BBA with a concentration in management and leadership.
Management Information Systems
Management information systems or MIS refers to the computing methods and software that provide businesses with value and growth potential. MIS degrees are offered online in a flexible, accelerated format ideal for working students. Career possibilities following graduation include roles as database administrators or network supervisors.
The field of marketing requires an interest in both creativity and analysis, and pursuing a bachelor’s degree program in this discipline serves as preparation for you to create a product or brand and sell it to a particular audience. Marketing programs consist of classes that teach 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 accredited schools, both online and traditional.
Like most engineering programs, earning a degree in mechanical engineering takes certain mathematical and scientific knowledge. However, if you’re STEM-bent in your studies and have a passion for engineering, a degree in mechanical engineering might be a good fit. Even busy, working adults find mechanical engineering a doable engineering program. Mechanical engineering programs require heavy math and science courses. Some topics you will see in an online mechanical engineering program include engineering mechanics, machine design, and thermodynamics. In general, the bachelor’s in mechanical engineering degree takes four years or eight semesters, assuming full-time study. Frequently, accredited colleges and universities offer accelerated programs or engineering co-op programs. These programs allow students to complete their degree in less time or earn a master’s degree along with the bachelor’s degree.
Nursing remains one of the most in-demand professions, so it’s never too late to pursue a degree in this viable healthcare field. 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 enjoy critical thinking and consider yourself detail-oriented, then a degree in paralegal studies might fit your career goals and interests. 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 reputable institutions. Depending on 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. A paralegal program takes less time to complete than law school.
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 that focus on topics like abnormal psychology, perception and sensation, personality, and research methods in psychology. 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.
A public administration degree is for individuals seeking work in civil service institutions, government agencies, nonprofits, and other social service organizations. If you’re excited about the idea of bettering both yourself and your community, then a degree in public administration might fit your goals. 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, and structure of state government, to name a few. The online options make this program a highly sought-after degree for busy, working adults.
The possibilities are endless with a degree in sociology. The broad, expansive curriculum focuses on the study of people, and the roles they play in society. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology usually includes learning about today’s culture. Students study populations of the past and sociological needs of the future. Its availability and popularity 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 a number of viable careers as community organizers, public interest advocates, probation officers, and more.
Software engineering is an ideal major for working adults interested in computers and the advancement of technology. If you’re ready to take classes in computer science, learn the aspects of complex software systems, and intern in a software company, this career path might be an ideal fit. Many online software engineering programs exist at some of the nation’s top-ranked, accredited institutions.
Life is too short to be doing what 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 land a role in just about anything that has to do with sports. Over the course of the degree program, which can be completed online and in an accelerated format, you’ll learn how to apply legal and business principles to the world of sports and fitness. Since there are a number of programs available, it is important to consider only reputable, accredited institutions.
Web and Digital Design
A degree in web design is ideal for working adults thanks to the many online programs available. Most schools offer web and digital design programs to keep up with the discipline’s popularity. Over the course of earning your degree, you’ll learn how to create, design, edit, and launch websites, and gain a working knowledge of things like internet policies, e-commerce, web languages, and more. Programs are flexible and offered online from accredited institutions.
If you love animals and want to work with them, a degree in zoology might be a good fit. Online options are available from accredited schools, making the degree convenient to acquire. Individuals who’ve earned an online zoology degree have landed roles as biology teachers, laboratory technicians, park rangers, wildlife biologists, and wildlife managers. Zoologists work in marine facilities, zoos, and conservation parks. You’ll even find zoologists working at major amusement parks throughout the world.
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