Too busy working your nightmarish job to pursue the job of your dreams? Online education could make that dream a reality.Who hasn't dreamed about being a cop, a video game designer, or even an inspiring teacher? Well, if you're still dreaming, but think you're now too busy with work, family, or other obligations to go back to school to pursue that dream career, cheer up. It might not be too late.
That's because online education programs offer a flexible way to earn your degree whenever and wherever it's convenient for you.
"Online degrees are becoming more and more popular because of many things, such as the high cost and inconvenience of attending a university [in person]," says Patrice Rice, president and founder of Patrice & Associates, a national recruiting agency. She says online degrees are a great way for busy people to gain skills or to help them change careers, all while keeping their current job and family responsibilities, both of which are pretty important.
With that in mind, we researched a few degrees that could help you pursue your dream career.
"These degrees work well online because students are typically learning fundamental content like sociology, criminology, psychology, and applicable laws that on-the-job or hands-on training supplements later," says Marie Zimenoff, a job search strategist at A Strategic Advantage, a career management company.
She adds that this degree also works for busy people because the group work requirements are not as intense as many other degrees.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Criminal Justice Program.
About the Degree: Criminal justice majors study all aspects of crime, the law, and the justice system, says the College Board, a nonprofit research organization that promotes higher education. Typical courses include criminology, policing society, victimology, criminal law, and juvenile justice.
Possible Dream Job: Police Officer. Education requirements vary and range from a high school diploma to a college or higher-level degree. And while no specific college degree is required to pursue this career, the U.S. Department of Labor has this to say: "Many applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, and a significant number are college graduates. Many junior colleges, colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement or criminal justice."
"Depending on your work or educational background, as a busy person, you might look to update your skill set by adding a new [computer] language or technology through a quick online class, or you could earn a computer science degree to support your experience," says Zimenoff. She adds that earning a degree often means more pay.
She says online programs in this major work well because the content is technological in nature, as well as computer-related, which is of course the way you access the online class in the first place.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Computer Science Program.
About the Degree: In a computer science degree program, the College Board says you'll study computer programming, along with the theory and design of software. They say you should prepare to take courses like artificial intelligence, digital system design, software engineering, and data structures and algorithms.
Possible Dream Job: Software Developer. These techies design computer applications, systems, and games, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Software developers usually have a bachelor's in computer science, software engineering, or a related subject. Math degrees are also acceptable.
"If you have experience in the food industry and are looking to take a step up, this online degree will be a great option," says Zimenoff. She says the degree will help you keep up with trends in the industry, such as restaurants innovating new food combinations and flavors to attract customers. She adds that you'll need to back up your education with real world experience.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Culinary Arts Program.
About the Degree: In a culinary arts program, the College Board says you'll learn not only how to prepare great tasting food, but also how to run a kitchen and train assistants. Typical courses in this major are food science, foundations of baking, nutrition, professional cooking, and banquets and catering.
Possible Dream Job: Chef. These professionals do more than just cook. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, they might also oversee kitchen staff, create menus, and develop recipes. And while most chefs begin their careers in other kitchen jobs, a growing number of them receive formal training at community colleges, culinary arts schools, technical schools, and two- and four-year institutions, says the Department of Labor.
"For a professional working in a different capacity within the education system, this can be a great option for taking that next step," says Zimenoff. "The parts that will work online are the fundamentals and philosophy of education. For example, how students learn, creating lesson plans, and pedagogy."
With an online elementary education degree, Zimenoff says busy people can earn their degree while keeping their jobs, then do the hands-on classroom teaching required for certification as a public school teacher separately.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Elementary Education Program.
About the Degree: In this degree program, the College Board says you'll study a lot more than just teaching methods. You'll also learn about school health and safety issues, educational psychology, and creating exciting lesson plans. Typical courses include instructional technology, philosophy of education, and education of the exceptional child.
Possible Dream Job: Elementary or Kindergarten Teacher. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, every state requires public kindergarten and elementary school teachers to have a bachelor's degree in elementary education. They also must be certified by the state. And while those requirements don't exist for private school teachers, the Department of Labor says private schools typically seek applicants with bachelor's degrees in elementary education.
"As innovation in marketing becomes more important to businesses, experienced and new marketing professionals are distinguishing themselves with specialized online training in new design technologies, branding, online content development, and social media strategy," says Zimenoff.
She adds that these programs suit online study, because they are usually closely integrated with the use of technology.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Marketing Program.
About the Degree: The College Board says that marketing majors study innovative and creative ways to make companies' products and services more attractive to customers. Students might take courses like advertising and promotion, international marketing, marketing management, and consumer behavior, says the College Board.
Possible Dream Job: Advertising, Promotions, or Marketing Manager. These pros create and manage the "buzz" from advertising and promotional campaigns to generate interest in products and services, says the U.S. Department of Labor. A bachelor's degree is required for most of these positions, with classes in marketing, market research, consumer behavior, and other similar subjects for advertising and promotions positions. Courses such as management, accounting, finance, and others are advantageous for marketing manager positions, according to the Department of Labor.
"This is more book learning than practical application, so it's easier to learn and take tests and submit papers online. After all, there's really no hands-on lab work or experiments needed in the finance, accounting, or management fields," says Rice.
She adds, "If someone is going for an MBA, they probably already have a four-year degree and a job. So this is something that can be done online on nights and weekends," says Rice.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Online MBA Program.
About the Degree: According to the Princeton Review, an organization that offers test preparation services for those applying to college, an MBA could enhance your professional skills and even increase your value. In an MBA program, you'll gain a broad overview of business and might take courses in areas such as marketing, accounting, or finance, says the Princeton Review.
Possible Dream Job: Art Director. These creative management types are in charge of the visual style and overall look of everything from magazines and newspapers to product packaging and movies, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Some art directors supplement their work experience with MBAs or MFAs (Master of Fine Arts) in order to demonstrate that they can take on a more managerial or creative role. However, many start out in another art occupation, such as a graphic, industrial, or set designer and gain the appropriate education for that occupation first, notes the Department of Labor.