5 Practical Online Degree Programs

Online degrees have grown in popularity in variety of fields. Find out why some programs work well online.

online student with coffee mug

By now most students know an online degree can often have some perks--lower tuition and flexibility--but there are other advantages to an online education. Whether it's the course structure or area of concentration, certain degree types work especially well online. No matter which program you choose, ensure it's accredited by the appropriate organizations.

Paralegal Studies

The paralegal field is well-designed for online studies which explains why programs are so plentiful. Because online paralegal programs are short in length with a straightforward curriculum, learning online is a solid option. Choosing which one is right for you will depend on your career goals and background.

Why it works online:

  • Online paralegal certificates allow students to enter the field faster
  • Online paralegal associate's degrees can be a stepping stone to bachelor's degree programs

If you're considering a career in law, earning an online paralegal certificate or degree can open the door to positions in a law office prior to becoming a practicing attorney.


Online accounting degrees have grown in popularity as more business-minded people look for ways to get an education while managing their hectic schedule.

Why it works online: An online accounting degree requires students to analyze information and learn to work with computerized spreadsheets. Being able to study when it's convenient for you means you can devote enough time to focus on detailed and complex information.

A typical bachelor's degree takes four years, but if you choose an online accounting program that allows you to work at a faster pace, you may be able to earn your degree sooner.

Medical Billing and Coding

While many health care degrees require hands-on experience in labs or clinics, online medical billing and coding degrees are a great option for someone interested in entering the health care field during a time when employees are in high demand.

Depending on your career goals, you can choose between a certificate or associate's degree.

Why it works online: These programs are flexible and typically designed for students who work, have family obligations or want to enter the field quickly. Studying online can also help improve a student's computer skills which is imperative since much of the job is done electronically.

Criminal Justice

The field of criminal justice covers a variety of areas, from law enforcement to forensics.

Why it works online: If you're already working in the legal or criminal justice field, an online program allows you to continue your education in another area while staying with your current employer.

Students who are just starting out can also benefit from online criminal justice degree programs. The array of concentrations continues to expand (homeland security, conflict resolution) giving students more options.

In addition, if you're already interested in technology, an online degree can be helpful for careers thwarting cyber-crimes, fraud and other illegal computer activity.

Computer and IT

Is there really another degree suited so well for online learning? Whether you're interested in software or network support, an online computer program can teach you the necessary skills without stepping foot on campus. You have everything you need at your fingertips.

As further proof of how good they are, online computer information technology degrees ranked high on U.S. News and World Report's list of best online programs in 2014.

Why it works online: Computer students may already be accustomed to tools such as interactive media and discussion groups, which are used regularly in online classes, along with course management systems.

Sources: http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2014/01/08/us-news-releases-2014-best-online-programs-rankings; http://education.yahoo.net/articles/best_degrees_to_earn_online.htm.