In Demand Bachelor's Degrees Older Workers Can Earn Online

Unemployed older workers are turning to online courses to retrain themselves for the job market

By Curtis Ross
Posted 2012

Online Bachelor Degree Careers for Older Workers
Online Bachelor Degree Careers for Older Workers

While the unemployment rate for workers 55 and older is lower than the overall national figure – 6.2% compared with 8.3% - older workers face many more challenges trying to re-enter the job market.


“While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, they are about half as likely to be rehired,” according to The New York Times.


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The Time's article also notes that “older workers have seen the largest proportionate increase in unemployment in this downturn. The number of unemployed people between ages 50 and 65 has more than doubled.”


Many Older Workers Seeking to Retrain


“Seniors have experienced consistently longer periods of unemployment than younger workers, as employers seek cheaper labor and look to skirt potentially higher health care costs,” according to a Huffington Post article, citing a recent study by the Government Accountability Office.


Retraining for a new career is an option many older workers are pursuing.


Classes geared towards workforce training for the over-50 crowd grew from just over 50 to over 1,000 courses from  2008 to 2011,” according to a Fiscal Times article citing a report by the American Association of Community Colleges.


Online courses leading to a bachelor’s degree can make the transition from worker to student much more doable.


Older workers are more likely to have ties that make a traditional college format unworkable. They are less free to relocate, more likely to have family responsibilities, and have schedules that are less flexible than those of traditional college-age students.


Online courses allow older students a far greater flexibility in scheduling their course work and study periods. Also, online courses eliminate the financial burdens of transportation or relocation.


Fields That Provide Opportunity for Older Workers


Among the fields that may be of interest to older workers seeking online bachelor’s degrees are:


Healthcare/allied health. This is one of the fastest growing areas for employment, thanks to a number of factors: the aging baby boomer population, which will require more medical attention; the general trend toward longer life expectancy; and the movement toward more outpatient care.


The allied health designation covers a broad range of professions, some of which require advanced degrees, but many of which can be entered with only a two-year degree – a definite advantage for displaced workers looking to start a new career as soon as possible.


Of course, most require a bachelor’s degree, and for the those that require only a two-year degree, holding a bachelor’s degree can greatly increase the prospective employee’s attractiveness to employers.


Accounting and financing. These professions seem like naturals for the downsized banking or business executive. Accounting is experiencing steady if not spectacular growth, projected at 16% between 2010 and 2020 by the BLS.


There are numerous online bachelor’s degree programs for accounting. Accountants are needed at any institution that handles money, or accountants can set up their own firms.


Social services and counseling. Some older workers may find that helping others makes for a rewarding career change. Counseling and social work put to use talents workers bring from various professions along with people skills and compassion.


Many top universities offer online degree programs in social work, including the University of Southern California, Florida State University and St. Leo University.


It should be noted, however, that many counseling fields require a master’s degree for entry.


Education and teaching. Education is one of the best options for workers facing a mid-career change, according to


Teaching careers are available to people of all ages with an interest in education and expertise in one or more subject areas,” the article states.


Teaching makes use of the skills workers acquired in their former positions and lets them pass those skills on to students. A number of institutions offer education degrees through online programs, and “many states offer alternative pathways to teaching credentials for mid-career professionals that expedite the process,” according to eHow.


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