Surprising Online Degrees

  • Homeland Security
  • Nursing
  • Culinary Arts
  • MBA
  • Creative Writing
  • Construction Management
  • Foreign Languages
  • Computer Science
  • Studio Art
  • Zoology

It wasn’t that long ago that online degrees seemed kind of odd. Most people who pursued degrees didn’t pursue online degrees. They attended a traditional brick-and-mortar college or university. Fortunately for those who could benefit from an online bachelor’s or master’s degree, times have changed.

Nowadays, the average online student is 32 years old and already professionally established. Fifty-four percent of them attend school part-time. Those who do end up in online programs enjoy numerous perks, including a low student-to-professor ratio, and if all of that weren’t enough, it’s now possible to pursue some of the most fascinating and unlikely degrees online. Take a look at some of these unique degrees to see just how much you can accomplish from home.

Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security is a large government agency that oversees different branches like the Coast Guard. While you might picture yourself working as an agent and investigating terrorists, the DHS also needs workers with experience in administration, construction, and other fields.

Those working for DHS usually need some type of college degree, and several colleges now offer a Homeland Security bachelor’s degree. You’ll learn how to conduct research, the types of crimes this agency investigates, and the jobs available within its divisions and branches.
Additionally, job prospects in Homeland Security are actually quite broad. While the TSA agents who work in the nation’s airports represent the most visible Homeland Security personnel, they represent only a portion of the people who work in this field.

People who have computer training can become IT specialists in the Department of Homeland Security. They identify and stop threats to different computer systems. These systems may operate critical infrastructures, like electrical or water plants, throughout the country.

Others will go on to work for agencies, like FEMA. These professionals see to it that people who have experienced a natural disaster or another type of calamity receive the care and support they need. Still others will go on to be field agents or work as forensic scientists.

The BLS projects that about158,000 new Homeland Security jobs will be created between now and 2026. Currently, nearly 200,000 people work in Homeland Security in some capacity.

Students in this online degree track take coursework in subjects, like critical infrastructure protection, coastal and border security, criminal justice, legal and ethical issues in Homeland Security, and research methods. Homeland Security students can also gain practical experience by doing internships for a variety of government agencies.

People who graduate with HS degrees end up working for institutions, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Truly, this counts as more of the more interesting degrees you can get online.


Nursing-Degree-OnlineOne of the more surprising degrees you can get online is one in nursing. Most nursing programs have some type of clinical rotation component that you do after taking some introductory courses. Those classes teach you how to take patients’ medical histories, take their vital signs, and monitor them, but you’ll also learn more about infections, diseases, and working with doctors. You then have the chance to actually work in the field and do clinical rotations at a hospital or in another medical facility. Online nursing degrees help you find placement within a local facility to do your rotations but let you take your required courses online.

Those who study nursing stand to make a comfortable living and have good career prospects after they graduate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for nurses is expected to grow by 12 percent until the year 2028. Nurses make approximately $73,000 per year, or about $35.00 an hour.

Trained nurses continue to be in demand because the population in the United States is aging: This population will require consistent medical care and support. Additionally, many nurses will work in long-term care facilities taking care of the aged. They’re also tapped for outpatient care or in-home health care. Each year, over 200,000 nursing jobs open up.

Related: Top Online Colleges for Nursing

Culinary Arts

Culinary Arts OnlineIf you love cooking and being around food, you might have an interest in studying the culinary arts. Available through community colleges, vocational schools, and some more traditional colleges, culinary arts programs not only teach you how to cook amazing dishes, but you’ll also learn about staying safe in a professional kitchen and keeping your workspace clean. As one of the more surprising degrees you can get online, culinary arts programs often feature informative videos that you watch that teach you how to improve your knife skills, prepare different dishes and clean up after yourself.

Many people who earn a culinary arts degree go on to work in restaurants as chefs or managers. These professionals design menu items, work on scheduling, and work with food vendors. Some chefs specialize. For example, they may develop a reputation as someone who creates delicious seafood or dessert recipes.

Those who work as chefs tend to follow a typical career path. Many start out as the Commis Chef. This person provides assistance to the Executive Chef and often works every station in the kitchen. He or she will also help with deliveries, do food prep, and rotate stock. The next position is the Chef de Partie or station chef. This person works at a specific station in a restaurant.

After that comes Sous Chef. This person is the second-in-command in a kitchen. The Sous Chef takes over when the Head Chef is out of the kitchen. Finally, after a time, a person can become the Head Chef and Executive Chef. What goes on in the kitchen is largely spearheaded by this professional.

For many, becoming a chef allows them to take their place in a long line of professionals who once worked for the finest kitchens in Europe. Once upon a time, working as a chef meant working for nobility. It’s an honorable calling. 

However, not all culinary arts students wish to work in restaurants as chefs. Instead, they go on to become caterers. This job allows them to work in a new location on a daily basis. On one day, they may work on a wedding feast. On another day, they may provide food for a retirement party or a local fundraiser.

These foodie pros create menus that appeal to the people they’re serving, though like the restaurant chef, they may specialize. For example, they may offer gourmet Asian food or vegan fare. Some of these pros may even start a food truck. One of the funnest and certainly, the sweetest jobs in the kitchen is the baking and pastry chef position. These culinary arts school grads make the cupcakes, pies, and eclairs that tempt party-goers to eat just a couple more bites after a big dinner.

Although the hours are long and the work can be difficult, many who work in the food and beverage industry admit they couldn’t imagine doing anything else. They love the pace, as well as the opportunity to be creative and to serve people by making food for them.


MBA OnlineOne of the top degrees that you can now get online is an MBA. The Federal Trade Commission warns against enrolling in programs that guarantee you course credit for the experience that you have in the working world as this is a sign of a diploma mill. A good MBA program may give you credit for an internship or fieldwork project you do after enrolling, but it should not give you credit just for going to work or for the work you did before enrolling.

Those who earn an MBA also increase their earning potential. According to The Balance Careers, earning an MBA can increase a person’s salary by almost $20,000 a year or more. Many MBA students expect to make at least $80,000 to $90,000+ a year after they graduate.

What’s more encouraging is the fact that 94 percent of the people who have earned an MBA report that they found their degree program personally rewarding. Another 89 percent said earning their MBA rewarded them professionally as well.

Creative Writing

One of the other unique degrees you can get online is one in creative writing. Creative writing programs help you develop the skills needed to write compelling short stories and books that both readers and publishers will love. Online programs often give you writing prompts to help you come up with new story ideas and let you get your work critiqued by your peers and professors. You may also take classes on how to find a publisher and how to edit your work before meeting with one of those publishers.

Additionally, many students in online creative writing degree programs have an opportunity to read literature. While many of these literature classes concentrate on classic authors, like Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck, other lit classes allow students to delve into modern writers.

By reading the work of these great authors, creative writing students learn first-hand how great writers construct stories. These students eventually learn to find their own creative voice in the process.

Additionally, many times, graduate-level creative writing students become teaching assistants. In exchange for the cost of their tuition and a stipend, these students teach lower-level English classes, like English 101. Because many universities are now offering online classes, particularly for core classes, like English 101, graduate-level creative writing students should have plenty of opportunities to teach.

As it also turns out, graduate students make up the bulk of the students who earn their degrees online, according to UTEP Connect. While only about 11 percent of undergraduate students earn their degree online, 22 percent of graduate students take their graduate coursework online. That means those who choose to study creative writing online as graduate students will be in good company.

After graduation, many of these students go on to teach creative writing at the high school or college level. Others will publish numerous short stories or even novels. Most master-level creative writing students will end up with a book-length manuscript by the time they graduate. This puts them in a position to find an agent and work as a novelist.

Other creative writing graduates may deviate a bit from the creative writing path to become journalists or technical writers. The salary the writer makes depends largely on what type of job he or she gets.

Construction Management

According to the US News and World Report, construction management is perfect for the person who’s interested in building homes and offices for a living. This degree gives students the opportunity to delve into subjects, like civil engineering, architecture, or even carpentry. It’s such a cool job that US News ranks it #1 on its Best Construction Jobs list.

Most construction managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in construction management, though it is possible to earn a master’s degree in the subject. Students can earn both their bachelor’s and their master’s degree in construction management online.

Construction management degree requirements can vary. However, generally speaking, these professionals will learn about subjects, like architecture, statistics and mathematics, information technology, cost estimation, and more. Students in this degree track can gain experience by getting internships or by working in construction in non-management positions.

Throughout the course of their careers, they may need to fulfill additional requirements beyond what their degrees require. Certifications from the American Institute of Constructors or the Construction Management Association of America are usually required at some point, too. They’ll also need to be up-to-date on building codes.

The cost of the degree is likely worth it. Construction managers earn an excellent salary. The average salary for this professional is just over $91,000 per year.

Foreign Languages

Foreign Language OnlineLearning a foreign language requires students to learn how to read, write, speak, and understand the words of a different language. This degree track tends to emphasize speaking and writing.

Fortunately, new technologies, like Zoom or Skype, allow students to practice their language skills with others in real-time. These conversations, which are conducted in the foreign language the student is learning, provides students with the chance to improve their speaking skills. However, they do not need to meet in person to do it.

Additionally, many foreign language degree programs require students to do listening exercises. These often consist of watching TV or listening to the radio in the target language. Because online learning programs heavily emphasize video and audio as an educational content delivery method, foreign language study is uniquely suited to the online format.

Finally, new technologies, like Facebook or Twitter, allow students to practice writing in their foreign language of choice. College instructors can set up private social media pages where students can interact and practice their skills in a fun setting. This isn’t to say that traditional homework assignments, like essays, go out the window. Rather, new technologies augment the more traditional lessons that students must complete.

People who study a foreign language in college have a number of job prospects. They can go on to teach a foreign language in high school or college, depending on what type of degree they earn.

They may also become interpreters or translators. According to the BLS, the demand for interpreters and translators will remain high until 2028. Demand for interpreters and translators is expected to grow by 19 percent through 2028. Still, others use their language skills in conjunction with another job. For example, a person who works in an international hotel or as a flight attendant may get hired because he or she speaks a foreign language.

Finally, this major has a “cool” factor that’s hard to beat. Many people study foreign languages because they love to travel and meet new people. It’s difficult not to feel envious of those who parlay their language skills into jobs on foreign shores.

Computer Science

Studying computer science opens so many professional doors. Students who study this subject work in fields, like video game development, web development, mobile app development, UX/UI design, business intelligence, and cybersecurity to name but a few.

Given that many people working in the industry earn upwards of six figures, it’s not difficult to see why so many people gravitate toward computer science as a major. Some computer scientists wind up working for big tech companies. Other computer scientists enjoy working for startups. Those who concentrate on video game production find jobs with game studios and go on to work in the entertainment industry.

Students in an online computer science degree program learn the same skills that those in traditional college settings do. Their degree programs teach them about network security, databases, software engineering, computer languages, ethical issues in computer science, cryptography and computer forensics. It’s a fascinating line of work, and many who work in the field do so for many years.

Fortunately, it’s possible to earn this degree online. This set up appeals to people who are already working in the industry and who may want to earn an advanced degree. There’s no need for them to put their career on hold. The online degree programs allow them to work and go to school at the same time. Sixty-eight percent of students who take coursework online are professionals who already have careers underway, according to UTEP Connect.

Studio Art

Given how much time studio art students spend in their studios, or more specifically, their school’s art studios, you’d be forgiven for believing that students can’t earn an art degree online. They can. They only need to trade their school’s studio facilities for a home studio to make the transition from traditional art students to online art students.

Many innovative online art programs exist. The Savannah College of Art and Design, Full Sail University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburg count as just a few of these programs. While some online art programs concentrate more on traditional media, like painting and drawing, others embrace new media, including computer media.

Students in these programs learn how to set up their studios, how to photograph their work, and how to submit the photos for grading. Some of the schools, like Full Sail, even offer industry events. These events allow students to meet people in the industry and to find work after they complete their degree programs.


Zoology-OnlineWho would have thought that it’d be possible to study a subject like zoology online? Happily, for those who love animal biology, it’s entirely possible. Of all the degrees you can get online, this course of study is one of the most interdisciplinary ones, making it one of the most interesting ones as well. People who undertake this degree gain knowledge of animal ecosystems, genetics, evolution, ecology, conservation, chemistry, and more.

Once students earn their degrees in zoology, it’s possible for them to go on to a wide variety of careers. They can work in conservation and field biology. They can also become wildlife museum curators. Zoos and aquariums will also hire them, as will labs that specialize in animal research.  Additionally, some zoologists concentrate on the communication aspect of the profession. For example, they may work as public information officers or as journalists who specialize in zoology topics.  According to, salary ranges vary, depending on what type of job the zoologists have. Typically, they earn between $42,000 and $63,000 per year.

While many people think that traditional colleges are the best option for them, online programs now offer a number of benefits for students too. In addition to standard degree programs in fields like psychology or history, you’ll also find some surprising degrees you can get online in unique topics like the culinary arts, Homeland Security, or creative writing.

It should also be noted that the degrees listed here only represent a small number of the degrees you can actually earn online. These days, there are few subjects that cannot be taught online. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were almost 7,000,000 students enrolled in online and distance education courses and degree programs by the time that the fall of 2018 rolled around. If anything, this statistic proves that online degrees are not flights of fancy but rather a solid fixture on the educational landscape.

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