In the late 1980s, universities began to offer fully accredited online degree programs. At first, these institutions catered to working professionals who didn’t have time to return to school and earn their graduate degrees. Coursework could be completed online while they maintained their regular working hours.
Today the online higher education landscape is overflowing with opportunities to learn entirely online from another city or state at all levels. We will be sure to explain the difference between types of online programs, give you examples of degree programs with great career outcomes, and go over factors to consider when choosing an online degree program.
100% Online vs. Hybrid Programs
Although many online programs are available to students today, it’s important to know that not all are created equal. While some are made to be completed 100% online, others have been formatted as hybrid programs to be done both online and in person. Any majors within fields requiring technical skills such as medicine, education, or mechanics will undoubtedly be earned through a hybrid program. Most hybrid programs will start with a large foundation of basic knowledge, finishing with some kind of hourly practical experience, such as student teaching for educators, in order to graduate. Degrees in web development, administration, or finance are not quite so hands-on. These programs can be completed 100% online through a computer, with graduation immediately after passing final exams.
Top 5 Degrees That Can Be Earned Completely Online
The sheer volume of degrees available online can be intimidating, especially if you lack a sense of direction. Figuring out which online degrees have the best career outcomes is a good place to start. We’ve compiled a list of the top five degrees within fields that hold a lot of opportunity. These majors will allow you to land high-demand jobs that pay well and have room for growth or specialization.
1. Software engineering
As technology weaves its way into nearly every industry, the demand for professionals within the field of software development is projected to increase. Between 2021 and 2031, the field is expected to grow an impressive 26%. That’s a projection of about 400,000 new positions in the marketplace. Many professionals within the tech industry have earned degrees with majors in software engineering, usually at the bachelor’s degree level or higher. Those who hold Master’s degrees in software engineering will qualify for positions that pay more, but the median annual salary for careers within software development is $109,020. Here are some examples of job titles held by professionals with software engineering degrees:
- Quality Assurance Analyst
- Software Engineer
- Software Developer
- Computer Systems Manager
- Project Manager
We can help you narrow down your choice with our collection of the overall Best Online Software Engineering Degree Programs and the Best Online Master’s in Software Engineering Programs.
2. Data science
Professionals with data science degrees have a unique set of analytical tools that make them valuable to a wide variety of occupations. Usually titled “Data Scientists,” they are able to work within many industries, such as:
- Computer Systems Design
- Scientific Research and Development
- Software Publishing
- Data Processing and Hosting
- Accounting Services
The field of data science is expected to see a workforce increase of 13,500 per year until 2031, which is a 36% increase over a decade. With a median annual salary of $100,910, this fast-growing career path also pays well. If you’re interested in pursuing an online degree in data science, take a look at our list of the Best Online Master’s in Data Science Programs.
3. Web development
As you scroll the Internet and read this webpage, know that web developers are responsible for creating and maintaining what you see and interact with online. They must also maintain website performance and functionality through the unseen code that makes up each webpage. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Web Development and Digital Design is projected to grow much faster than average, with a 23% increase by 2031. And with a median annual salary of $78,300, web developers make around $20,000 more per year than the national average.
4. Business administration
Majoring in business administration will set you up for career success across a diverse range of occupations. Professionals with a degree in business administration work jobs that involve the day-to-day duties of managing money, running a profitable business, and even managing people. Occupations within the Business and Financial fields are projected to grow 7% by 2031, an average rate compared to all others, and the median annual salary for these job positions is $76,570. It’s important to note that professionals who work their way into the Business Management side of things will eventually earn more, with a median annual salary of $102,450. Business Management is also expected to see an above-average 8% workforce growth by 2031.
There are online business degrees out there for all of your career goals. Take a look at our collection of lists outlining the best online Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate in Business Administration Degree Programs.
Most occupations within finance are expected to grow at an average rate or even faster between 2021 and 2031, providing finance majors with an abundance of opportunities to find work. Those employed within the Business and Financial sector can expect to make a median annual salary of $76,570. Job titles within this industry range significantly, but here are some examples:
- Budget Analyst
- Financial Examiner
The occupation of Financial Advisor is one such job title expected to grow as much as 14% by 2031. An increase in the aging population is responsible for the above-average growth of this career path, as the baby boomer generation is feeling the demand for financial counsel surrounding retirement plans. Learn about how you can get on track to becoming a Financial Advisor by reading our Best Online Master’s in Finance Degree Program guide. You can read our page on the Best Online Associate in Finance Programs if you’re starting at the entry level.
How to Decide on Which Degree You Will Pursue
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to decide which field to major in. Universities and colleges offer a wide array of degree programs online which is great news for you, but it can be daunting to sift through. Let’s go over some key factors to consider when making your decision:
- Take note of your interests and hobbies. The first matter of business is to decide which occupation suits you. What are you interested in? What kind of hobbies do you enjoy? Is there a way you can create a unique career path that aligns with your enthusiasm? Also, think about how much money you expect to make and whether or not it’s realistic based on your current educational background and experience.
- Do some research on career path trajectory. If you’re interested in working your way up within your occupation, you need to be sure there is room for growth. Some jobs only have one or two levels of experience, while some lead straight to the top of an organization. Define your goals before deciding.
Determine your educational requirements. Once you decide on your desired job title, it’s time to pick a major. If it’s unclear what kind of education you will need, a great way to determine the exact next steps is to talk to someone you know who already has the job. If you don’t know anyone personally, you can reach out to professionals directly and ask for advice. You can also talk to prospective schools about the career outcomes of related degrees and determine what your required coursework would be.
Interested in a degree instead?
Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.