Written by Ashley Murphy

In case you haven't heard, online learning is on the rise. Millions of students enroll every year as they look for a more flexible and personalized approach to learning. As a result, colleges and universities are now providing the kind of online courses that students want. Today's distance courses are flexible, comprehensive, and, most importantly, credible. A certificate for an online course is not something that just hangs on the wall - it is what shows potential employers that you know how to do the job. Here are the most popular online courses that lead to real careers.

Online degrees are a credible option for everyone

Online degrees are gaining more and more credibility. The majority of higher education institutes have integrated at least some elements of distance learning with traditional, campus-based methods. The rising demand from students has driven this switch, but it also makes economic sense for universities. Generally speaking, online learning is a cost-effective way of providing an excellent level of education with fewer resources. 

This win-win situation means that in 2016, according to Northeastern University, over 6 million students (28% of college learners) earned at least some credits via online learning, while many graduated without ever stepping foot inside a 'real university'. And as more students continue to opt for virtual learning, and more universities compete to attract these people to their institutes, the standard and credibility of online degrees will continue to rise. In fact, many employers now highly value these types of qualifications. One study found 61% of HR leaders believe "online learning is of equal or greater quality to more traditional methods." Moreover, 71% of businesses surveyed indicated they had hired "a job applicant with an online degree in the last 12 months."

Online degrees are an excellent investment

Rising levels of student debt pose a significant challenge for higher education institutes and national governments. It's also one of the major considerations for potential students, as well as a huge stumbling block that deters some young people from pursuing their academic ambitions.

Thankfully, students looking for a more cost-effective education have an alternative -- online learning. Distance programs tend to have lower tuition fees, but that is not the only way new students can save money. Studying from home means there are no expensive relocation costs or travel expenses, and with much of the educational resources uploaded online, you can save extra cash on textbooks. It's also an excellent way of getting the right qualifications for those high-paying professions without incurring any massive upfront costs or mountains of debt that can take years to pay off. 

Big paying jobs in finance and tech

An online degree from a credible provider is always going to boost your employment chances. Firstly, it shows you have some background knowledge in your desired field, but it also demonstrates the kind of character traits that businesses look for when interviewing candidates. Virtual learning requires large amounts of self-determination, discipline, focus, ambition, and self-confidence. 

But if you're looking to make the really big bucks, you need to know which online degrees lead to the highest-paying careers. Unsurprisingly, jobs in tech, business, and finance top the list. Online graduates can move into computer systems management or computer programming, where you can eventually command salaries well into the six figures. Or if you qualify with a finance-related degree, you could help businesses and extremely wealthy clients spot the next market trends, investment opportunities, and future tech giants. Financial analysts earn an average of $125,080 per year, while for some, there's almost no limit to their earning potential.

Become a specialized engineer 

Another high paying profession is engineering. There are online courses in engineering management, where graduates can go on to make $166,410 annually. Those with a bachelor's degree in engineering can also move into more niche areas with distance learning. Petroleum engineers, for example, have an average salary of $143,322. What's more, jobs in this lucrative and challenging sector are set to increase by 10% in the next ten years. 

Nursing 

Online degrees are a great way to get into nursing. You can qualify with an associate or bachelor's degree, both of which are available through distance learning. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is now one of the top ten most popular online degrees. However, given the very practical nature of nursing, students must complete several placements throughout their studies. Providers will try to place students in local healthcare facilities, but this is not always possible, especially if you live in more rural or remote areas. Some placements last for a few weeks, while others take months to complete. They often involve working in a healthcare facility for up to five days a week, so you'll need to make adequate arrangements to take care of any other personal responsibilities, such as your current job or raising young children. If you are concerned about traveling large distances or spending time away from home, speak to the program admissions officer before enrolling. 

Human resources 

A bachelor's degree can be the first step toward a rewarding and interesting career in HR. Human resource administrators deal with the day-to-day tasks associated with payroll and other business matters, but they also play a vital role in making sure companies uphold important values like fairness, equality, and workers' rights. Some progress into HR management, while others move into areas like development and benefits management. You will need to build up years of experience to succeed in these positions, but an online master's degree in HR will undoubtedly help you get to the next stage in your career. Not only will you learn about new legislation, best practices, and more specialized areas, a postgraduate degree is an excellent addition to your CV. It's one of the best ways to make yourself stand out when it finally comes to applying for that dream job. 

Teaching 

Teachers usually require a bachelor's degree and a further teaching qualification, such as PGCE (in the UK) or a diploma in education. However, after a few years in the classroom, you might start looking at some education management or administration roles. Again, studying online is the perfect way to build up your knowledge and experience before branching off onto a more specific career path. And for many teachers, studying an MA online is the only practical way of gaining a postgraduate qualification. Aside from working in the classroom, teachers have lessons to plan, papers to mark, admin tasks to complete, and many help with extracurricular activities. In other words, there's little time left for attending evening or weekend courses. Online learning lets teachers fit their own studies around those rare moments of free time throughout the school year. They can also dedicate large parts of those well-deserved summer holidays to completing their online courses. 

Business administration 

Entrepreneurs and successful business people are always looking for innovative new ways to widen their skill set, grow their enterprise, or build more fruitful relationships. So, unsurprisingly, online business administration courses remain a popular choice. Taking a two or three-year career break to pursue a postgraduate degree is unthinkable for many business people, especially for young start-ups or self-employed consultants. 

Virtual courses let business people learn and earn at the same time. They are also the ideal way to plug any knowledge gaps. For example, you might be a natural creative who is excellent at designing new products, but do you know how to market them? Maybe your business is growing quicker than you imagined, and now you need some guidance on how to structure or administer a large company with hundreds of employees? So whatever business challenges you face, there is an online course or degree to help. You can opt for a more general course, which gives you an overview of the business world and best practice. Alternatively, you can enroll in programs that focus on the issues that most affect your situation, such as advertising, HR, or public relations. 

Online learning is here to stay! Powered by consumer demand, it's something that universities and employers now take very seriously. And so should you -- studying remotely could be the perfect way to give your current career a boost or to turn your dream job into a reality. And if you're a shrewd aspiring student looking for the best return on your investment, an online degree is one option you would be well advised to seriously consider.

ArticleEducation
By S.M. Audsley
August 7, 2019

The marketplace is competitive and many job seekers are endeavoring to gain an inside edge. One potential path? Enrolling in a certificate program. In...

By Ashley Murphy
July 29, 2019

Cryptocurrency and blockchain are two of the hottest topics of the 21st century. Some experts predict these technologies will revolutionize the future...