20 Most Flexible Programs for Adult College Students [2024 Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Updated on December 22, 2023
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Explore Flexible Programs for Adult College Students for 2023.

Flexible Programs for Adult College Students

If you’re interested in returning to school but are worried about making it work with your already full schedule, you might consider schools that offer flexible programs.

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Many schools, both online and on-campus, now offer flexible bachelor degree programs for working adults.

Flexible Programs for Adults Returning to College

There are multiple programs that offer flexible scheduling options for students with jobs, children, and other responsibilities. Below are twenty popular degrees for adults returning to college.

All of these fields offer plenty of opportunities for growth and different job prospects.

Online Accounting Degrees

accountants working on tax documents

If you have a thing for numbers, finances, budgeting, or something similar, an accounting program may be an easy transition for you. If you’re good at math, analytically-minded, and know how to manage money, you’d likely do very well in this field.

Accounting degree programs typically include many finance-based courses, as well as courses in taxation. Microeconomics and macroeconomics are also common topics taught in accounting programs.

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A degree in accounting can help you pursue a job as an accountant, tax preparer, auditor, financial analyst, or budget analyst.

Online Business Administration Degrees

business administrators in a meeting

If you enjoy working with people and have good leadership skills, you might do well in a business administration program. Good money management skills are also beneficial in this field. This program often appeals to those who want to work in management or human resources.

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Many business administration programs include some of the same courses taken in accounting programs, such as finance, economics, budgeting, and other courses that teach how to manage money. They also commonly include courses that teach leadership skills, project management skills, business intelligence, strategy, and innovations.

Online Communications Degrees

journalist reporting news

If you enjoy communicating with diverse groups of people, tracking down and researching good stories, and sharing information with the masses, you might do well in a communications degree program.

There are a wide variety of courses involved in a communications degree plan. In addition to the likely basics, such as composition, journalism, communications, and public speaking, you might also be required to take courses in business, sociology, and marketing.

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Potential jobs for those with a communications degree include positions in television media, online media, magazines, or newspapers. Communications students often become editors, writers, journalists, social media specialists, reporters, and news anchors. Those with communications degrees may also pursue jobs in public relations, human resources, and digital media marketing.

Online Computer Science Degrees

web developer working on his computer

If you’re interested in STEM fields, particularly those involving computers and technology, computer science has the potential to be a very lucrative field, and many of the degree programs offered have incredibly flexible schedules. Some may even allow you to do the vast majority of your work online from the comfort of your own home.

If you pursue a computer science degree, you’ll most likely be required to take a multitude of CIS classes. You’ll probably be required to take many math classes, including algebra and calculus, as well. Statistical analysis is common, too, as are science and engineering courses, including physics and programming.

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Earning this degree can help open the door to a career in many different computer-related fields, including software development, web development, computer programming, software engineering, and customer support (IT).

Online Criminal Justice Degrees

police officer interviewing a witness

If you have a passion for the law and/or criminology, you might want to consider pursuing a degree in criminal justice. This degree often appeals to those who have a strong sense of social justice and those who are interested in understanding the minds of criminals.

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The heaviest focus in a criminal justice degree is typically on criminology. Some classes you may be required to take include:

  • Crime Prevention
  • Crime in America
  • Deviance and Social Control
  • Drugs and Society
  • Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice
  • Crime Statistics
  • Criminal Evidence
  • Principles of Investigation

There are numerous jobs within and related to the criminal justice field.

Online Education Degrees

high school teacher teaching her students in class

If you have a love for teaching and children, patience, and a calm disposition, education may be a great choice for you. A bachelor’s degree in education can help ready you to teach at K-12 schools in your state.

There are general education requirements you’ll likely be required to take no matter which subject you hope to teach. There are teaching-specific courses you’ll likely have to take as well. These may differ slightly depending on whether you want to teach at the elementary or secondary level.

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Some common classes include courses on diversity and inclusion, strategic instruction, education assessment, classroom management, teaching exceptional children, and instructional planning. If you’re focusing on a secondary subject, such as math, English, history, or science, you’ll probably have to take many classes in that subject as well.

Online Early Childhood Education Degrees

Early Childhood Education teacher teaching his pupils about geography

Although most fields in education appeal to similar types of people, a degree in early childhood education often appeals to those people who love working with young, toddler-aged children.

There’s often a little more fun and play to early childhood education, so if you’re interested in this degree, being a bit of a kid at heart can be beneficial.

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Some likely courses you may be required to take for this degree include:

  • Intro to Early Childhood Education
  • Child Health and Safety
  • Science for Young Children
  • Language Arts and Reading for Young Children
  • Mathematics for Young Children
  • Beginning Literacy
  • Evaluation and Assessment in Early Childhood Education
  • Early Childhood Language Development

Earning your degree in this field can help you pursue work in daycare centers, preschools, and kindergarten classrooms or as a live-in nanny or something similar.

Online Elementary Education Degrees

Elementary Education Teacher helping his student in writing

Many of the same courses that are typically required in general education programs are often required in elementary education programs too. This field typically appeals to people who’d prefer to teach younger children (grades K-6) than teenagers or older.

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Elementary education degree programs typically include numerous core education classes in all subjects, art and music courses, and classes like the following:

  • Diversity of Learners and Settings
  • Introduction to Elementary Education
  • Foundations of Literacy and Language

This degree can help prepare you for K-6 teaching jobs in public and private school settings.

Online English Degrees

librarian arranging the books in library

If you love reading, writing, or literature, a degree in English may be a good choice for you. English programs often appeal to those who love the written word in all its forms. If you love reading, particularly the classics and world literature, and also don’t mind a lot of writing, this might be the program for you.

English degrees usually require a lot of literature classes. English programs often include studies in world literature, southern literature, African American literature, English literature, American literature, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.

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English degrees often lend themselves nicely to a job as a writer, editor, paralegal, technical writer, librarian, or reporter. To become a paralegal, though, you would also need to complete either an on-campus or paralegal degree online program offered by a number of colleges.

Since English degrees typically include a lot of writing and research, they can also be helpful degrees for getting into law school or another graduate program.

Online Entrepreneurship Degrees

management analysts in a meeting

Entrepreneurship often appeals to those who are self-reliant, driven, hard-working, and focused. Most students pursue entrepreneurship degree programs because they hope to own their own businesses someday.

Entrepreneurship programs often include many business-related classes that focus on topics such as planning, marketing, finance, strategy, operations, leadership, and even law.

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In addition to helping you build the skills you’d need to open your own business, this degree could help you pursue a job as a management analyst, operations manager, sales representative, or business consultant.

Online Finance Degrees

Sales agent showing documents to client

If you enjoy working with numbers, money, and budgets but don’t necessarily want to work in accounting, you might want to consider working towards a degree in finance instead. While there are some differences between the two programs, finance programs typically require some of the same courses as accounting programs.

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Other commonly required classes for finance programs are:

  • Principles of Business Finance
  • Advanced Business Investments
  • Professional Development in Finance
  • Principles of Intermediate and Advanced Accounting
  • Financial Modeling
  • Principles of Marketing

Earning your degree in finance can help open the door to a variety of job opportunities. Finance degree holders often become financial advisors, managers, sales agents, sales analysts, and credit analysts, to name a few potential opportunities.

Online Healthcare Administration Degrees

healthcare administrator shaking hands with a doctor

There are generally two types of people who pursue degrees in healthcare administration. The first are people interested in working in the medical field but who don’t want to become nurses or doctors.

The second are people who already work in healthcare as doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners but want to transition out of the medical side and into the business side of things.

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If you fall into the first group, it’s more likely you’re working on your undergrad degree in healthcare administration. If you fall into the second group, you could potentially be working on your graduate degree. Either way, there are flexible programs of study in healthcare administration at both levels.

Courses in healthcare administration programs typically focus on a mixture of finance, grant-writing, management, budgeting, leadership, and communications courses. Students with this degree often pursue positions as medical records managers, administrative supervisors, and other positions that provide healthcare support.

Online Human Resources Degrees

human resource manager shaking hands of a colleague

Earning a degree in human resources could potentially give you access to jobs in more fields than any other degree on this list. Practically every company, no matter its focus or field, needs people in their human resources department. A job in human resources may require you to do tasks such as:

  • Recruiting and hiring
  • Disciplining and firing
  • Mediating disputes and/or conversations between management and employees
  • Performing various administrative functions
  • Educating staff members about company policies
  • Assisting employees with their benefits

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To better prepare you for these types of duties, human resources programs often include courses such as :

  • Business and Tax Law
  • Legal Issues in HR
  • Employee Training and Development
  • Financial Accounting
  • Behavioral Science
  • Organizational Ethics

In addition to preparing you for a job as a human research specialist, manager, or director, this degree program can also help prepare you for other potential careers. People with degrees in human resources often become benefits managers, training specialists, financial managers, accountants, and computational managers.

Online Information Technology Degrees

IT Specialist checking network in data center

Information technology (IT) is often an incredibly lucrative field. With practically everything moving online and e-commerce growing daily, just about every company in the world needs an IT person. This degree plan often appeals to people interested in STEM and computer science.

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Those with information technology degrees often become IT specialists, systems analysts, networking specialists, systems administrators, tech consultants, web developers, and software engineers.

Online Management Degrees

Management Consultants in a meeting

A career in management often appeals to people who are driven, hardworking, good communicators, problem-solvers, and sociable. Practically all companies need managers, so you can pursue management jobs in a variety of fields.

Because becoming a successful manager requires a multitude of different skills and talents, management degree programs typically have many different types of classes. Management programs often include studies in organizational theory and behavior, human resources, research skills and strategy, social sciences, and communications.

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Since management is such a popular degree field, there are numerous schools that offer management programs, and many of these programs are very flexible and work around students’ schedules.

A management degree program can help ready you for management positions in a multitude of different fields. With this degree, you could potentially become a management consultant, policy analyst, upper-level executive, or something similar.

Online Marketing Degrees

Marketing Managers checking presentation in office

The field of marketing often appeals to those with vivacious, creative, and dynamic personalities.

Creating new campaigns and designing new advertisements usually require a lot of imagination and innovation. Having a lively, outgoing, and persuasive personality can help with selling products and services with conviction. If this sounds like you, then a marketing degree might be a good option for you.

Marketing degree programs typically include a variety of marketing and business-related classes.

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The primary goals for most marketing programs include teaching how to promote products, find the right audience, appeal to target demographics, and find the right prices for products.

Marketing programs often include the following classes:

  • Graphic Design
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Global Marketing
  • Business Writing
  • Finance Management/Economics
  • Principles of E-commerce
  • Public Speaking

Those with marketing degrees often become brand managers, admissions managers, fundraisers, event planners, public relations specialists, marketing assistants, and marketing directors.

Online Nursing (RN to BSN) Degrees

operating nurse assisting during operation

Nursing degree programs often appeal to those who want to help people. You may become a nurse with as little as an associate degree, but higher degrees can help you work your way into other nursing positions.

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Different degrees in nursing can help you become a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, a clinical nurse specialist, a nurse practitioner, a nurse case manager, a travel nurse, an operating nurse, and more. Nursing degree programs often offer very flexible schedules as well.

Online Project Management Degrees

project manager checking construction plans

If you’re interested in moving into a leadership or supervisory role within your corporation, a degree in project management could be helpful. This type of degree often appeals to people who enjoy working in teams, generally as team leads, rather than independently.

Project managers need to have great communication and leadership skills but also need to be team players who respect the ideas of others and know how to bring out other people’s potential.

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The curriculum for a project management degree program typically includes courses on leadership skills, team-building skills, cost control, bid negotiation, risk assessment, and budget management.

This degree can help open up the door to many job opportunities in a variety of different fields. With it, you could potentially become a manager in construction, healthcare, IT, hospitality, and more.

Online Psychology Degrees

psychologist listening to a young boy during counseling

A degree in psychology might be right for you if you’re empathetic, interested in helping others, strong-willed, and a good listener. A curious mind and love of clinical research can also be beneficial in this particular field. If you’re interested in taking this degree path, you’ll likely take many courses on the subjects of psychology, behavior, and the human mind.

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Some potential courses in psychology programs include:

  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Psychological Disorders/Aberrant Behavior
  • Neuroscience
  • Educational Psychology

There are many other psychology-related courses you might take, and they become more specific once you pick a specialization, such as criminal psychology, child psychology, substance abuse counseling, or couples and family counseling. These specializations can help lead you to your specific career.

Online Sports Management Degrees

personal trainer teaching sports to young children

If you’re interested in a management-type career and also have a love of sports, a degree in sports management might be just the thing for you. Sports management degree programs often include similar courses as business and management degree programs, but they have a focus on sports.

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After earning this degree, you could pursue a job as an event coordinator, a sports agent, a personal trainer, a coach, a booking agent, or another similar career.

What Are Accelerated College Programs?

mature college students studying in library

Accelerated college programs are programs that have shorter terms, usually eight weeks or less, as opposed to a whole semester, so that the program overall takes less time to complete.

Because the terms are so short, two classes are usually the most you can take each term in an accelerated program, but you may have six to eight terms a year, which could help you graduate faster. For this reason, accelerated degree programs for working adults are a popular option.

What Are the Best Competency Based College Programs?

Colleges and universities format their programs in a variety of different ways, which means it is possible to find a school that will allow you to complete a degree at your own pace. Here are a few ways that schools make their programs more flexible:

  • Asynchronous classes and/or self-paced deadlines
  • Accelerated courses
  • Part-time enrollment
  • Online classes and/or hybrid classes
  • No standardized testing requirements
  • Dual degrees
  • Transfer credits

All of these factors can help determine how quickly or slowly you can complete your degree. Considering them can help you choose the best program for you.

What Is Credit for Prior Learning?

college students taking an exam in classroom

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is an initiative put in place to help combat the number of remediation or extraneous classes you might have to take.

If you have prior experience in a field because you’ve worked in that field for some length of time, some colleges are authorized to give you credit for those experiences in lieu of remediation or extra classes.

What Is Credit by Exam?

A Credit by Exam (CBE) is similar to the above-mentioned CPL, except instead of getting credits for work experience, you can be awarded credits by passing comprehensive exams in specific subject matters.

You choose the subject in which you feel confident, take an exam, and if you pass, you’re awarded credit for that class.

Is Going Back to College Worth It?

business professionals happily working at a cafe

Yes, going back to college is worth it for many working adults. Employment for entry-level jobs where a bachelor’s degree is required is expected to grow by 6.4% over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many employers turn potential hires away if they don’t have at least an associate degree on their resumes. For others, a bachelor’s degree is preferable.

For this reason alone, going back to college can be worth it for many students. If you are ready to go back to college, you can start looking at flexible, online courses today and take the first step toward your future career.

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Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy at Liberty University and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from Amberton University, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Columbia College. With over 20 years of experience navigating online degrees and courses, Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.