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Top Adult Degree Programs

11 Top Adult Degree Programs for Adult Learners in 2024

Exploring adult degree programs is like going on a treasure hunt; you’re aware there’s great value to be found, but you need the right guide to find it.

Think about going back to school and remember that it’s always a good time to invest in your education. What you need is a program that fits well with your busy life and is meaningful and flexible.

Whether you’re looking to change careers, get a promotion, or just learn for the sake of learning, picking the right program is key. Online courses are really popular now because they are convenient.

We’ve looked at a lot of different programs to find the best ones for adults going back to school. Keep reading to see how to pick the best one for you and to learn how getting a degree could help you earn more money.

What are the top Adult Degree Programs for Adult Learners?

For adult learners looking to pursue higher education, various degree programs are available that cater to their unique needs and career goals. Here are some top degree programs for adult learners, as identified by Back2College research:

1. Accounting

Accounting programs prepare students to manage finances, analyze data, and ensure compliance, making them indispensable for businesses and organizations.

The average salary for accountants and auditors in the United States was around $73,560 per year as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Accounting degrees offer you a clear path to a stable and lucrative career, making them a top choice for adults returning to college in 2023.

Opt for online programs that provide flexibility for degree completion. Many institutions offer bachelor’s degrees through online campus designed with your busy schedule in mind.

Don’t forget to explore financial aid options to support your educational journey.

2. Business Administration

Business administration degrees provide a broad understanding of management principles, equipping graduates with leadership and decision-making skills crucial across various industries.

Building on your financial acumen, pursuing a degree in Business Administration can further broaden your career prospects, offering you a comprehensive understanding of the corporate world that’s vital for any managerial role you may aspire to.

Salaries in business administration vary widely depending on the specific role and industry. Management positions in business and financial operations had an average annual salary of $109,760 as of May 2020, according to the BLS.

Consider online degree programs or accelerated degree programs that offer flexibility through online classes. These strategic options can help you navigate the demands of business administration education while balancing your current responsibilities.

3. Communications

Communications degrees empower students with effective interpersonal, media, and messaging skills, enabling them to navigate and shape the modern world’s communication landscape.

As you explore your educational options, a degree in Communications stands out as a versatile choice, equipping you with essential skills for a wide range of professional settings.

Salaries in the field of communications vary depending on the job role. Public relations specialists, for example, had an average annual salary of around $62,810.

Adult learners seeking an adult degree program can benefit from online degrees in Communications, combining the convenience of online education with strategic skill-building.

This ensures that you’re articulate and effective in any career path you choose.

4. Computer Science

Computer science programs equip students with programming and problem-solving skills, preparing them for dynamic careers in technology and innovation.

Shifting your focus to the field of Computer Science, you’ll find it’s another top choice for adult learners seeking to align with the ever-growing tech industry. Online colleges offer flexible online degrees and bachelor’s programs designed for your busy life.

Computer and information technology jobs had an average annual wage of $97,430 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. Salaries can vary significantly depending on the specific IT role and location.

An online program in computer science is strategic, providing the skills to innovate and excel in a dynamic, digital landscape.

5. Counseling

Counseling degrees teach students to provide support and guidance to individuals facing emotional and psychological challenges, fostering mental well-being.

The average salary for counselors varies based on the type of counseling and location. For example, school and career counselors had an average annual salary of around $58,120.

If you’re drawn to supporting others through their challenges, pursuing a degree in Counseling can be a fulfilling path tailored for compassionate individuals.

Strategic enrollment in online degrees, often cheaper, offers flexibility and career advancement.

Graduate degrees in Counseling or Human Services Administration, supported by an experiential learning portfolio, can significantly enhance your credentials and practical skills, ensuring you’re well-equipped to lead in this vital field.

College majors are specific fields of study that students choose to specialize in during their higher education. The choice of a major often aligns with career interests and goals, guiding students toward professions related to that field. For example, majoring in Computer Science can lead to careers in software development, while majoring in Business may open doors to roles in finance, marketing, or management. The connection between majors and careers varies, and some majors offer versatility, allowing graduates to pursue diverse career paths.

6. Criminal Justice

Criminal justice programs delve into the legal system, law enforcement, and public safety, preparing graduates for roles in crime prevention and justice administration.

For those of you considering a career in law enforcement or the legal system, a degree in Criminal Justice is an increasingly popular choice among adults returning to education.

Salaries in criminal justice can vary widely depending on the specific job within the field. Police and detectives had an average annual salary of around $67,290.

Online schools offer flexible online learning options tailored for you as an adult learner.

With strategic planning, online students can balance life’s demands while advancing in criminal justice, preparing for pivotal roles in public safety and law.

7. Cyber Security

Cyber security degrees train experts to protect digital assets from cyber threats, safeguarding businesses and organizations in the digital age.

Earning a degree in cybersecurity through an online program can provide you with the essential tools and knowledge to safeguard information in an era where cyber threats loom large.

The average salary in cybersecurity can vary depending on the specific role and level of expertise. Information security analysts had an average annual salary of around $103,590.

Opt for the best online schools offering fully online programs or certificate programs. These degrees online are designed for strategic defense, positioning you at the forefront of cyber resilience.

8. Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education programs focus on nurturing young minds, emphasizing developmentally appropriate practices for young children.

Moving on from the digital battleground of Cyber Security, you’ll find that pursuing an Early Childhood Education degree online is another transformative step for adults returning to academia. This degree equips you with the expertise to shape young minds at a pivotal stage.

Preschool teachers had an average annual salary of around $35,060. Salaries can vary based on the type of educational institution and location.

Online campuses cater to adult students, offering evening classes and recognizing the value of transfer students in enriching the academic landscape of early childhood education.

9. Education

Education degrees prepare individuals for teaching, training, or educational leadership roles, positively impacting the learning experiences of students of all ages.

Building on your passion for nurturing future generations, you’ll find that majoring in Education stands out as one of the top adult degree programs in 2023, designed to fit into your life’s schedule.

Salaries in education can vary widely based on the level of education (e.g., elementary, secondary, postsecondary) and location. Postsecondary teachers had an average annual salary of around $80,790.

These programs cater to adult learners through flexible online options and affordable education models, with prior learning assessment opportunities to accelerate your progress.

Strategically crafted, they empower you to thrive as an informed educator.

10. Elementary Education

Elementary education programs concentrate on teaching fundamental subjects to young learners, shaping their educational foundation and fostering a love for learning.

You’ll discover that Elementary Education ranks as one of the top 10 degree programs for adults returning to college in 2023, offering a solid foundation for those aspiring to teach young minds.

Pursuing this undergraduate degree in higher education positions you for academic excellence.

Elementary school teachers had an average annual salary of around $63,930. Salaries can vary based on location and level of education.

Strategically, it’s a stepping stone to graduate certificates and specialized roles within schools, ensuring you’re well-equipped to educate the next generation effectively.

11. Nursing

Nursing programs provide the knowledge and skills needed to deliver healthcare, with nurses playing a vital role in patient care and well-being in diverse healthcare settings.

Nursing’s flexibility and high demand make it an excellent choice for your return to academia, ranking among the top adult degree programs in 2023.

Registered nurses (RNs) had an average annual salary of around $75,330 as of May 2020, according to the BLS. Nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists typically earn higher salaries.

Tailored online programs cater to adult learners, recognizing your prior learning while offering essential practical training.

Strategically designed, these nursing courses ensure you gain comprehensive skills to excel in healthcare, an informed step towards a resilient career path.

How to Choose an Adult Degree Program

Selecting the right adult degree program requires a clear understanding of your personal and professional aspirations.

Assess your financial situation to ensure you choose a program that aligns with your budget, avoiding unnecessary debt.

It’s crucial to weigh the merits of various programs, verify their accreditation, and engage with the community to make an educated decision.

1. Outline Your Goals

Before diving into the vast array of adult degree programs available, you should consistently assess your career objectives to ensure alignment with your educational pursuits.

Select colleges for adult learners strategically, aiming to earn credit that advances your goals. Whether you’re eyeing an associate degree or joining graduate students, articulate your ambitions to find a program tailored for adult learners like you.

2. Determine Your Budget

How much can you realistically afford to invest in your education without overextending your finances? Seek programs with affordable tuition—community colleges often offer competitive rates.

Engage academic advisors at institutions like Granite State College or National University to strategize funding. Your budget shouldn’t be a barrier but a framework for selecting a program that aligns with your financial constraints and educational aspirations.

3. Compare Programs

While considering your budget, you’ll also need to meticulously compare programs to ensure they meet your academic and career goals. Delve into the features of many online programs; some offer supported online degrees, ideal for working adults.

Prospective students should scrutinize course offerings, faculty qualifications, and flexibility. Selecting the right college degree hinges on how well it aligns with your professional trajectory and personal circumstances.

4. Confirm Accreditation

Ensuring the program you choose is fully accredited is crucial for the validity of your degree and future career prospects. As an adult learner, prioritize institutions with trusted partner programs and robust accreditation.

Whether you’re eyeing hybrid courses or programs delivered online, accreditation affirms quality and recognition. It’s a strategic move that safeguards your investment and opens doors to professional advancement.

5. Connect With Faculty, Students, and Alumni

After confirming a program’s accreditation, you should directly engage with faculty, students, and alumni to gain insights into the real-world value and community that the degree offers.

Connect with peers from Union Institute, Park University, Bellevue University, and Weber State University.

These interactions provide a strategic advantage, offering you articulate and informed perspectives that are crucial for adult college students pursuing a meaningful and impactful education.

Adult Degree Programs Admissions Requirements

Adult degree program admissions requirements vary depending on the institution and the specific program. However, there are some common elements that many programs share. Here’s a general overview:

1. Application Form: Most programs will have an application form that needs to be filled out. This usually includes personal information, educational background, and sometimes a statement of purpose.

2. High School Diploma or Equivalent: A high school diploma or GED is typically required. If you’re returning to complete a degree, you might need to provide transcripts from previous college coursework.

3. College Transcripts (if applicable): If you’ve attended college previously, you’ll likely need to provide transcripts. These can help in transferring credit and assessing your readiness for the program.

4. Test Scores (varies): Some programs may require standardized test scores like the SAT, ACT, or GRE. However, many adult degree programs recognize the value of work and life experience and may waive these requirements.

5. Proof of Work Experience: Relevant work experience can be crucial, especially for programs designed for working professionals. You may need to provide a resume or CV.

6. Letters of Recommendation (sometimes required): Some programs might ask for letters of recommendation from employers, colleagues, or previous educators.

7. Personal Statement or Essay: A personal statement helps admissions officers understand your goals, motivation, and readiness for the program.

8. Interview (in some cases): Some programs may require an interview as part of the admissions process, either in person or virtually.

9. English Proficiency (for non-native speakers): If English is not your first language, you may need to prove your proficiency through tests like TOEFL or IELTS.

10. Application Fee: Most programs have an application fee, though waivers are sometimes available based on financial need.

Note: It’s important to check the specific requirements of each program you’re interested in, as they can vary significantly. Adult learners often benefit from programs that value professional and life experiences as part of the admissions process.

Why Online Degrees Are a Good Option for Working Adults?

The flexibility of online programs allows you to tailor your study schedule around your job and personal commitments, affording you more control over your time.

1. Lower cost

Exploring online degree programs can significantly reduce your educational expenses, making them an attractive option as you balance work and study. By choosing an online route, you’re not confined to private school fees or other UK university costs.

Utilize the most recent research excellence framework to guide you. It’s strategic to consider school rankings, but remember, the value lies in finding a program that fits your financial reality.

2. Flexibility

Online degree programs offer you the work-study balance necessary to advance your education while maintaining full-time employment. In your school search, consider a UK university or London school that provides online options tailored for many adult learners.

This strategic choice allows you to manage responsibilities and continue professional growth. Select a program that aligns with your goals and offers the flexibility your busy life demands.

3. More free time

Balancing your career with an online degree program, you’ll find yourself with more free time to dedicate to personal pursuits or unexpected work projects.

Online learning’s intrinsic flexibility means you can strategize your study schedule around your life’s demands, ensuring you’re not overextended.

This efficient approach to education allows you to maintain a balanced lifestyle while advancing academically and professionally.

4. No commuting

You’ll also cut out the time and hassle of daily commuting by opting for an online degree program, further streamlining your busy schedule.

Embracing this educational path means you can learn from anywhere, fitting study sessions around work and family commitments with ease.

It’s a strategic choice that maximizes your time, offering a smart, flexible solution to advancing your career without the traditional campus commute.

How Much Can You Earn With A Degree?

The amount you can earn with a degree varies widely based on several factors, including the field of study, the level of degree (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate), the industry, geographical location, and your experience level.


Is it worth returning to school as an adult?

Yes, returning to school as an adult can be worth it for several reasons. It can lead to career advancement, higher earning potential, and personal fulfillment. Many adults return to school to update their skills, switch careers, or complete a degree they started earlier in life. The decision should be based on personal and professional goals, as well as the time and financial investment required.

Can I get a bachelor’s degree while working?

Absolutely. Many colleges and universities offer flexible programs designed for working adults. These programs may include online courses, evening or weekend classes, and accelerated schedules to fit into a busy work schedule. Time management and organizational skills are crucial for balancing work and study.

Are online degrees cheaper?

Online degrees can be cheaper than traditional on-campus programs due to lower tuition rates and the elimination of costs associated with commuting and housing. However, this is not universally true for all institutions or programs. It’s important to compare the total costs, including technology fees and course materials, of different online and on-campus programs.

Should I go back to school for a degree or certificate?

The decision between a degree and a certificate should be based on your career goals and the requirements of your desired field. Certificates can be quicker to complete and more focused on specific skills, making them suitable for career changes or skill enhancements. Degrees, on the other hand, offer a more comprehensive education and may be required for certain professional roles or advancement opportunities.

What is an adult degree completion program?

An adult degree completion program is designed for adults who have some college credits and want to complete their bachelor’s degree. These programs often recognize previous college coursework and life experiences, allowing for faster completion. They are typically flexible, offering online or part-time courses to accommodate working adults’ schedules.

Wrapping Up: Top Adult Degree Programs for 2024 & Beyond

You’ve explored the top degree options, grasped the selection criteria, understood admission essentials, and considered the perks of online learning.

Remember, investing in your education can significantly boost your earning potential. Choose a program that aligns with your career goals and life commitments.

With the right degree, you’re not just earning credentials; you’re paving the way for a brighter, more prosperous future.

Make the leap and elevate your career to new heights!

Rebecca White
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