Career trends come and go, but one thing is certain: earning a degree translates into higher earnings for professionals. Today’s educational landscape is such that people at all stages of their careers can be trained to enter a new field, whether they are a high school graduate or a mid-career professional. This accessibility is the reason why more people are enrolling in educational programs in pursuit of starting a career or advancing in their careers.

A 2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report showed that more people are returning to school after being out in the workforce. Of the people aged 20 to 29 who returned to earn a bachelor’s degree, 74.8% were already employed in 2021. This percentage was up almost seven percentage points from 67.3% in 2020. The 2021 BLS statistics also showed another interesting trend in one area. Many students (67.9%) in this age bracket returned to school to earn an associate’s degree, compared to the 32.1% who returned to school to receive vocational training. 

Ultimately, the data shows that returning to school after employment in the workforce is a common trend with many young people. Also, in the last couple of decades, some experts have said that mid-career professionals change jobs at least five times, with some of these changes requiring returning to school to get the expertise needed to advance in their vocation.

However, returning to school to be trained for a new career or reskill in another area takes up a lot of time and requires a commitment on the part of the professional soon-to-be student. For people with family and professional obligations, sitting in a face-to-face classroom for up to three hours a week, depending on the number of credit hours the course offers, is demanding. 


With the advent of online education, many professionals who would not go to school can still get their education. While going to school online does require the person to remain committed to spending time attending the online course and submitting work on time, this particular platform offers the professional some benefits.


How do online courses work?

Online education involves students receiving information and communicating with their professors over the virtual landscape. Usually, the class is held over a learning management system, which is a location where the professor communicates information about the course, how to submit assignments, and if applicable, where students take their exams. Most instructors provide students who are unfamiliar with the platform with a small tutorial for navigating this space.


Students who choose online education can select from synchronous, asynchronous and hybrid formats. Synchronous online classes require the student to log into the course shell when the professor gives a lecture, usually through video conferencing tools. It is like a regular class session, except the student can be in any location.


Asynchronous online classes offer students more flexibility because the professor allows the student to watch course lectures at their convenience. Additionally, while the professor gives assignments and exam due dates, they are in a window, making it possible for the student to learn at their own pace. Whether taking courses synchronously or asynchronously, students are given tools within the learning management system to communicate in real time any questions or concerns they might have. 

Hybrid courses blend synchronous and asynchronous learning. A student doing a hybrid course might be required to attend lectures online at a specific time but turn in coursework and communicate with students at their convenience.

What are the benefits of attending online programs for professionals?

Today’s educational landscape is filled with programs that cater to professionals who wish to return to earn a degree. Many of these institutions are traditional programs that offer online courses in addition to the regular program. There are also entirely online university programs offering a diverse range of degrees. Florida State University offers an advanced MSW online in addition to its face-to-face graduate courses. The benefits of enrolling in these programs include convenience, but there are others.

More class and program options

As online education has become more popular, schools are providing students with many more choices from which to choose. Institutions tend to offer more sections of online classes than face-to-face courses. With more online classes, students are not delayed in their education because they have more choices.

Students who attend classes online also have more program option choices. A student could potentially live in one country and take courses in another, as long as they meet the requirements of the country in which the program is located. This removes the limitations on where students can pursue their degree, opening possibilities for not only getting an education in another country, but also working there. 

Applying coursework to professional work

Emeritus reported in a September 2022 article that 84% of people who attended an online course were able to apply the material they learned in class to their professional work. Ultimately, the ability to apply what you learn in the classroom to your work makes for greater productivity. This is one of the possible benefits of online learning for professionals returning to a degree program. Not only is the information applicable, but in some cases, the information that is learned in class is reinforced at work, which is great at test time. 

Affordability factor

After calculating the costs associated with moving to campus, parking and other fees, students save money on online courses. Also, if a face-to-face course is not offered in the evening or on the weekend, the student is forced to attend class during work hours. If the professional does not have a benefits package, they must take time off work, which reduces the amount of income they draw in weekly. 


An additional benefit of taking online courses for professionals is that it opens more avenues to meeting people in the field. During the course, professionals who are also students will find that the online community is limitless. Depending on the instructor and industry, the student might find themselves communicating with other professionals within the field. This usually happens when the professor is very active in the industry of the subject being taught. These connections within the field can lead to learning more about the topic, mentorship opportunities and job leads.

The student also communicates with other students in the class. These are additional opportunities for students to become immersed in the field, to stay abreast of trends from other students who are more advanced in the field or program, and to make lifelong friendships. Finally, for many students who are not as outgoing, the online platform can be a place where connecting with others becomes easier. 


The online learning platform has made education very flexible for today’s educators. The various apps have made it possible for students to work in any location in the world provided that they have a device and an internet connection. Moreover, students who do not like technology might find the learning platforms very user-friendly, making it easier to get past the challenges in logistics that are associated with going to school. 

Students do not have to worry about lugging around a laptop or being forced to work only at home on their PC. Much of this has to do with the fact that today’s online classroom has grown significantly, making it possible for a student to access class notes, lectures, exams, and other materials from a notebook or a cell phone. 

This flexible learning platform also makes it possible for students to access supplemental material while listening to lectures. Let’s say that the student finishes watching a lecture online but is still not clear on some of the concepts. They can access Khan Academy, YouTube, and a host of sites to see videos that clarify concepts, and not when they get home from work or the library – they can see this information while they are studying. 

Final thoughts

Online courses present professionals with the chance to attain and advance their careers. Institutions have simplified the college-going experience for people who might not have the time or freedom to attend an educational program. Online educational platform allow professionals to work toward a degree while earning income. More than being a flexible education option for professionals, many online programs can prepare students for a career after the degree program in terms of networking and connecting to the community with which they intend to work.