The 20 Best Online Degrees in 2021 for Careers
The 20 Best Online Degrees in 2021 for Careers are organized by subject. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2018’s fall semester had 6,932,074 students taking courses online.
This list is centered around the best online degrees for enrolling in 2021 for attaining, or advancing, in a career in the modern workforce. These degree subjects were curated by cross-referencing the highest paying career fields with the highest growth rate career fields, and then determining which online degrees are relevant for these careers. As such, these online degrees are also most likely to get you a job.
Online degrees are being offered in a very wide variety of education levels. For this list, we focus primarily on online bachelor’s degrees for at least entry-level jobs.
Why Choose These Online Degree Subjects?
These degrees were selected based on these factors:
- Salaries in their career fields
- Gob growth rates
- Versatility and variety of career/job options
Many of these online degrees programs may qualify online students for a variety of different careers in the workforce. Online degrees such as Business Administration, Finance, and Criminal Justice can qualify online students for many career fields, by obtaining the single online degree. Mainly these jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree.
Note: All salary and growth rate data was gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (unless otherwise noted). The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a bureau within the U.S. Department of Labor, and each year collects occupational data such as median salary amounts, minimum degree required, and growth rates for many occupations in the United States.
Each Online Degree Profile Provides:
- An overview of each online degree
- Related ranking articles of the best online colleges & degrees in that subject
- Online colleges currently looking for new students
- Career and Salary information is from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook
|Game Design Careers||Average Salaries with a Bachelor’s Degree||Additional Positions by 2029||Growth Rate|
|Multimedia Artists and Animators||$75,270.00 per year||2,800||4%|
|Graphic Designers||$52,110.00 per year||-10,700||-4%|
Sponsored Online Colleges:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Game Art & Development
- Online Bachelor of Science in Game Programming & Development
- Online Bachelor of Science in Information Technology: Gaming Design
10. Animation and Graphic Design
The world of art and design meet the online computer world in the creative area of Animation and Graphic Design.
Animation and design opportunities are plentiful, as it is necessary for advertising, commercials, social media, websites, or any other avenue that attracts a target audience using graphics.
Like most developing fields in the technology sector, Animation and Graphic design students need to study a vast repertoire of available tools.
Furthermore, they also need to learn how to regularly update their knowledge as new strategies become available.
This flexible career has inspired many self employed workers and an incredible number of rising entrepreneurs.
|Graphic Design and Animation Careers||Bachelor’s Degree: Average Salaries in 2019||Additional Positions by 2029||Growth Rate|
|Multimedia Artists and Animators||$75,270.00||2,800||4%|
Sponsored Online Colleges:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Media Arts: 3D Modeling and Animation
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Media Arts
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Media Arts: Web Design
- Online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design
- Online Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design
11. Computer Science
With the boom of the information age, companies, both corporate and private, are heavily in need of individuals skilled in computer science.
Businesses as well as schools and government need to stay competitive and keep up with the ever-changing environment of the internet and technology.
Across the board in Computer Science, the compensation is generous for both entry-level and management positions.
Some possible occupations in computer science are Network Architects, Research Scientists, Programmers, and Software and Web Developers. One specific avenue that is growing rapidly and in high demand is Artificial Intelligence, (AI for short).
AI is defined as “machine learning” which includes technology like Apple’s SIRI and Amazon’s Alexa. Even the healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing industries are branching out and using this innovative technology.
- The Best Online Computer Science Degree Programs
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- 25 Best Artificial Intelligence Colleges
- Best Online Artificial Intelligence Degrees
- The Best Online Master’s Degrees in Machine Learning
- Best Robotics Colleges
- What can you do with an Information Technology degree?
|Computer Science Careers||Average Salaries with a Bachelor’s Degree||Additional Positions by 2029||Growth Rate|
|Computer Network Architects||Bachelor’s degree: $112,690.00||8,000||5%|
|Computer Programmers||Bachelor’s degree: $86,550.00||-20,100||-9%|
|Computer Systems Analysts||Bachelor’s degree: $90,920.00||46,600||7%|
|Database Administrators||Bachelor’s degree: $93,750.00||12,800||10%|
|Information Security Analysts||Bachelor’s degree: $99,730.00||40,900||31%|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||Bachelor’s degree: $83,510.00||16,000||4%|
|Software Developers||Bachelor’s degree: $107,510.00||316,000||22%|
|Computer Support Specialists||Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree: $54,760.00||67,300||8%|
|Web Developers||Associate’s degree: $73,760.00||14,000||8%|
Sponsored Online College:
- Online Associate of Science in Computer Science
- Online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
- Online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: Software Engineering
- Online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: Project Management for STEM
- Online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: Information Security
12. Data Science
Data Science, also known as Data Analytics, is a growing field with the advent of big data. Data Science is also known as Business Intelligence when used in business. Data Scientists take large data sets and analyze them, making them understandable and meaningful.
This distilled information is used to understand user behaviors, conversions, the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and how to improve business profitability. Governments, non-profits, and businesses all use Data Scientists to help inform their purposes. All the Big Tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon use Data Science.
Data is accumulating at such a substantial rate, that its scope and usefulness is only recently being appreciated. More and more institutions are employing Data Scientists. In 2019, the median annual wage was $94,280.00. The growth rate is projected to be 31%, adding 10,300 more jobs by 2029. This is substantially higher than most other occupations.
Sponsored Online Colleges:
- Online Associate of Science in Data Analytics
- Online Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics
- Online Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics: Program Management
- Online Bachelor of Science in Information Technologies: Data Analytics
- Online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: Data Analysis
- Online Master of Science in Data Analytics
- Online Bachelor of Science in Applied Business Analytics
- Online Master of Science in Business Analytics
13. Sustainable & Renewable Energy | Environmental Science
A green job is defined as a career which ‘produces goods or provides services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources’, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With the ever increasing need to conserve energy and protect the environment, this field is rapidly growing in demand.
These scientists can work with the government or businesses to reduce waste, clean polluted areas, and even advise policymakers.
Foresters, Geoscientists, and Biologists are also occupations that can come from a degree in Sustainable and Renewable Energy.
- 22 Best Sustainable and Renewable Energy Colleges
- 20 Best Environmental Science Degree Programs
- 17 Best STEM Degrees for Careers of the Future
|Sustainable & Renewable Energy and Environmental Science Careers||Average Salaries with a Bachelor’s Degree||Additional Positions by 2029||Growth Rate|
|Environmental Scientists and Specialists||Bachelor’s Degree: $71,360.00||7,100||8%|
|Environmental Science and Protection Technicians||Associate’s Degree: $46,540.00||2,900||8%|
|Environmental Engineers||Bachelor’s Degree: $88,860.00||1,700||3%|
|Geoscientists||Bachelor’s Degree: $92,040.00||1,600||5%|
Sponsored Online College:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology – Environmental Sustainability
- Online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science
- Online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science – Natural Resources and Conservation
- Online Bachelor of Science in Geoscience – Natural Resources Conservation
14. Engineering/Engineering Management
All Engineers require extensive working knowledge of applied mathematics and physics, and benefit from time management and data analysis. Engineering Management is a field which is designed to manage these engineers.
Successful Engineering Managers can lead teams towards the completion of large scale projects by aggressive deadlines.
While engineers design the building and maintaining of transportation, water ways, architecture, Engineering Managers handle all of the business needs of these projects.
As might be expected, the higher the growth and development of an area, the more career opportunities and increased compensation will be available.
There are many areas of expertise in the engineering field; Electrical, Mechanical, Architectural, Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and even Marine Engineering. As such, there are many opportunities for Engineering Management careers in these fields.
The average compensation is $144,830 per year as of 2019, making it one of the best paying fields of study, with a growth rate of 3% (5,100 more jobs) to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Engineering Management Careers||Average Salaries with a Master’s Degree||Additional Positions by 2029||Growth Rate|
|Architectural and Engineering Managers||$144,830.00||5,100||3%|
|Industrial Production Managers||$105,480.00||1,700||1%|
Featured Online Colleges
Nurse Practitioners are one of the highest paying and also has one of the highest growth rates of all career options available with an online degree. The growth rate is 52% between now and 2029 adding 117,700 new jobs. The median salary in 2019 was $109,820.00.
The typical entry-level minimum degree required is a master’s degree. Online Nurse Practitioner master’s degrees are available from colleges and universities across the US.
Most Nurse Practitioners work in Family Practice.
Certification is required to practice. Online Nurse Practitioner degree programs will likely require that degree applicants already be a Registered Nurse.
Featured Online Nurse Practitioner Degree
16. Healthcare Administration
More and more colleges are offering Healthcare Administration degrees online. There is an ever-increasing demand for Healthcare Administrators who can juggle everything from paperwork to personalities.
Healthcare Administrators combine business knowledge and medical practice.
This field, specifically the management level, is growing at a rate of 32% with a median income of $100,980.00, much higher than the national average for all other occupations.
Online Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration
As with other online bachelor’s degrees, an online bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration degree usually consists of 120 credit hours, and takes on average four years to complete. This four years includes the first two years of basic courses, and then the second two years of upper level major courses in Healthcare Administration and electives. This is one of the best online degrees because of the high growth rate and high salary. The usual entry-level requirement to be a Medical and Health Services Manager is at least a bachelor’s degree.
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- The Best Online MHA Programs: Online Master’s in Healthcare Administration Degrees
Featured Online Colleges:
Education degrees, ranging from the Associate’s to Doctorates, focus on the education and formation of young minds.
What children are taught, from polite manners and appropriate hygiene to reading, writing, and arithmetic, will influence their decisions as adults.
This degree, perfect for those with a love for children, is not limited in its application to teachers, but also to social workers, daycare center employees and childhood psychologists.
One specific area of study, Special Education, can bring a median income of $57,910.00, and can be a rewarding work environment. There are many fields in Education that graduates may be able to pursue.
The versatility of specializations in Education degrees, and the job growth rate, is what qualifies Education as one of the best online degrees for careers. 441,000 new jobs are projected by the year 2029.
Online Bachelor’s in Education
A bachelor’s in Education is the minimum requirement for many teaching positions, including:
- Special Education
- Middle School Teachers
- Elementary and Kindergarten
- High School
- ESL (English as Second Language)
As with other online bachelor’s degrees, an online degree in Education consists of approximately 120 credit hours. This includes the first two years as basic level courses, and the second two years consisting of upper level major courses in Education, and electives. Online students learn the fundamentals of education, and have the opportunity to specialize in a subfield, such as Special Education, Early Childhood Education, or ESL.
- The 25 Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Degree Programs
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Featured Online Colleges
18. Criminal Justice
Whether debating freedom of speech, women’s rights, animal cruelty, environmental protection, and a host of other hot button topics, civilization is filled with conflicting viewpoints.
A Criminal Justice degree will make you engage with a wide range of social debates with real world consequences.
This versatile degree, that can often be completed in less than 2 years, takes its students into the legal profession. Research, reporting, team collaboration, data analysis, and law enforcement are skills that will be developed and applied in various settings in not only the court room, but also in any other government agency or law firm.
This field is expected to grow by at least 17% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average salary for a Police Officer is $61,600 and $50,160 for Probation Officers. Beyond the work and salary is a passion for social issues that can change the world. Such advocates will always be needed.
- Criminal Justice Degree: Best Programs
- Best Online Social Justice Degrees
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|Criminal Justice Careers||Average Salaries with a Bachelor’s Degrees||Additional Positions by 2029||Growth Rates|
|Police and Detectives||$65,170.00||40,600||5%|
|Probation Officers & Correctional Treatment Specialists||$54,290.00||3,400||4%|
|Forensic Science Technicians||$59,150.00||2,400||14%|
|Detectives and Criminal Investigators||$86,030.00||1700||4%|
Sponsored Online Colleges1. Purdue University Global (Chicago, Illinois)
- Online Associate’s in Criminal Justice
- Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice
- Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice: Excel Track
- Online Master’s in Criminal Justice
- Online Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
- Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
- Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
19. Homeland Security
From Federal Government to local government, there is always an opportunity for those willing to keep our nation safe.
A Homeland Security degree offers theories of public safety, counter-terrorism, crisis management, natural disaster preparedness, and other necessary responses critical to the survival of the people. Homeland Security is a relatively recent field, becoming its own department after 9/11/2001.
Students with this training can pursue careers working for the Transportation Security Association, Customs and Boarder Control, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Emergency Management, or the Secret Service. Homeland Security also extends to private and non-profit organizations.
Online Degree Options in Homeland Security
Online Associate’s Degree in Homeland Security
Online Associate’s in Homeland Security usually require around 60 credit hours of coursework. As with most associate’s degrees, 30 hours is reserved for basic classes, and 30 hours for Homeland Security courses. Students take introductory classes in subjects relevant to the functions of the Department of Homeland Security, such as Risk Management, Emergency Management, Disaster Response, and domestic and international Terrorism, and Cyber Security.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Homeland Security
The online Bachelor’s in Homeland Security degree teaches students the functions and responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security, which is broad and varied. DHS protects America from enemies foreign and domestic. DHS also responds to natural or man-made emergencies and disasters. The online Bachelor’s in Homeland Security degree usually requires about 120 credit hours total (which includes an associate’s degree). Online students will study subjects such as domestic and international Terrorism (and Counterterrorism), Emergency Management, Risk Management, Cyber Security, and Disaster Relief.
- Online Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
- Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
- Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice: Advanced Counterterrorism
Good communication is key to any healthy relationship, whether in business or personal life. In the information age when people are now constantly communicating with others all around the world in a variety of mediums, the need to communicate, and do it well, has never been more important.
This is the focus of the Communication degree. There are countless theories and points of view to consider that all influence how we communicate–from gender and race to social and economic status. The Communication student will learn to navigate these differences and foster conflict resolutions.
The median salary for Communication was $59,230.00 according to The BLS in 2019, with a growth rate of 4%. Graduates can potentially find careers in news-related media, radio, television, public speaking, politics, spokesperson for private or public industry, film, reporting, and many other careers.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Communication:
An online bachelor’s degree in Communication is like other bachelor’s degrees, which requires basic level and major level coursework to be completed. The Communication coursework consists of classes such as Mass Media, Broadcast Journalism, Organizational Communication, Interpersonal and Group Communication, and the like.
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Communication Career Information
|Communication Careers||Median Salary|
|Public Relations Specialists||$61,150.00|
|Writers and Authors||$63,200.00|
- Online Bachelor of Science in Communication
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Communications
Frequently Asked Questions | The Best Online Degrees
What is the best online degree to get?
The best online degree to get, in terms of yearly salary income, is the Bachelor of Business Administration, which is the minimum degree required to be a Chief Executive Officer. Chief Executive Officers are one of the highest paid careers according to the BLS, earning $193,850.00 median annual salary for 2019, requiring only a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. It is certainly one of the highest, if not the highest salary from an online bachelor’s degree.
The best online degree to get, in terms of getting a job, would be an online bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and in Statistics in particular. Statistician, according to the BLS, is one of the highest growing career fields in the US, with a growth rate of 35%. It is also one of the highest paying careers with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, earning $91,160.00 median salary as of 2019. An on-campus or online bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to be a Statistician.
What is the Easiest Online Degree?
This is a subjective question without an easy answer. Different students have different academic strengths and weaknesses. Your college degree is an investment in yourself and lifetime ambitions. You have to do the necessary work whether the degree is easy or not, so make it worth it and learn what you want to learn to take you where you want to go in life. Instead of asking if a degree is easy, the relevant question to academic success is whether the degree is something you’re interested in learning. If you are genuinely interested, this translates into better grades, as studies have shown.
As far as competencies, for one student Mathematics may be the easiest if they’re good at math. For other students, a Mathematics degree may be the most difficult. Generally speaking, the online Business Administration degree subject may be the easiest online degree, given that the specialization options are so versatile and varied, that they offer many subjects that can fit with many student’s abilities and competencies quite well. From math-oriented degrees such as an online Business Administration degree in Business Intelligence, to a creative-oriented degree type such as the online Business Administration degree in Marketing.
The wide variety of specializations in an online Business Administration degree means that the degree can be tailored to students’ interests much more than other online degree subjects. This is partly why the online Business Administration degree is the most popular online degree. It can potentially also qualify students for such a wide array of business careers that it is the most versatile for getting a job.
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Is getting your degree online worth it?
Yes. There are two senses in which this question may be asked:
- Is getting your online degree worth it with respect to having the same credibility and validity as an on-campus degree? Yes. Online students receive the same education in most instances as on-campus students. Colleges are good at online degrees. Online students who’ve received their degree(s) online have the same career options before them as on-campus students. Employers generally speaking are perfectly amenable to online degree holders as qualifying for employment.
- Is getting your degree online worth it with respect to the cost of online degrees? This is a question of the return on investment discussed above. Generally speaking the answer is yes. Prospective online students are encouraged to figure out the Return on Investment, which is a calculation of tuition expense/career choice investment return. There are instances in which online education is less expensive than on-campus, given that on-campus expenses, such as meals, transportation, and dorms aren’t incurred.
Will employers respect my online degree
According to Northeastern University, in their publication Online Education in 2019, A Synthesis of the Data:
“Today — according to Northeastern University’s most recent national survey of HR leaders, which had a particular focus on the value of online credentials — a solid majority (61%) of HR leaders believe that credentials earned online are generally equal in quality to those completed in-person (Gallagher, 2018).”
What employers care about, generally speaking, is whether or not a student completed their degree. The question of whether the degree was obtained on-campus or online isn’t regarded as relevant. Often the employer will not even be aware that the degree was obtained online, unless you want to offer this information.
Obtaining a degree shows employers that students can navigate all that is required, such as passing the many classes, and fortitude to stick with the academic rigors to earn the degree over time, which often takes years. Obtaining a degree online can even be a bragging point for you. Online classes require more discipline and honesty, and many online students chose online so that they can work, which means an online degree graduate could boast that not only did he or she get a degree, but that they had the discipline to do it online, and while balancing work and school.
Employers may want to know that the online degree was obtained at a reputable college, and not a for-profit degree-mill kind of college. Make sure that your online college is not-for-profit if this is a concern of yours in choosing your college to pursue your online degree. There are many reputable and accredited not-for-profit colleges that offer reputable online degrees.
How can I find potential salaries in my state?
Career & salaries information for your state is offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Use their tool to find your state’s career field information: State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
How can I calculate return on investment for my degree?
College tuition is also a key factor, in that it plays into the return on investment from the degree:career ratio. Certain degrees have certain costs, and certain careers earn certain median salaries. Students have to determine what the return on investment is.
The first thing to do is determine what online degree an online student is interested in getting. Then determine which online colleges offer that degree and what their tuition rates are using the Net Calculator for College Costs.
Then see what the average salary is for that degree. Determine how many years the student will be working in that capacity at that career. So if a student graduates in their early twenties, they can assume 40 years of employment before retiring. Multiply the median salary of that career by 40 years, and you’ll get an idea of the potential lifetime earnings. You can add inflation into the equation to keep up with rising costs of living and raises over the 40 years.
The tuition is a fixed cost, or investment, and the expense will only increase if loans are taken and paid back over time. Students have to figure into the cost of the degree the interest rate over the life of the loan. This can be determined using a student loan simulator.
If a student’s college tuition amounts to $50,000 for the degree, and your potential earnings are $70,000 per year for 40 years (leaving out all of the inflation and interest rates for the student loans and salary), then your earnings are $2.8 million from an initial investment of $50,000.
Jobs with the Highest Growth Rates:
|Jobs with the highest growth rates||Growth Rate||Median Salary in 2019||Available as an Online Degree?|
|Wind turbine service technicians||61%||$52,910.00||No|
|Nurse practitioners||52%||$109,820.00||Yes: Master’s Degree|
|Solar photovoltaic installers||51%||$44,890.00||No|
|Occupational therapy assistants||35%||$61,510.00||No|
|Home health and personal care aides||34%||$25,280.00||Online Training: Diploma|
|Physical therapist assistants||33%||$58,790.00||No|
|Medical and health services managers||32%||$100,980.00||Yes|
|Physician assistants||31%||$112,260.00||Yes: Master’s Degree|
|Information security analysts||31%||$99,730.00||Yes|
|Data scientists and mathematical science occupations, all other||31%||$94,280.00||Yes|
|Derrick operators, oil and gas||31%||$46,990.00||No|
|Rotary drill operators, oil and gas||27%||$54,980.00||No|
|Roustabouts, oil and gas||25%||$38,910.00||No|
|Speech-language pathologists||25%||$79,120.00||Yes: Often Hybrid Master’s Degree (Online and On-Campus)|
|Operations research analysts||25%||$84,810.00||Yes: Often Master’s Degree|
|Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor||25%||$46,240.00||Yes: Often Master’s Degree|
|Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists||24%||$45,270.00||Yes|
|Cooks, restaurant||23%||$27,790.00||Yes: Vocational: Culinary School: Often Diploma or Associate’s|
|Animal caretakers||23%||$24,780.00||Yes: Often Certificate|
|All Data Sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Handbook|
From this table that shows the jobs with the highest growth rates, here are the jobs that do not have an online degree option:
- Wind Turbine Service Technicians
- Solar photovoltaic installers
- Occupational therapy assistants
- Physical therapist assistants
- Derrick operators, oil and gas
- Rotary drill operators, oil and gas
- Roustabouts, oil and gas
Jobs with the highest growth rates that are indeed available as online bachelor’s degrees*:
- Statistician: often an online bachelor’s degree in Mathematics
- Medical and Health Services Managers: online bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration or Health Management
- Information Security Analysts: online bachelor’s in Information Assurance and/or Cyber Security
- Data Scientists: online bachelor’s in Data Science
- Online Speech Pathology: often an online bachelor’s in Speech or Communication Science/Disorders.
- Mental Health: often an online bachelor’s in Counseling or Psychology with a focus on Mental Health
- Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists: online bachelor’s in Fire Science
*Though these are available as online bachelor’s degrees, many of the salary data contained in the table are for careers that require a minimum of a master’s degree in the subject.