How To Fast Track Your Career With An Online Degree

Feb 18, 2013
  |  by Jennifer Cook

The value of education in today’s economy is measured in how you can apply it over the life of your career. College is just the beginning of your lifelong learning process, but it’s crucial to your immediate and future professional success. You only have to read a few job postings to see how much a college degree opens up opportunities for you.

Hitting that Ceiling

Many people simply hit a point in their careers where they can go no further without more education. Many management positions are closed to those who, although they have a lot of experience, don’t have the higher education that many organizations look for in their managers. Likewise, some advanced positions require skills that are primarily found in people who have gone beyond a bachelor’s and earned a master’s degree. To get to the next level in your career, you may need more education.

But that introduces some logistical problems for people who are currently working and possibly supporting a family. Many professionals are busy and simply can’t be flexible enough with their jobs to attend daytime classes and work toward that degree. And even when you can find night classes, commuting to school in addition to work is also a pain. These problems have traditionally kept many adult students from pushing forward with their educational goals.

How an Online Degree Can Get You There

The good news for anyone looking to get more education is that technology is transforming the world of higher learning for the better. More and more adults are earning online degrees while they work. Taking some or all of your courses online can eliminate your commuting barrier, so you can spend that time studying instead of driving or on the bus. And the flexibility of taking courses online means that you can complete class-work on your own schedule, working it around your professional and family life.

With those two barriers gone, more people can get the degree they want and really put their career into overdrive. There are real, tangible benefits to earning your degree online while working. The earning potential is certainly there for college graduates, as is the job security. Statistically, you’ll earn more and experience less unemployment with a degree than you will without one.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the difference in earnings between a bachelor’s and a master’s degree can reach up to over $800 a month. And the difference between a bachelor’s and a high school diploma averages to be $1660 a month! And those are just statistical averages; there are large differences between types of degrees and levels of experience. Here is where professionals who keep working in the industry while they learn have a distinct advantage. They’re achieving both advanced levels of knowledge and putting that knowledge into practice while on the job, two things employers are looking for in the employees they want to advance in their organizations.

Differences between Online Degrees

Certain degrees are definitely more valuable than others for fast-tracking your career than others simply due to the demand that exists for those skills in the economy. In IT, for example, salaries frequently reach into the six-figures for senior positions. Many job descriptions for project managers and other senior positions will accept either a master’s degree or a certain number of years’ experience. The benefit of the degree is that the learning tends to be denser; you get more knowledge in a shorter amount of time, even if it’s more focused than comprehensive on-the-job experience.

On the other hand, liberal arts degrees see a much lower return on investment than do more technical degrees in engineering and the sciences. More people tend to go into those fields, and they just aren’t growing as quickly as technical fields.

Whether you’re looking to move into a senior position in your current career, break into a new industry or just augment your current skill set with new knowledge, online education can help you do it on your own terms. And when you find yourself in the right industry, the payoff in earnings and job security can be significant.

Author bio: Jennifer Cook writes about online education, career development and issues in higher education for Strayer.edu. When she isn’t pouring over labor statistics or devouring articles on education policy, you’ll find her cooking up a storm in a small kitchen with surprisingly little counter space.

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