In the job market, there are those careers that are tried and true, reliable occupations (fields like accounting and criminal justice can never have enough trained professionals), and there are those that are up and coming. If your primary goal for an education is to get a job with real growth potential, set your sites on the fastest-growing and biggest occupations and careers- the jobs that are expanding much faster than the supply of workers, where there will be job openings anywhere and any time you need them.
These golden geese take some scouting out to capture, no doubt. The jobs with the most job market potential also require highly specialized skills that demand a higher education – usually at least a bachelor’s, and often a master’s. If you’re already a working adult, and you’re considering a career change to one of these in-demand occupations, an online degree program is your ticket. That way, you can learn the new skills you need, while still working your current job to provide for yourself and your family.
Ranking the Best Online Degrees to Get a Job
This ranking has one interest over all others – what online degrees are more likely to get you a job and long-lasting career. To figure out where the jobs are, College Consensus editors looked to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the occupations with the fastest and highest job market growth rates. From there, we researched what kinds of online degree programs students should seek out.
Predictably, the majority of the top jobs are in technology, healthcare, and business. Criminal justice and security is a big one as well. These are all fields that are in periods of rapid change, and all experiencing a shortage of qualified professionals. There’s no way we (or the BLS) can guarantee that you’ll get the job you set out to get, but these are the fields that are looking for people who can do the job. Good workers are hard to find, so make yourself one with an online degree.
Students may also be interested in the Highest Paying Careers for College Grads, Underrated Colleges Doing Great Things, and Most Unusual College Degrees for some inside and outside of the box thinking about careers and education.
1. Solar Technology Installer
Looking around any U.S. neighborhood is enough to alert students about the surge of professionals entering the field of solar technology. Solar photovoltaic installers are needed to assemble, install, and maintain solar panels. Installers require a deep understanding of how solar modules operate and must have knowledge about electrical systems. Online school programs prepare installers by allowing them to earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree in solar technology or sustainable energy. With a staggering 105% growth rate projected for the next 10 years, qualified individuals will have no problem securing a position. Median salary is $39,400 annually with six-figure potential for top installers.
Growth Rate: 105%
Average Salary: $39,490 per year
Online Degree Options: Sustainable and Renewable Engineering (multiple education levels)
2. Home Health/Personal Care Aide
Home health aides work directly with individuals who need personal care on a temporary or permanent basis. Home health aides are not intended to provide medical assistance, but instead help with daily living tasks such as dressing, bathing, and eating. Online associate nursing degree programs will prepare students to become a certified nursing assistant. The career growth rate for personal care aides is 47% and considered a higher than average growth rate when compared to other professions. The average home health aide salary is $23,210 annually with the occupation allowing a lot of room for advancement throughout their career.
Growth Rate: 47%
Average Salary: $23,210 per year
Online Degree Options: Associate’s Degree in Nursing and CNA certification
3. Physician Assistant
Physician assistants practice medicine in conjunction with a team of physicians and nurses. Physician assistants are qualified to assess and treat patients in a variety of settings including doctor’s offices and hospitals. The best online degrees to get career training as a physician assistant is through an accredited college that offers graduate-level courses. Each state also requires a physician assistant to be licensed. Jobs in the healthcare field are always experiencing a faster than average growth rate. Physician assistants who have finished online school programs have the potential to earn an average of $104,860 annually.
Growth Rate: 37%
Average Salary: $104,860 per year
Online Degree Options: Master’s in Physician Assistance
4. Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioners have a higher level of advanced training and responsibilities when compared to registered nurses. Nurse practitioners have similar duties as a physician and a nurse practitioner can diagnose and treat medical conditions. They are also licensed to prescribe medications. In the field, a nurse practitioner can work in general practice or obtain a specialty. Accredited online degree programs will require the student to complete master’s level nursing courses for graduation. Passing a national certification examination is also required for practice in this career. Current growth rate for nurse practitioners is 36% with the median career salary at $103,880.
Growth Rate: 36%
Average Salary: $103,880 per year
Online Degree Options: MSN-NP or DNP Programs
With advancements in the field of technology, the need for statisticians is at an all-time high. Statisticians are needed to assist with the collection of data and analyze the data for practical uses. Statisticians are employed in both private and public sectors and U.S. News & World Report considers it the best business job. Best online degrees to get a job as a statistician is a bachelor’s or master’s in statistics. Many scientific and government agencies will require entry-level applicants to have a master’s degree in statistics. Entry-level job seekers are attracted to an average salary of $84,000+ annually and a growth rate of 34% projected over the next decade.
Growth Rate: 34%
Average Salary: $84,060 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s in Mathematical Statistics or Master’s in Statistics
6. Software Developers
Applications and software options are evolving on a constant basis. Software developers are valued for both their creative energies and technical prowess. Developers not only create code for new software and application projects, but also work on maintaining and updating current programs. For most entry-level positions, a bachelor’s in computer science is a strong asset and a way to ensure job security. Project experience is also strongly valued in the field. With a 31% growth rate for the next 10 years, finding a job in the software development field won’t be a challenge. And with salaries pushing six figures, any student debt shouldn’t be too much of a burden.
Growth Rate: 31%
Average Salary: $101,790 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s in Computer Science or Master’s in Computer Science
Mathematicians have the option of pursuing a career in a vast number of industries. Mathematicians may become teachers and professors or may obtain a job as a data analyst or computer programmer. Online school programs offer a number of major options for students interested in becoming mathematicians. Students study topics such as data analysis, logical reasoning, formulas, math models, and more. A bachelor’s degree in mathematics is an option for certain career paths; although many mathematicians go on to earn their master’s in a specialization like statistics. With a six-figure average salary and a higher than average projected job growth rate, there has been an uptick in the number of math majors looking for accredited online degree programs.
Growth Rate: 30%
Average Salary: $103,010 per year
Online Degree Options: Mathematic Applications or Math Foundations Degrees (multiple education levels)
8. Medical Assistants
Medical assistants have experienced job growth in the last decade due to a surge in patients seeking healthcare. As the baby boomer generation enters retirement age, healthcare offices are busier than ever. Medical assistants handle records, appointments, insurance referrals, lab reports, and filing insurance forms. To perform these duties, a medical office will expect job seekers to have an online associate’s degree in medical assistance. Becoming a CMA (certified medical assistant) demonstrates that you have been properly trained in the field. Medical assistants often pursue additional professional development opportunities in the healthcare field and later choose a job as a nurse, insurance billing associate, or medical office manager.
Growth Rate: 29%
Average Salary: $32,480 per year
Online Degree Options: Associate’s in Medical Assistance and Certification as a CMA
9. Genetic Counselors
The field of genetic research has exhibited tremendous growth in the last two decades causing it to be a desirable career choice for many science majors. More and more patients are seeking out genetic counselors to assess their risks for potential health issues. Genetic counselors use blood work to check for markers that show mutations that could put an individual or their offspring at risk for a number of genetic disorders. Genetic counselors must not only have medical knowledge, but also the ability to counsel families on results. At a minimum, a master’s degree in genetics from an online school program is needed. An average salary for a genetic counselor with a master’s degree is more than $77,000 each year.
Growth Rate: 29%
Average Salary: $77,480 per year
Online Degree Options: Master’s in Genetics
10. Information Security Analysts
Every year, more and more news stories break about major corporations becoming victims of cyber attacks. Data security is a top concern for any business with an online presence. Information security analysts are responsible for monitoring all security threats on a network and taking steps to prevent any data breaches. Online associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees are available in the field of information systems and cyber security. These online degree programs review current online threats and software programs designed to negate risks to an information system. Information security analyst careers in both the private and public sector obtain positions that pay upwards of $95,000 annually.
Growth Rate: 28%
Average Salary: $95,510 per year
Online Degree Options: Information Systems and Cyber Security Degrees (multiple education levels)
11. Physical Therapists
Healthcare professionals refer patients to physical therapists as a way to help improve physical issues caused by trauma or injury. Physical therapists plan out a patient’s rehabilitation program as a way to improve mobility, increase strength, and decrease discomfort. The best online degrees to get jobs as physical therapists are graduate level programs and higher. Transitional programs are available at online colleges that allow bachelor’s degree holders to earn their Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees. After he or she receives a DPT degree, the physical therapist can complete a residency or fellowship program prior to starting their career. The average annual salaries of physical therapists are $86,850.
Growth Rate: 28%
Average Salary: $86,850 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s in Health Sciences; Physical Therapy Assistant Degree or Doctor of Physical Therapy
12. Operations Research Analysts
Operations research analysts have similar job duties as data analysts. Both careers are expected to examine trends in data and identify potential problem areas. They uncover deficiencies through the use of simulation models and advise on how to eliminate the deficiencies. Accredited online degree programs in business analytics offer the best way to break into the field of operations research. The job growth rate of 27% in the field through the year 2026 is higher than average. Annually, salaries of operations research analysts are approximately $81,390.
Growth Rate: 27%
Average Salary: $81,390 per year
Online Degree Option: Master’s in Business Analytics
13. Fire Science Professionals
Fire inspectors and prevention specialists coordinate fire prevention programs and are responsible for reducing hazard risks in homes and businesses. Fire inspectors confirm that a structure is meeting both local, state, and federal fire codes. Prevention specialists will look specifically at outdoor areas that pose a fire risk. Online associate’s degrees are typically accepted for open positions in the field along with a background as a firefighter. The next 10 year growth rate for fire inspectors and prevention specialists is 27% with an average annual salary of $37,000+.
Growth Rate: 27%
Average Salary: $37,380 per year
Online Degree Options: Fire Science and Emergency Management Degrees (multiple education levels)
14. Occupational Therapists
Occupational therapists work with individuals who need assistance performing daily tasks due to an injury or disability. Occupational therapists can help a patient with activities such as eating, bathing, or writing. They will create a plan for a patient after an initial assessment with built-in goals. Occupational therapists work in private practices, hospitals, and schools. The best online school programs to get a job in the field will offer a master’s degree in occupational therapy. An average career salary of an occupational therapist is more than $83,000 per year.
Growth Rate: 24%
Average Salary: $83,200 per year
Online Degree Options: Master’s in Occupational Therapy or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy
15. Market Research Analysts
When working in the field of market research, analysts are reviewing data that impacts the sale of goods or services. The analyst provides feedback on what is driving people to buy a good or service and define the target market for the business. A bachelor’s degree is typically satisfactory for individuals looking for an entry-level job as a market research analyst. A marketing or business background is preferred for new hires as a way to ensure they understand how to measure consumer behaviors. Over the next decade, job growth for market research analysts is 23% with an average salary of $63,230.
Growth Rate: 23%
Average Salary: $63,230 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s in Marketing or Master’s in Market Research
16. Medical Secretaries
Medical secretaries are always highly sought after in the healthcare career field. Medical secretaries must have a keen understanding of appointment scheduling, insurance policies, and medical billing. Medical secretaries are paid an annual salary around $34,000—higher than secretaries in most other industries. To stay competitive, job seekers are earning online associate’s degrees in medical office administration. The courses in these online programs focus on the duties required by both medical secretaries and medical office managers.
Growth Rate: 22.5%
Average Salary: $34,610 per year
Online Degree Options: Associate’s in Medical Office Administration
17. Medical and Health Services Managers
With a degree in medical and health services management, students are prepared to take on leadership roles in a healthcare facility. The manager may oversee a particular department or have the responsibility of running the entire healthcare institution. Budgeting, human resources, medical ethics, healthcare laws, and accounting are key parts of an online medical and health services degree program. Since healthcare managers are top executives within a facility, they earn close to six figures annually. The job growth rate of 20% between 2016 and 2026 is considered faster than average careers.
Growth Rate: 20%
Average Salary: $98,350 per year
Online Degree Options: Master’s in Healthcare Management
18. Management Analysts
Analysts are needed more than ever in all areas of industry. Management analysts are also called management consultants and will take a top to bottom look at an organization. Management analysts work on an advisory basis and give recommendations on how to improve different aspects of how a business operates. Management analysts can be self-employed or work for a larger firm. An online MBA program is the best way for an individual to get hired as a management analyst position. Once an MBA is earned, the consultant can gain experience within an agency before branching out and starting his or her own consulting business. Career growth rate is steady in the field at 18% with a median salary of $82,450.
Growth Rate: 18.7%
Average Salary: $82,450 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s in Accounting, Business Administration or Finance; or Master’s in Business Administration
19. Financial Managers
Financial managers have one of the most important roles in an organization—they are responsible for the fiscal health of a business. Financial managers oversee all monetary aspects of a company and will be required to generate timely fiscal reports. They must also prepare profit projections and communicate all financial issues efficiently to other key members within an organization. Financial managers can only have a bachelor’s in finance or accounting, but should have also gained on the job experience before setting off on this career path. The U.S. News & World Report ranks financial managers as having one of the top four business jobs with an average annual salary of more than $125,000 yearly.
Growth Rate: 18.7%
Average Salary: $125,080 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s in Accounting, Business Administration or Finance; or Master’s in Business Administration
20. Speech-Language Pathologists
Speech pathologists work with children and adults who have communication issues due to a disability or disorder. Many speech-language pathologists are employed by school districts while others work in healthcare facilities and private practices. Those interested in the field must obtain a Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology from an accredited online degree program. Many states also require licensing for speech therapists to practice. As more schools enhance special service offerings, speech therapist job openings are growing at a steady rate. Average pay rate for pathologists is more than $36.00 per hour.
Growth Rate: 18%
Average Salary: $76,610 per year
Online Degree Options: Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology
21. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) perform similar duties despite their different job titles. LPN is the term used in 48 states while LVN is the term used only in California and Texas. Both LPNs and LVNs will perform healthcare duties such as check vital signs, assist with feeding, start IVs, and dress wounds. A number of online accredited schools offer nursing programs that last an average of one to two years. Once schooling is finished, LPNs and LVNs must sit for a certification exam. LPNs work under registered nurses, but oversee orderlies and nursing assistants. The median salary for LPNs and LVNs is $45,030
Growth Rate: 12.3%
Average Salary: $45,030 per year
Online Degree Options: Associate’s Degree in Nursing and NCLEX-PN Certification
22. Registered Nurses
More and more healthcare agencies are calling for registered nurses to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The best online degrees to get a job in the nursing field will prepare you for the assessment and treatment of patients with a variety of medical issues. Registered nurses work in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and home health agencies. Registered nurses have a faster job growth rate than LPNs at 14.8% over the next 10 years. They also earn almost double the salary of LPNs with an average annual wage of $70,000.
Growth Rate: 14.8%
Average Salary: $70,000 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
23. Accountants and Auditors
Accountants and auditors are solid careers providing services that are needed by both individuals and businesses. Although tax return season is their busiest, accountants and auditors remain active throughout the year by ensuring compliance and auditing past financial records. The industry is competitive with accountants gaining an edge by passing the certified public accountancy (CPA) exam. Many firms only consider new hires who are CPAs with the clearance to file reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Accountants currently have a 10% projected job growth rate and an average yearly salary of $69,000+.
Growth Rate: 10%
Average Salary: $69,350 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s in Accounting
24. Teachers and Instructors
The field of education is always desirable to a vast number of individuals. Educators typically work the same schedule as students with holidays and summer off. The best online degrees for prospective teachers can range from bachelor’s to doctoral level. Elementary and secondary educators typically obtain master’s degrees while collegiate professors will have their doctoral degrees. Since teachers typically look for tenure, job growth rate doesn’t usually demonstrate a lot of movement. Most pursue this career with little monetary expectation. Not surprising, as the average teacher salary is $30,310 annually.
Growth Rate: 9.9%
Average Salary: $30,310
Online Degree Options: Education Degrees (multiple educational levels)
25. General and Operations Managers
With a degree in operations management, students are prepared to coordinate all operations that go on within an organization. The high-level position involves creating organizational policies and enforcing them. Day to day operations, financials, and human resources will all fall under the scope of general and operations managers. To obtain a position in this career, managers should have a bachelor’s degree and professional certification, like certified manager (CM). Average salary for managers is more than $100,000 with a projected job growth rate of 9.1%, making this a very lucrative career option..
Growth Rate: 9.1%
Average Salary: $100,410 per year
Online Degree Options: Bachelor’s in Operations Management or Logistics
Why Should I Get an Online Degree?
This is a question posed by many students considering going to school. There used to be a stigma associated with online degrees, but that is no longer the case. Open Education Database offers a list of online education benefits. Online degree programs typically offer a larger choice of courses and programs. Today just about every type of degree is attainable online, from certificates to graduate degrees. Online programs are flexible so students can work them into their lives, especially if the student is working or taking care of a family. The course material is always accessible since it’s online. Other online education benefits include students ability to do the online coursework while working to enhance their current position, or potentially enable them to move on to a different career path.
For some students, there may be some disadvantages of online learning. Online degrees require the student to be accountable and responsible for timely completion of all coursework and exams. There are no regularly scheduled meeting times to which the student must report. Students must stay on top of their own schedule. Students may feel like they aren’t able to get to know their classmates since they don’t interact in person. These disadvantages are minor and can be easily overcome by the student.
Will I Be Able to Get a Job with an Online Degree?
When deciding to pursue an online degree, students wonder are online degrees respected by employers. Most students are interested in pursuing a degree in order to obtain a better position in an existing job, or get a new job. You don’t have to hide your online degree on your resume; more than three quarters of employers today believe that online degrees are credible. Employers often wonder how credible are online degrees. Online degrees that are offered by accredited colleges or universities are reputable and trusted. Employers do prefer online degrees from a well known and widely respected school.
When considering online degrees, students should consider the best online degrees to get a job and future career. Business administration degrees are the best online degrees to get. There are a lot of choices in the type of business degree a student can get, which translates to employment options. This degree gives students a strong foundation in the operation of a business. There are concentrations in management, human resources, finance, and marketing. Students with this degree can expect jobs with a mid-range salary of $60,076. Other online degree options with a business background are accounting, human resources, project management, hospitality, and industrial and organizational psychology.
Are Online Degrees Cheaper than On-Campus Programs?
When students consider going to school, they look at many options and consider all their choices. One of the considerations students must make is online college vs traditional college cost. Many students don’t have access to unlimited funds and the cost of the degree plays an important role in the decision. Many students think that online degrees are cheaper than a traditional degree. That isn’t always the case. Online programs cost as much as traditional programs and in some cases charge a fee for distance learning. Some schools do offer lower tuition for an online degree over a traditional degree, but not all.
While colleges and universities may not offer a decreased cost of tuition, there are other savings from choosing an online degree. The student does not have to pay any commuting costs, like gas, parking, and wear and tear on a car. Since students aren’t leaving their houses, they don’t have to pay for room and board, which is always costly. Typically, there are no books to purchase, which adds a hefty cost, since everything is available online. Some schools will allow students to take free courses online and will give credit for those classes.
How Quickly Can I Get an Online Degree?
Students lives are different today. They are often working, or taking care of a family. They need a degree program that is flexible and will help them achieve their goals quickly. They are looking for the fastest online degree completion programs. Accelerated degrees are a perfect way for students to gain the degrees they want faster. Getting an associates degree online fast allows students to meet the goal of a degree, potentially find meaningful employment, and allow them to continue to take steps to a higher degree and better career. An associates degree can be completed around one year with an accelerated program and a bachelor’s degree is possible in two years or less.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that about one million associate degrees were awarded within the years 2013 and 2014. Increased student enrollment in online associate degree programs shows the new desire in achieving degrees faster. The reality is students can receive an accredited online degree in half the time. Each program offers students different options, depending on the school. The student should make sure that whichever program they enter, it fulfills all of their needs.
What are Good Online Degrees for Entry-Level Professional Careers?
US News and World Report reported on the top jobs a student can get with an online degree. The top one is an online business administration associates degree. Business administration is so desirable because it’s quite versatile for a student’s career path. This degree gives students a strong foundation of business operations. With this degree, students can gain entry level employment in human resources, marketing, supply chain management, and information systems. For those looking for something more specific, other online business bachelors degree programs that are available. There is a Bachelor of Accounting, which is never lacking for new employees. These students can find employment in areas like bookkeeping, tax preparation, investing, and consulting.
Another great online degree for an entry level career is an online associates degree in criminal justice. With this degree, students can learn how to debate things like freedom of speech, women’s rights, environmental protection, and other current social issues. Criminal Justice degrees build a strong foundation in legal issues. Students learn the value of team collaboration, data analysis, and law enforcement skills. They gain an understanding conflicting views and debating real consequences of social issues. Students with this degree can gain employment as a police officer or a probation officer.