Best Online College Courses [2020 Guide]

Home » Best Online College Courses [2020 Guide]

Are you interested in taking online college courses? You’re not alone. Taking college classes online is proving to be the most convenient option for a wide variety of reasons.

Online College Courses

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, last year, there were well over six million students enrolled in online college courses. But not all online college courses offer the same value.

What Are the Best Online College Courses to Take?

Here are some degree programs that can be adapted well for online learning. Click on the subject you are interested in to learn more about its online courses:

You may be better suited to one of these areas than another, so consider what you’ll learn and what careers are available to you in each of these fields.

Accounting

accountant working in the office

Accountants help businesses make financial decisions by analyzing data. Although many businesses use computer programs to keep data, they need accountants to make sense of the data using critical thinking skills.

If you can spot trends, recognize patterns, and easily communicate complex ideas, you may be a good match for accounting. Those who excel in this type of job also tend to be detail-oriented and like math.


In your online accounting classes, you’ll learn how to keep financial accounts. You’ll also learn the principles of accounting, like auditing, reporting, budgeting, and tax regulations. You’ll most likely take an advanced math course, like statistics or calculus, and general business classes.

You can choose to work with corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or small businesses. You could also start your own accounting or tax preparation business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting is in demand, with a 10% growth projected in accounting jobs through 2026.

Business Administration

business administrators checking documents in an office

Business administrators create organizational goals, policies, and procedures. They oversee finances and budgets. They manage people and technology in an organization, and they negotiate contracts.

If you have leadership skills, organizational skills, and the interpersonal skills required to work with teams of people, then you might be a good match for business administration. People in this field tend to be flexible, creative problem solvers, and enjoy working with people.

In your online business administration classes, you’ll learn the fundamentals of business. You might take classes in financial accounting, logistics, economics, ethics, marketing, operations management, quality control, or computer systems.


You can choose a management position in a private, public, or nonprofit organization. You might work in retail or sales. You could also be a project assistant, office manager, or a technology-oriented support specialist.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places employment of administrative services managers at 10% through 2026. This is a slightly above-average growth.

Communications

advertising manager working on her laptop at home

Communication is the art of connecting with others. You’ll apply your communication skills to fields like media, law, and business.

Communications could be right for you if you enjoy talking with others, writing, public speaking, connecting with diverse groups of people, translating, or researching.

Online communications courses overlap with public relations, advertising, and journalism. You’ll likely take a variety of classes, such as marketing, sociology, psychology, business, media studies, journalism, and writing.


You can choose from a wide range of careers. Some of the most popular are public relations, journalism, law, marketing, and copywriting.

The job outlook is good for communications majors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field is projected to grow 4% by 2028, resulting in about 27,600 new jobs.

Criminal Justice

airport security guard checking passengers in airport

Criminal justice is the process of detecting crimes, locating criminals, trying alleged criminals in court, and punishing the people who are convicted. People who study criminal justice learn how these processes work.

If you go into criminal justice, you might be interested in the law, the psychology of criminal behavior, and how law enforcement agencies work. If you like helping others and have good people skills, this may be the right field for you.

In your online criminal justice classes, you’ll learn about law enforcement, the court system, and the corrections system. Your classes might include forensic behavioral analysis, psychology, criminology, sociology, juvenile crime, criminal law, and criminal justice theory.


You could become a police officer, correctional officer, probation officer, or forensic science technician. You could even start your own business as a private detective. Some other career opportunities in criminal justice include fish and game warden, security guard, crime scene investigator, and computer forensics investigator.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook reports a 5% expected increase in criminal justice careers by 2028, which is in keeping with average growth for all jobs.

Education

high school teacher teaching students in a classroom

Education is a broad field. It includes pre-kindergarten, elementary, secondary, and adult education. Not everyone in the education field becomes a teacher. Some are trainers or facilitators.

You might enjoy teaching others. You could be a person who is patient, nurturing, and dedicated to helping others grow. You might be passionate about teaching a particular subject. People who excel in this area have great skills in communication, organization, and relationships.


For your online education classes, you will likely focus on two areas. You’ll study the art of teaching and the subject you want to teach. You might take classes on educational theory, classroom management, psychology, and communication. If you want to teach math, for example, you will continue taking classes in mathematics.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts opportunities for educating young people, with job growth around 7% for preschool teachers, 3% for kindergarten and elementary teachers, and 4% for secondary teachers.

Early Childhood Education

preschool teacher assisting a child in a daycare

Early childhood education means any type of educational program for children younger than kindergarten age. Preschools, daycares, and camps often fall into this category.

To work with very young children, it helps if you have enthusiasm, reliability, and are committed to teaching. Young children need structure and consistency and there will never be a dull moment. New challenges can crop up every day that require quick problem-solving skills and a creative imagination.

Your online classes for early childhood education might include social and behavioral sciences. You might also study how to teach children with special needs, infant and toddler mental health, language development, and behavior management.


You could become a teacher’s aide or a preschool teacher. Eventually, you could be the administrator of a preschool program. You could work in a preschool, hospital or in people’s homes.

Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 7% by 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is faster than the average for all occupations.

Elementary Education

elementary school teacher holding a globe while teaching

Elementary education usually means teaching in an elementary school. In addition to getting your elementary education degree, you will have to apply for a state’s license to work in a public school. Even as an early childhood educator.

For this field, you will need passion, patience, creativity, flexibility, and dedication. Elementary teachers might specialize in one subject, or they might teach more than one subject throughout the day. Knowledge of a broad range of basic subjects can help.


To earn your degree in elementary education, you will likely take some classes online that include child psychology, curriculum development, introduction to education, and philosophy of education. You’ll also take classes on teaching math, English, science, and other subjects. Most programs require supervised time in an elementary school.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 3% growth in the career field of kindergarten and elementary school teachers by 2028. This is slightly below the average for overall job growth.

English

social media manager working on her laptop

An English degree can be the starting point for many different careers. You might study a variety of literature, or you might specialize in one particular area. For example, you could concentrate on a particular period, genre, or author.

If you enjoy studying English, you’re probably creative, and you enjoy writing and reading. You may be an independent learner, and you might have a critical eye for detail, or even enjoy healthy debating. This field of study attracts introverts and extroverts alike.

Online classes in English include studying various novels from Western, European. Modern American, Japanese, and Latin American writers. You may take a composition or creative writing course. English as a second language, drama, linguistics, and literary criticism are some other classes in the field of English you may take.


If you study English, you can work as a professional reader or writer. For example, you could be a social media manager, technical writer, public relations specialist, lawyer, grant writer, librarian, editor, or human resources specialist.

Finance

financial analyst working on his table in an office

Finance is a broad field that can include learning about banking, assets, debt, credit, capital markets, and investing. When you study finance, you usually choose one area to concentrate on.

Jobs in finance will require you to talk with other people about their money, so empathy and the ability to teach can be important skills.

Online courses in finance include an introduction to corporate finance, managerial accounting practices, organizational change, and e-business. You might take an advanced math course like calculus or statistics. You could also take courses in international business, environmental business, marketing, or ethics.


You could become a financial planner who helps people invest their money, a financial analyst, a budget analyst, an actuary, or an accountant.

As one example of the career opportunities in this field, financial analyst careers will likely grow by 6% by 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Healthcare Administration

healthcare managers meeting in an office

Healthcare administration means managing administrative and business duties in a healthcare facility. You’ll complete payroll and processing tasks, and you’ll hire and manage staff.

People working in healthcare administration tend to be flexible, adaptable, and solution-oriented. Overseeing the day-to-day operations in healthcare facilities will likely bring you in direct contact with people the majority of the time. If you like working with people and solving problems, this may be a good field of study for you.

Most, if not all, of the requirements for this career field, can be completed in online courses. You’re likely to take classes in business administration, health records management, healthcare management, and medical coding. You might also take an introduction to anatomy, medical law, ethics, medical terminology, or medical office management classes.


Careers in this field may mean you’ll manage a healthcare facility, but even within that role, there are many other management possibilities. You could work in a hospital as a department manager, financial officer, or even as the hospital CEO. Nursing homes, clinics, dental offices, and chiropractors also need healthcare managers.

This career field has one of the greatest predictions for growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an impressive 18% increase in jobs for medical and healthcare managers by 2028.

Human Resources

human resources manager talking to a colleague in an office

As a human resources professional, you’ll find, screen, recruit, and train job applicants. You might also be responsible for the employee-benefit programs in your office. You’ll stay up-to-date on all of the laws and regulations that apply to the workers in your business.

If you are extroverted, intuitive, and like to help others, then you might make a good human resources manager, for example. Human resources managers generally work directly with people. You may deal with sensitive issues, so being trustworthy and discreet would be important for a job in human resources.

Online courses for human resources include organizational theory and design, behavioral science, and legal issues in human resources management. You might also take classes on performance management and assessment, employee training and development, and compensation and benefits.


You could choose to work within any industry. Many titles in different businesses fall under the umbrella of human resources, including manager, specialist, professional, consultant, executive, trainer, and recruiter.

Job growth for human resources managers is predicted as faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees a 7% growth in this field by 2028.

Management

administrative services manager talking to other employees in office

As a manager, you will be responsible for managing a department, team, or specific projects. You will organize and guide teams, set goals, and follow up with each member of your team to ensure they have what they need to be successful at their jobs.

You might be a good manager if you can coach, encourage, and help bring out the best in others. Successful managers are leaders who are organized, trustworthy, and have excellent people skills.

Management requires business classes that are generally available online. You could take a class in business management, economics, financial management, business administration, or business law. Other classes that might be helpful are professional communications, marketing, and human resources management.


The careers available in management are numerous. With a degree in business management, you could go into sales, marketing, finance, or accounting. All of these areas need managers. Managers are needed in any area where people are doing work, especially in teams.

As one example of the outlook in the field of management, demand for administrative services managers could grow as much as 7% by 2028. That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Marketing

marketing manager checking her team's progress on a project

After a product is made, and before it is sold, marketing happens. Marketing includes advertising, public relations, media planning, and sales strategy. In marketing, you’ll create, manage, and enhance brands to sell as much as possible.

To work in marketing, you’ll need to be able to communicate ideas to others. Good marketers are analytical and creative. They’re also good at managing projects, deadlines, and teams.

Online classes are available for marketing. You might take economics, public relations, principles of marketing, quantitative methods, principles of finance, or business marketing.


You can be a marketing manager, production manager, market research analyst, brand manager, or advertising manager. Some people who have a marketing degree also become account executives, media planners, or copywriters.

The job outlook for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers is above average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 7% growth in marketing by 2028.

Project Management

Project Manager working with her team on a project

As a project manager, you manage projects while working for a corporation, small business, or for yourself. You plan, create a budget, oversee, and document the progress of your project. As a project manager, you might work alone, or you might lead a team or several teams.

You’ll need a positive attitude to keep projects moving forward. You’ll also need good listening and speaking skills so you can work with others on your project. Organizational skills will help keep your project on track. Project managers have excellent critical thinking and problem-solving skills, among others.

In project management, you’ll learn how to set clear goals, define scope, estimate costs, and manage a timeline. Project managers usually have a bachelor’s degree in management, business, or a related field. You can also earn a professional certificate or master’s degree in project management.


For a career in project management, you might work in healthcare, construction, transportation, or finance. All of these industries hire project managers to oversee many different types of projects.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in management will grow by a rate of 8% by 2026. This is in line with the average job growth rate among all industries.

Psychology

psychologist talking to a patient in his office

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behavior. If you study psychology, you can specialize in a particular area. If you’re an experimental psychologist, you’ll do research to develop and test theories about learning, motivation, and behavior. If you’re a developmental psychologist, you’ll study the changes that take place throughout the human lifespan.

To be a good psychologist, you’ll need a commitment to learning, empathy, and problem-solving skills. For others to trust you as their psychologist, you should be trustworthy, patient, sensitive to the needs of others, and ethical.

For a degree in psychology, you’ll take core undergraduate courses. Then you’ll take classes like developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, the psychology of learning, social psychology, and ethical issues in psychology.


You could choose to be a psychiatric technician, social worker, therapist, school counselor, or a psychologist. Some people with degrees in psychology go into management as administrative service managers or community service managers.

The job outlook for psychologists is 14% growth, which is well above average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses That May Be More Difficult To Take Online

students doing an experiment in a chemistry lab

Online learning is generally convenient, but some courses are better to take on a college campus.

If you struggle with a particular subject, it can be better to take the class on campus so that you can attend campus-based tutoring, speak directly with your professor, and collaborate in person with other students.

Last, some programs have components that can’t be completed online. A course may require a practicum or internship, where you’ll visit the actual job site and observe a professional at work.

Accreditation for College Classes Online

impressive university campus

Regional accreditation means an outside authority has made sure a school or degree program meets the necessary standards of quality. Look for colleges that are regionally accredited by either the U.S. Department of Education or the nonprofit Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

FAFSA application

Regardless of whether you’re pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, you can apply for federal financial aid as long as the course is taken from a regionally-accredited institution.

Federal financial aid can make a significant difference. Public universities charge in-state students an average of $9,000 and out-of-state students $25,000 per semester.

Can I Take a College Course Online?

Yes, you can take a college course online. Online college courses for credit are appropriate for you if you want to earn an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

These include general education classes and major-specific classes (for example, human biology, introduction to psychology, macroeconomics, or U.S. History).

Online college classes for no credit can still add experience to your resume, help you grow personally, and help you decide if an area of study is right for you.

How Much Does It Cost to Take an Online College Course?

Online courses for credit usually cost the same as on-campus college classes. Online courses for no credit can cost less or be free.

Classes may cost less for students who live in the same state as the school they attend than they cost for a student who lives out of state.

Colleges that offer online degrees

Financial aid can also help offset the cost of online college classes, as long as the college is regionally accredited.

What Colleges Offer Online Degrees?

Many types of online degrees from regionally accredited institutions are available.

You can earn a bachelor’s degree online from Ohio State University – Columbus, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Worldwide, the University of Illinois – Chicago, and many others.

Some regionally accredited schools offer online graduate degrees, including Indiana University – Bloomington, Columbia University, and Rush University.

Associate’s degrees and certificates are available online from accredited institutions as well.

What Is the Best Online College?

Finding the best online college is a personal journey. There are some things to take into consideration when it comes to figuring out which online college is best for you.

  • What type of degree or certificate does my dream job require?
  • Are the school and the program I want regionally accredited?
  • Does the college offer all of the courses I want online, or will I have to take on-campus classes as well?
  • Does the school offer financial aid?
  • Will I qualify for in-state tuition or out-of-state tuition?

Deciding on your future career can be a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. Doing your research and asking questions can help you determine which online college program best meets your needs.

Are College Courses Online the Right Choice for You?

woman attending college classes online on her laptop in a cafe

Are online classes harder? How do online courses work?

Some college courses lend themselves very well to online learning. From accounting to psychology, we saw 15 of the most popular online courses of study available.

The best online college is one that is flexible to your needs and is regionally accredited. If you’re still not sure, you could try taking a free online college course for no credit. That way, you can try out studying online in your new field and see if it’s the best fit for you.

Sarah Walker
WRITTEN BY
Sarah Walker