Top 10 Fastest Growing Online Degree Fields

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Today more than ever, adults are returning to school to finish previous degrees or completely change their career path to a field that has greater opportunity for growth and employment. Having a passion for your field of study is essential for long-term satisfaction with your job, but how do you know which degrees have the greatest chance of turning into a rewarding career?

To help you out with this major decision, we have put together the following list of 10 of the fastest-growing degrees in the United States. Whether you are a full-time traditional college student or taking classes online, these online degrees can pave the way towards lucrative careers that will continue to expand in the rapidly changing economy.

1) Nursing Degrees

Over the years, nursing has remained a popular choice for students to earn a two or four-year degree and enter an in-demand workforce. The healthcare industry continues to expand across the country, and the aging population contributes to a rising number of employment opportunities for those that enjoy working directly with patients.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the following growth rates for occupations in nursing between 2014 and 2024:

  • Licensed Practical Nurses – 16%
  • Registered Nurses – 16%
  • Nurse Practitioners – 31%
  • Nurse Midwives – 31%

A Registered Nursing (RN) license is typically the starting point for students interested in nursing, and these students often continue on to earn their BSN and graduate-level nursing degrees. Some of the classes for the advanced degree programs may be able to be taken online through reputable colleges – giving working adult students greatly flexibility in their education.

2) Accounting and Finance Degrees

There’s no doubt that the world of business is constantly evolving – both in the United States and across the world. With advancements in technology and big business continuing to expand, professionals in accounting and finance are in great demand in the modern workforce.

Job growth rates for those interested in accounting and finance degrees are typically well above the average across all occupations. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS projects the following job increases for popular careers in these fields:

  • Financial Analysts – 12%
  • Personal Financial Advisors – 30%
  • Accountants – 11%
  • Auditors – 11%

While certain careers, such as accountants and auditors, are projected to have a faster than average growth rate, there are several factors that can impact these professions. It is wise for those interested in pursuing these degrees to stay up to date on the overall financial health of the business world.

3) Management Degrees

Skilled managers are a necessary aspect to any successful business, and there are several different online business and management degree programs available to help you get your foot in the door with well-paying management careers. Most degree programs allow the students to specialize within a specific interest to help them gain valuable skills for future employment.

One of the fastest growing careers in management is a Management Analyst. The BLS projects that those with this degree will see growth of 14% by the year 2024. There are several employment sectors that require the skills of management analysts, including:

  • Healthcare
  • Information Technology
  • Human Resources
  • Government
  • International Business

Those with a graduate degree or additional certifications have the highest chance of landing top-paying management analyst jobs in the competitive job market. Many top accredited colleges across the nation now offer online management degree programs that provide flexible options for those looking to advance their current degree.

4) Genetic Counseling Degrees

For students with an interest in research and science, a degree in genetic counseling can be an excellent path to lucrative career opportunities. Overall, the field of genetic counseling is relatively small, but the BLS projects growth of 29% between 2014 and 2024.

Job responsibilities of a genetic counselor typically include the following:

  • Comprehensive interviewing and evaluation of patients
  • Development of reports for patients and referring physicians
  • Counseling for patients and families of genetic testing options and conditions
  • Research and laboratory work to contribute to the field

There are a number of specialized fields within genetic counseling, including prenatal, oncology, and pediatric. Those who have graduated from an accredited program and have board certification generally receive the greatest career opportunities.

5) Occupational and Physical Therapy Assistants

The medical field is continually expanding, and there is a growing need for both occupational and physical therapy assistants to help patients recover from traumatic injuries and illness. According to the BLS, occupational therapy assistants will see a 43% growth in jobs by 2024. Physical therapy assistants are projected to see a 41% growth in the same timeframe.

Job responsibilities of this type of therapy assistant include the following:

  • Performing therapeutic activities with clients
  • Working with children and adults with developmental disabilities
  • Teaching patients how to use special assistive equipment
  • Recording patient progress

Both of these degree fields require hands-on learning and experience before graduation. However, some colleges may offer the option of online courses for specific classes within the program that allow a greater flexibility in scheduling.

6) Information Technology (IT) Degrees

Our world is becoming increasingly reliant on technology in all aspects of society. From business to scientific research, skilled information technology professionals are needed to keep computer systems up and running at optimal performance.

There are several growing careers within information technology that have a positive outlook for those interested in working within this field, including:

  • Computer Support Specialists
  • Computer Network Architects
  • Computer and Information Research Scientists
  • Database Administrators
  • Computer Systems Analysts

Many of the top colleges in the country offer a selection of IT degrees that can be earned online. By utilizing advanced educational platforms, students who pursue an online IT degree can learn a variety of necessary skills that can be specialized to their specific field of interest.

7) Operations Research Analysts

A degree in operations research is an excellent choice for students with a passion for mathematics and a core understanding of computer science. The job responsibilities of this profession focus on solving real-world problems in a variety of industries through mathematical and analytical methods.

There are several related areas of study that those who wish to go into this field may want to pursue in order to advance their skills, including:

  • Engineering
  • Economics
  • Political Science
  • Mathematics
  • Analytics

The majority of operations research professionals have a graduate degree in their field of study, but some entry-level positions can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of the level of education you have, building upon your knowledge through continuing education is essential to keep up with the advancements in the field.

8) Engineering and Architecture Degrees

Engineering degrees and Architecture degrees have continued to be a popular choice for students who have a technical mind. There are numerous careers and specializations within the two industries, and while some careers show declining growth, others have a very positive outlook.

The careers listed below are the fastest growing within these industries, and they have the following growth rates projected by 2024:

  • Petroleum Engineers – 10%
  • Environmental Engineers – 12%
  • Biomedical Engineers – 23%
  • Cartographers and Photogrammetrists – 29%

Earning an engineering or architecture degree may be accomplished online; however, some colleges do require in-person training. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for entry-level positions in most engineering fields, and professional licensure is often a requirement for employment after graduation.

9) Medical Assisting Degrees

As the case-load for physicians continues to grow, many clinics and medical centers are relying on medical assistants to help perform routine clinical duties. Typically, medical assistants work in the primary care setting, and those who have additional certification have the greatest opportunities for employment.

Medical assistants may be responsible for a wide range of duties within the healthcare setting, including:

  • Keeping accurate patient health records and medical histories
  • Taking vital signs and assisting with examinations
  • Giving injections
  • Scheduling of appointments
  • Preparing blood samples

The process of becoming a medical assistant varies based upon the requirements of your specific state. Some schools offer certificate or diploma programs that can be completed in as little as one year, while others offer associate’s degree programs in medical assisting. Regardless of the level of education, students will be required to attend in-person training as part of their degree program.

10) Market Research Degrees

The goal of a market research analyst is to help organizations increase sales and cut expenses through improved marketing strategies. This is especially important in the competitive modern business market. The BLS projects that those with this degree will see occupational growth of 19% by the year 2024 – much faster than the average across all occupations.

Typical job duties associated with a market research position include:

  • Forecasting marketing and sales trends in the industry
  • Devising data collection methods and gathering data from sources
  • Analyzing data using statistical computer software
  • Preparing reports for their employer based on their analysis

Students can enter into a career of market research through a variety of paths, and many students have degrees in related fields such as mathematics, computer science, and business administration. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required for most positions, and some career opportunities require a graduate level degree.

With the changing economic tide, the opportunities for students to enter into a lucrative, growing career field continue to expand. Online schooling has also opened the door to earning a degree for many working adult students. By researching the forecast for your desired degree program, you can ensure that you are pursuing a degree that has the potential to give you long-term employment opportunities and a fulfilling career.

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Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.