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Career Education Online: Guide to Online Career Education Options

Learn about online career education programs, how they work and where to find them. Find out possible field options and things to consider before applying to a program.

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For students interested in trade or vocational career training, online career education is one option that they can pursue. There are a wide variety of potential field, from computer programming to accounting, but there are several considerations that students should look at when considering different programs.

Overview of Online Career Programs

Career or vocational education can apply to a wide assortment of academic programs. Unlike degree programs in traditional majors, such as liberal arts or English, career education typically prepares students for direct entry to a vocation or trade. Many such programs are intended for adult or nontraditional students and are available at undergraduate and graduate levels. Online training for these programs can include video lectures, how-to tutorials, online textbooks or interactive activities.

Program and Field Examples

Career education programs span many fields and industries, such as healthcare, business, construction trades, technology and hospitality. They may result in a diploma, certificate or degree. Independent for-credit and non-credit courses are also available as continuing education for current professionals in a field. Though not all-inclusive, some examples of online career education fields include:

  • Computer programming
  • Real estate sales or appraisal
  • Nursing
  • Accounting
  • Fire service administration
  • Allied health management
  • Web design or development
  • Education

Where to Find Programs

Career education programs may be offered through dedicated vocational or technical schools; however, many colleges and universities have specific departments or divisions for career education programs that are offered online. One important consideration is whether or not a school is accredited. Prospective students should confirm that the school they are considering is accredited by a valid agency before submitting an application or paying any tuition.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Online Delivery Methods and Requirements

Online career education programs usually offer flexibility to accommodate the needs of busy students and professionals. Lessons and lectures are accessed asynchronously, and readings and assignments can be completed anytime, though tests and projects often have due dates.

To pursue career education online, all applicants must have basic proficiency using computers. Depending on the school and subject, additional software or hardware may be needed. Most schools host programs through their own website or a third-party content delivery system, such as Blackboard. Textbooks could be offered through the school's online library, or students might need to purchase books themselves.

Practical Education and Fieldwork

Some programs require hands-on training - such as construction and hospitality fields, for example. Online students can usually meet this requirement by completing an internship within their area at an approved business or organization. Some schools provide a list of possible companies, while others allow students to find an internship and submit the information for approval. Reports about any hands-on training usually needs to be provided to the school by the student or the company. In some cases, an on-campus summer session or weekend retreat may be necessary to train and monitor students in experiential work.

Online career education programs are available in a number of fields. Many programs incorporate experiential learning components and can be completed at the student's own pace. These programs are often offered by vocational or technical schools.

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