Too busy to go back to school? You might be able to earn a degree online in as few as two years.When it comes to life, you're no stranger to a full plate. And these days - between work, the kids, and pets - penciling school into your hectic schedule might seem impossible, especially for a four-year degree. But pursuing an associate's degree online could offer you much needed flexibility and convenience - and the opportunity to earn your degree in as few as two years.
"Online learning provides an opportunity for working professionals, single parents, anyone really to earn a degree without stopping life to travel to campus and sit in class for 55 minutes or more a day," says Audra Barrett, associate vice president of instruction with Dallas Colleges Online, the virtual campus of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas.
Barrett notes other advantages of online education: "You've got the added benefit of contact advising, where you can get on demand academic advice through chat or email. That means important dialogue is taking place without wasting time waiting around for advisors, arranging specific meeting times, and commuting to common locations."
Of course, while online education does offer convenience, it isn't perfect for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work and self-discipline to keep all the balls in the air when earning a degree online.
But if you're intrigued by the prospect of going to school on your schedule, keep reading for six rock solid online associate's degrees that could make your education dreams a reality.
The Online Edge: Face it: Business has gone global, and an online education in business administration could offer you the most time efficient way to prep yourself for that climate, according to Barrett, as you could literally be in class with students from clear across the globe.
An online associate's program in business administration could broaden your horizon and expose you to video conferencing software, a tool you might use in the working world, says Barrett. Obviously, you'll also have the benefit of doing class assignments whenever - and wherever- it's convenient for you, she says; all you need is an Internet connection.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Business Administration Program.
Common Courses: According to the College Board, in a business administration program, you could expect to learn how to control an organization's activities and to solve business problems. Your classes might include financial management, accounting, and marketing, among others.
The Online Edge: If you want to earn an associate's degree in nursing, why commute to campus for a class like biology when you can turn your living room into a virtual laboratory in mere minutes? "The technology for getting biology classes off the ground and online has come a long way with simulations," says Barrett.
For example, "With the purchase of a lab kit, students can experiment from home with a virtual lab partner. What better way for a single mother, for instance, to expose her kids to the importance of education early by bringing out that lab kit and logging on instead of isolating herself and the educational process in a classroom?"
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Nursing Program.
Common Courses: And according to the College Board, the hard sciences will likely be a part of your program curriculum. For instance, you could take classes like chemistry, microbiology, and pharmacology.
The Online Edge: How frustrating is it when you go to class, take notes, and still get lost on a problem set? Well, according to Barrett, in a well-designed online accounting course, you'd have on-demand help. Plus, instead of wasting time searching for explanatory websites or calling a classmate, you might actually consult materials hand-picked by instructors and embedded in your course material.
"A benefit of online coursework is that teachers can build in references for students (explanatory Web links, videos, or PDFs) for when they have trouble, especially because accounting can be very difficult."
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Accounting Program.
Common Courses: Besides getting a grip on collecting and analyzing financial information, the College Board says you could also take classes like accounting, auditing, and tax law. In this program, you'll learn things like how to prepare tax forms and how to evaluate profitability for companies.
The Online Edge: Barrett says earning an associate's in health information technology online could help prime you for the computer coding and electronic medical record keeping you could be doing one day as a professional out in the health care field.
How? "If I'm a student, and I'm not understanding what it means to open a file or to save information a certain way," Barrett says, "it can help to be constantly immersed in the technology during class time."
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Health Information Technology Program.
Common Courses: Major in health information technology, and you could learn how to prepare and maintain medical records, which includes coding, medical terminology, and working with special medical software.
The Online Advantage: According to Barrett, a big advantage to studying for an associate's in early childhood education online, in addition to the convenience of the class bell ringing on your own schedule, is great virtual simulations that have been developed to mimic real-world childcare situations.
"Virtual simulations are a powerful way to learn childcare skills," says Barrett. While it would be impossible to use real children to test your accountability as a caregiver in a child-rearing psychology class, Barrett says she's seen virtual baby simulators do just that: Students have to take care of a child in an online environment built to mimic the real world.
She also says that case studies, another major component of many child education classes, make the transition to online easily. "Teachers just put the course material up, and students can go on and give their ideas and recommendations."
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Early Childhood Education Program.
Common Courses: Get ready to get acquainted with all things kid-centric, as the College Board lists the following as typical classes: child development, parent-child relations, and classroom management and behavior.
The Online Advantage: The hidden advantage of pursuing an online associate's degree in computer science, Barrett says, is that you're "inside" the very technology you are trying to master, building your computer literacy skills by default every time you log on to complete your coursework.
"It's kind of neat to study computer science online because you're working with the technology that you're taking classes in," says Barrett. Essentially, the venue of your learning also contributes to familiarizing yourself with best practices with computer software and programs.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Computer Science Program.
Common Courses: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, computer science degrees teach students skills for learning computer languages. Courses might provide instruction on fixing bugs in programs, writing computers code, and other hand-on tasks.