Millions of students are taking or considering taking their college courses online for various reasons: current employment, lower cost, convenience, logistics, business requirements, disabilities and a host of personal reasons. A 2011 survey done by the Babson Survey Research Group reported that just over 6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course. This is a 10% growth rate for online enrollments versus the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
Despite the popularity of Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, there are detractors of this type of education. Some faculty believe the quality of an online education is inferior to classroom instruction. One statistic supporting this argument was a 2012 class offered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which showed that only 5% of students completed the course our of 140,000 who signed up for it. Another example from a University of California-Berkeley professor demonstrated that 3,500 online students finished his course out a total of 50,000 who registered. Perhaps these examples are exceptions to the rule as a survey in 2012, also by Babson, reported that 77% of academic leaders believed that online learning outcomes to be the same or somewhat superior to face-to-face learning experience.
Regardless of what the surveys report, there is an enormous demand for online education. For those contemplating an online degree, we offer the top 20 based upon median salary.
#1. Master’s Degree in Information Systems
Companies have a vital need for people with a strong understanding of computers and business. Information systems managers keep business operations running smoothly by managing networks, databases, and websites, and by training employees to use the latest innovations. Information Systems Managers oversee the flow of information. They’re responsible for the rapid and accurate dissemination of information to employees while maintaining security. In modern organizations, there are growing demands for professionals and leaders who can harness the power of information technology in a way that can solve problems and create new opportunities.
Master of science degree programs in information systems cover information technology, business systems, and project management. The programs are designed for students seeking management positions requiring advanced technical skills with computer systems.
Median Salary: $118,080 (Systems Managers)
Growth Rate: 15% or 50,900 jobs
#2. Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing
Marketing specialists, also known as market research analysts, help companies figure out what sells. They analyze market data on a local, regional or national level, and determine what people are buying, what gaps are in the market, what type of people buy what products, and what people are willing to spend on those products.
Marketing Specialist is ranked the #5 job in the 2011 best jobs in fast-growth fields list by Money/PayScale.com. Marketing positions are available in just about every industry. Marketing professionals play a vital role in helping businesses become more competitive and in increasing their profitability. These specialists evaluate the marketing and promotional potential of companies. They implement and oversee parts of a marketing plan. Marketing specialists may focus on a specific area, such as social media, internet marketing, sales/marketing, international marketing, and marketing management.
A bachelor’s degree program in marketing thoroughly evaluates subjects such as consumer behavior, promotion strategies, the principles of effective selling, and helping companies make decisions on product development and pricing.
Median Salary: $115,750 (Marketing Manager)
Growth Rate: 12% or 25,400
#3. Master’s Degree in Marketing
Students in an MBA program with a concentration in marketing learn to effectively build brand power by studying the theories, concepts, principles, and terminology of brand equity and brand management. Students also learn about new product development, target market identification, media choice, and message strategy, as well as the quantitative and qualitative marketing research methodologies. The programs also cover the decision-making process involved in marketing goods in foreign markets.
Graduates of the programs have the knowledge to manage a company’s market research, marketing strategy, advertising, sales, pricing, promotions, and product development. Many Market Research Analyst positions require a master’s degree. A master’s degree is often needed for leadership positions.
Median Salary: Same as Bachelor’s degree
Growth Rate: Same as Bachelor’s
#4. Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration
In business, day-to-day operations are as important as long-term plans for the future. A career in business touches on information technology, leadership dynamics and increasingly on ethics and international relationships. There’s incredible room for growth in the field. When you find the right “fit,” you’ll find that working your way up the ladder may be both challenging and rewarding. Plus, skills you acquire in one capacity will translate into others as your career path evolves.
A bachelor’s degree in business administration prepares graduates for a variety of responsible management positions, domestically and internationally, in an array of industries. Bachelor’s degree programs in business administration provide a broad-based business education. The programs review all business areas, as well as behavioral factors common to all organizational structures. They also cover the quantitative aspects of decision-making. Some online bachelor’s degree programs in business administration can be completed in 36 months.
Typically, students have the opportunity to select a concentration in a field such as human resources, finance, management, information systems, marketing, operations, or supply chain management.
Median Salary: $105,260 (Sales Managers)
Growth Rate: 12.4% or 244,000 jobs
#5. Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA)
MBA programs cover management skills, human resources management, and leadership. The programs usually include case studies. Typically online MBA programs take two years to complete, but some programs can be completed in just one year. Online programs typically include core courses in subjects such as economics, finance, information systems, accounting, marketing, and management.
MBA specialties include computer and information security, health administration, marketing, applied computer sciences, information systems management, engineering and technology management, environmental management, and international business. Armed with a MBA, you’ll also qualify for an array of leadership positions and other advanced roles in private, public and nonprofit organizations. You’ll have the option to work across industries as a business analyst, human resources generalist, operations manager or marketing specialist. Some business administration graduates also venture into entrepreneurship, creating their own successful businesses from the ground up.
Median Salary: $90,000+
Growth Rate: Could be as high as 36% depending on profession
#6. Master’s Degree in Health Administration
Health Administrators coordinate and organize the delivery and financing of healthcare. They’re involved with managing the daily operations of healthcare facilities. They work in healthcare settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and private practices. Hospital administrators are individuals or groups of people who act as the central point of control within hospitals. These individuals may be previous or current clinicians or individuals with other backgrounds.
There are two types of administrators, generalists and specialists. Generalists are individuals who are responsible for managing or helping to manage an entire facility. Specialists are individuals who are responsible for the efficient operations of a specific department such as policy analysis, finance, accounting, budgeting, human resources, or marketing. It was reported in September 2014, that the United States spends roughly $218 billion per year on hospital’s administration costs, which is equivalent to 1.43 percent of the total U.S. economy.
The master’s programs focus on the financing, organizing, marketing, and management of healthcare institutions and the delivery of personal health services. Graduates are qualified for management careers in health systems, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings.
Median Salary: $100,000+ depending on size of facility and management level
Growth Rate: 23% or 73,300
#7. Master’s Degree in Medical Informatics
Informatics started early development in the 1960s and gained widespread adoption in the 1970s, mainly with electronic health records (EHRs). As technology advanced, thanks in part to the acceptance and development of personal computers and personal devices (smartphones), informatics exponentially advanced. The widespread adoption of medical informatics allowed healthcare providers secured and quick access to pertinent data on a patient.
Another step in the career of health informatics is to obtain a master’s degree which provides professionals the analytical skills and business acumen required to improve healthcare delivery systems and lower costs through information technology. Those with a master’s degree in medical informatics often take a job as Health Information Managers. These professionals are responsible for maintaining and securing all the patients’ records. They help optimize cost efficiencies in the healthcare system. Medical informatics professionals use health information for knowledge management, decision support, strategic planning, and outcomes assessment.
Median Salary: $104,000 (Informatics Specialist)
Growth Rate: 22% or 41,000
#8. Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources
Human Resources Specialist is the #25 ranked job in the 25 Best Jobs list for 2012 by U.S. News & World Report. Employees are the most important asset of just about all businesses. Human resources personnel help keep them happy, trained, and efficient. Many companies place a strong emphasis on human capital development, as well as the leadership initiatives developed by human resources professionals to deliver, develop, and retain employees.
Human resources professionals help workplaces operate smoothly. Human resources professionals train personnel, manage evaluations, and oversee benefits. Large employers typically have specialists for specific areas, whereas in small companies a human resources professional may cover all areas of human resources. Most human resources specialist positions require a bachelor’s degree in human resources, in business, or in a related field. Some human resources manager positions require only a bachelor’s degree in human resources or in business administration.
Median Salary: $99,720
Growth Rate: 13% or 13,6000
#9. Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science & Engineering
Computer engineering is a discipline that integrates several fields of electrical engineering and computer science required to develop computer hardware and software. Computer engineers usually have training in electronic engineering,software design, and hardware-software integration instead of only software engineering or electronic engineering.
Computer science and engineering careers are available in practically every industry. The degree enables graduates to work as part of a team in a vast number of areas, including software development, systems design and analysis, data mining, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, game design, animation, finance, robotics, digital forensics, and more.
Many of the online bachelor’s degree programs in computer science cover programming, network communications, systems security, advanced server administration, storage area networks, and social media. Graduates have the skills required to pursue a career as a software engineer, computer systems analyst, database administrator, programmer or network administrator.
Median Salary: $93,350 (Software Developer)
Growth Rate: 22% or 222,600
#10. Bachelor’s Degree in Health Administration
Health Administrators play a vital role in the daily operations of healthcare facilities. There’s a growing demand for qualified healthcare administrators who can improve the efficiency and quality of care.
Health Administrators usually need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation, though a master’s may be preferred for employment in larger health care facilities, such as hospitals. However, a bachelor’s degree can provide opportunities for entry-level jobs in small facilities and departments and opportunities to assist department heads in large hospitals.
Median Salary: $88,850 (Health Services Manager-Bachelor’s degree)
Growth Rate: See above
#11. Master’s Degree in Computer Security
Computer security is security applied to computing devices such as computers and smartphones, as well as computer networks such as private and public networks, including the whole internet. The field includes all the processes and mechanisms by which digital equipment, information and services are protected from unintended or unauthorized access, change or destruction, and is of growing importance due to the increasing reliance of computer systems and their susceptibility to being illegally accessed.
There’s a demand for computer security professionals in private industry and government agencies. Graduates are qualified for management positions, such as Chief Security Officer, Chief Information Security Officer, and Access Control Manager. Some of these positions are housed under names such as: information assurance, cybersecurity, information security analysis, and computer forensics.
Computer security professionals protect the security, confidentiality, availability, and integrity of data and delivery systems, whether the data are in storage, processing, or transit. They have the challenging task of preventing hackers from entering computer systems and networks.
Median Salary: $86,170 (Security Analyst)
Growth Rate: 37% or 27,400
#12. Master’s Degree in Project Management
Project Managers plan, budget, and coordinate the efforts of everyone involved with the project. Those with expertise in a specific field combined with strong academic credentials in management have opportunities in this increasingly important career field. Many employers seek Project Managers with a bachelor’s degree in a particular field, such as construction, business, computer information systems, or engineering, combined with a master’s degree in project management.
The Master’s programs teach students to plan, measure, monitor, and adapt from the beginning to the end of a project. You will learn to facilitate relationships between project team and customers; balance demands among scope, time, cost, and quality; obtain knowledge in planning, monitoring, and controlling all phases of the project. Graduates are prepared for positions such as Construction Manager, Director of Project Management, Vice President of Production, Computer and Information Systems Manager, Financial Manager, and Engineering Manager.
Median Salary: $82,790 ($107k for Senior Project Managers)
Growth Rate: 16% or 78,200
#13. Master’s Degree in Finance
Finance plays an integral role in today’s competitive economy. Since the 1970s, job opportunities in finance and banking have flourished, due to the increasing complexity of investment options. A financial analyst will research a client’s or organization’s financial status, including their history, risk tolerance, and current expenditures and investments. They make recommendations based on financial goals and business environments.
Specializations within the financial analyst trade include budget analyst, credit analyst, investment analyst, merger and acquisition analyst, money market analyst, ratings analyst, risk analyst, tax analyst, treasury analyst and personal financial advisors.
A master’s degree in finance gives graduates a competitive edge in areas such as investment management, corporate finance, commercial and retail banking, and financial management of companies and nonprofits, as well as analysis and brokerage. Financial Analysts evaluate investment opportunities for businesses and individuals. They evaluate the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments. Some Financial Analysts evaluate the feasibility of a deal and create a plan of action based on financial analysis.
These professionals work for banks, mutual funds, pension funds, securities firms and other types of finance-related businesses. Successful financial analysts often become senior financial analysts or associates after three to four years.
Median Salary: $76,950
Growth Rate: 27% or 60,300
#14. Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems
Computer Information Systems Specialists design, build, and implement software solutions. They also evaluate existing systems to find new ways to improve their performance. They work for practically every type of business, nonprofit, and government agency. Similar career names include information systems management, computer information systems, and systems analysis and integration.
Some information specialists only require a simple certification with work experience, while other requires a bachelor’s degree. In general, all fields require a firm background in computer science, systems technology and mathematics. Since the demand for information technology careers is expected to increase, internship and training opportunities with select vendors are abundant. The experience gained in these positions gives prospective students possible employment opportunities.
Information systems programs cover information technology tools such as operating systems, computer hardware, programming, networking, and database management systems. Graduates are qualified for technical and managerial careers.
Median Salary: $72,560 (Computer Systems Administrator)
Growth Rate: 12% or 42,900
#15. Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Informatics
The job duties have been outlined above; with each step in one’s formal education the job opportunities are usually enhanced. An online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Health Informatics combines concepts in healthcare, information technology, and leadership practice to provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to be a valuable designer, developer, and manager of health information systems. This program is designed for those who wish to develop IT skills in their health informatics career path.
When selecting an online program, the student should ascertain if the bachelor’s degree is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.
Median Salary: $65,000
Growth Rate: See Master’s degree
#16. Bachelor’s Degree in Web Development
Web development is a broad term for the work involved in developing a web site for the internet. Web development can range from developing the simplest static single page of plain text to the most complex web-based internet applications, electronic businesses, and social network services. A more comprehensive list of tasks to which web development commonly refers, may include web design, web content development, , client liaison, and network security configuration, and e-commerce development.
Web Developers work with various elements to create an intriguing, functional, user-friendly design. They develop the layout, look, and the overall impact of a website. Companies doing business on the Internet want attractive, enticing websites, hence the demand for the creative talent and expertise of Web developers. Approximately 25% of web developers were self-employed in 2012.
Bachelor’s degree programs in web development provide skills in multimedia design, computer graphics, interactive video, and animation. Students learn to create a variety of interactive web content.
Median Salary: $62,500 (Associate’s degree)
Growth Rate: 20% or 28,500
#17. Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel & Hospitality Management
A hotel manager is responsible for the day-to-day management of a hotel and its staff. They have commercial accountability for budgeting and financial management, planning, organizing and directing all hotel services, including front-of-house (reception, concierge, reservations), food and beverage operations, and housekeeping. In larger hotels, managers often have a specific area of concentration (guest services, accounting, marketing) and make up a general management team.
The program prepares graduates for management positions in companies in the rapidly growing hospitality industry, such as hotel management, restaurant and food service management, conventions and meeting management, tourism management, and other areas. The programs incorporate practical business knowledge with management theory. Students gain the skills and expertise required to excel in a management, operations, or marketing position in the hospitality industry.
Hospitality Managers work in a variety of sectors, including amusement parks, associations, colleges and universities, country clubs, cruise lines, convention centers, conference centers, hotels, motels, resorts, and more. Most large, full-service hotels require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree.
Median Salary: $46,810
Growth Rate: 1% or 700
#18. Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies
Paralegals perform important tasks; they’re an important part of a legal team. In many ways, their duties include the same tasks performed by lawyers. They help lawyers prepare for trials. A substantial portion of their job includes drafting documents for litigation and writing reports. Paralegals perform a lot of research. Besides litigation, paralegals work in patent and copyright law, as well as in real estate and corporate law.
An associate’s degree may provide opportunities for entry-level positions at the secretarial level. If you are interested in advancing your career in this field, then a bachelor’s degree is recommended.
Median Salary: The BLS reported in 2012 that the median pay was $46,990 with an Associate’s degree. The preponderance of the jobs must be at the senior paralegal echelon, as this seems high. A perusal of job sites for paralegals shows that even a senior paralegal may range from $40k to over $70k depending on the legal duties and responsibilities of the advertised position. And the majority of these senior jobs prefer a bachelor’s degree.
Growth Rate: 17% or 46,200
#19. Bachelor’s Degree in Graphics & Multimedia
Due to the popularity of the Internet, Graphic Designers are in demand to create images and designs for websites, portable devices, video entertainment media, and electronic publications. Graphic Designers communicate ideas and messages visually, integrating a range of media such as digital imaging, illustration, and photography. These creative people also have technical skills-utilizing these skills to grab the attention of consumers. Common uses of graphic design include identity (logos and branding), publications (magazines, newspapers and books), print advertisements, posters, billboards, website graphics and elements, signs and product packaging. For example, a product package might include a logo or other artwork, organized text and pure design elements such as images, shapes and color which unify the piece.
People with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design have employment opportunities in package design, advertising, product development, Web design, digital production, illustration and other areas. Most graphic designers work in publishing, specialized design services, public relations or advertising services.
Median Salary: $44,150 (Graphic Designer)
Growth Rate: 7% or 17,400
#20. Associate’s Degree in Medical Informatics
Health or Medical Informatics is a term describing the acquiring, storing, retrieving, and using of healthcare information to foster better collaboration among a patient’s various healthcare providers. Health informatics applies informatics concepts, theories, and practices to real-life situations to achieve better health outcomes. This includes collecting, storing, analyzing, and presenting data in a digital formating, storing, retrieving and using of healthcare information to foster better collaboration among a patient’s various healthcare providers.
Job titles in this industry include nurse informaticists, medical records and health information technicians, chief medical information officer, director of clinical informatics, clinical data analyst, and Health IT Consultants.
One may enter this expanding career with only an Associate’s degree and professional certification.
Median Salary: $33,310 (Health Information Technician)
Growth Rate: Reported above
There are many variables that constitute salary, such as years of experience, company size, bonuses, benefits, degree, and of course, executive status within the corporation. As stated above, the profession of paralegal could range from low $20k to over $70k annual salary depending on the expertise required by the hiring law firm or company.
Also, each occupation has a different growth/change rate projected over the next ten years. The percentages are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website for 2012. The job figures are those that are expected to be needed due to growth and/or turnover in the respective industry through 2022. This is another important consideration when considering an online degree: will the respective degree afford sufficient job opportunities? Note that a smaller percentage could equate to more total jobs due to the large number currently employed in that particular occupation.