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Online Degrees in Alabama (AL)

From its scenic coastline on the Gulf of Mexico to the rolling hills and red sand cliffs found in the north, Alabama has a lot to offer in terms of natural abundance and industry. However, when it comes to educational attainment, the state certainly has room for improvement.

A recent study from the Lumina Foundation, aptly named A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, revealed that only 33.6 percent of Alabama's adults ages 25-64 held a two- or four-year degree in 2013. While that's up from 2008, when only 31.6 percent held a college degree, it's still lower than the national average for degree attainment -- 40 percent.

Breaking that percentage down further reveals more about where higher education in Alabama is headed, however. In 2013, 9.07 percent of the state's adults held an associate degree, 15.88 percent held a bachelor's, and 8.70 percent held a graduate or professional degree. Meanwhile, a full 22.96 percent of the state's adults had some college experience, but no degree. So it isn't necessarily that Alabama adults aren't interested in higher education; it's that, in some cases, students simply aren't able to finish college.

But it isn't due to a lack of options. As the National Center for Education Statistics reports, the state of Alabama is home to 99 colleges, universities, trade schools, and community colleges. While some of these schools focus only on traditional education, others offer hybrid education or fully-online degree programs. By offering distance learning in Alabama, some schools hope to provide additional options for students who need flexible hours or learning environments, as well as those who need to finish a degree they already started.

  1. Why Should I Earn a Degree in Alabama?
  2. What Makes Alabama Ideal for Online Education?
  3. Top 10 Degrees in Alabama
  4. Top Cities for Alabama College Students
  5. College Roadmap
  6. Scholarships and Financial Aid
  7. Discover Degree Opportunities

Why Should I Earn a Degree in Alabama?

It's no secret that Alabama has become an attractive place to raise a family and settle down. Not only does the state enjoy one of the most beautiful coastlines in the entire country, Alabama residents also have a relatively low cost of living. For example, as the U.S. Census Bureau notes, the median housing value in the state from 2009 to 2013 was only $122,500.

Meanwhile, many areas in the state have higher than average education levels and standards of living. The following counties had the highest percentage of degree attainment in the state in 2013:

  • Shelby: 50.60 percent
  • Madison: 48.20 percent
  • Lee: 41.58 percent
  • Jefferson: 40.54 percent
  • Montgomery: 38.57 percent

In addition to plenty of colleges and universities where students can pursue on-campus or online education in Alabama, the state is home to dozens of busy industries. Meanwhile, the labor market is brimming with individuals in innovative and high demand careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, the state of Alabama was home to 1,857,530 workers in 2014, with a mean annual wage of $40,890. When it comes to the sheer number of people employed in each career, the following professions requiring a college degree are prominent within the state:

Occupation

Number of Workers in 2014

Mean Annual Wage in 2014

Registered Nurses

43,680

$56,470

General and Operations Managers

26,480

$120,640

Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education

22,210

$49,410

Accountants and Auditors

14,090

$65,960

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

13,900

$35,570

Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education

12,860

$49,880

Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education

9,350

$48,480

Pharmacy Technicians

7,260

$26,920

Business Operations Specialists

6,660

$78,820

Computer Systems Analysts

6,110

$79,700

Major metropolitan areas in Alabama include Birmingham-Hoover, Huntsville, and Mobile. The bulk of traditional colleges and universities are scattered throughout urban areas in the state. For example, the largest school in the state, the University of Alabama's main campus, is located in Tuscaloosa. Meanwhile, Calhoun Community College, the state's largest two-year school, is located in Decatur. Other large schools in Alabama include Columbia Southern University, Troy University, Auburn University, and the University of South Alabama.

Although traditional education is still dominant in the state, a number of colleges and universities have truly paved the way in terms of online education in Alabama. The University of Alabama, for example, hosts "Bama by Distance", which allows students to access a number of University of Alabama degree programs in a fully-online, flexible format. Several others schools have also begun to offer online degrees in Alabama. The University of West Alabama, for instance, offers more than a dozen online bachelor's and master's degree programs that can be completed remotely.

The cost of attending Alabama schools has also remained reasonable. According to recent stats from the College Board, tuition and fees at public two-year schools in the state were only $4,237 for the 2014-15 school year, while tuition and fees at public four-year schools were only $9,470.

Students who pursue on-campus or online degrees in Alabama could gain access to employment in one of the state's key industries. As of 2015, those industries include steel, chemical manufacturing, food processing, forestry, and distribution. The University of Alabama at Birmingham, the state's largest employer, also serves as a hub for the state's bustling life sciences industry, as well as a leader in health care and medical research. Other industries offering employment opportunities in the state include aerospace, renewable energy, and rubber and plastics. Meanwhile, Alabama is often considered the "automotive hub of the south," with manufacturing plants run by Hyundai, Mercedes, Honda, and Toyota within its borders.

It's true that Alabama offers plenty in terms of education and career prospects, but that's not all the state is good for. Here are some fun facts about Alabama you probably didn't know:

  • Alabama is mineral rich, and the only state with all the major natural resources needed to make iron and steel.
  • The first rocket that put humans on the moon was built in Alabama. Meanwhile, the United States Space Camp for Kids is still located in Huntsville.
  • The nation's only all-water mail route is located in Magnolia Springs, Alabama.
  • Famous Alabamans include Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, Hank Aaron, and Coretta Scott King.
  • Alabama is home to the second-largest inland water system in the United States. Meanwhile, its Gulf-facing beaches contain some of the softest, whitest sand in the world.

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What Makes Alabama Ideal for Online Education?

A quick look at the sheer number of online degree programs offered regionally proves that online education in Alabama is growing in popularity. As we mentioned above, most of the larger colleges and universities in Alabama have rolled out their own online offerings, either in the form of online courses, hybrid education, or fully-online, flexible degree programs.

That includes schools like the University of Alabama and the University of West Alabama, which both offer degrees that are equal in every way to their on-campus equivalents.

But, why would students in Alabama choose to earn an online degree in the first place?

"I live in Atlanta GA where there are many higher ed options for traditional and nontraditional students," says Cynthia Daniel, adjunct professor at the Institute of Human Education and Valparaiso University, adding that one of the big advantages to online education is the additional access it brings to degrees and programs not offered at any of the regional institutions.

According to Daniel, online degree programs make it easier for working students, parents of young children, and single parents to earn a degree without abandoning their other responsibilities. Further, distance learning options in Alabama make higher education "accessible to those who may not have access to higher education," she adds.

That could include students who live in a remote area, those who may not have access to reliable transportation, or students who have other accessibility issues to contend with.

Since online education in Alabama is available to any student with an internet connection, its availability increases the possibility of earning a degree, or finishing a degree, considerably.

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Top 10 Degrees in Alabama

With a host of industries booming in Alabama, it's no wonder that many careers are expecting exceptional growth over the coming decade. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor, we've created this list of top degrees in Alabama:

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Earning an associate degree from an accredited occupational therapy assisting program is the best way to get started in this field. And thanks to huge demand, this degree could prove to be an excellent investment over the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of occupational therapy assistants is expected to increase 50 percent in Alabama from 2012 to 2022. High wages also add to this major's popularity. As of May 2014, occupational therapy assistants in Alabama earned a mean annual wage of $55,930. If you're interested in learning more, here are a few schools to check out:

  • Wallace State Community College
  • University of West Alabama
  • Brown Mackie College

Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Sonography

Health care jobs in Alabama are booming, and jobs in sonography are no exception. The corresponding degree for this field, a degree in sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, can help you get started in this growing occupation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment for sonography professionals is expected to increase 45 percent in Alabama from 2012 to 2022 -- four times the average of all occupations combined. Meanwhile, diagnostic medical sonographers in Alabama earned a mean annual wage of $50,700 in 2014. The following schools offer top-notch programs in the field:

  • Wallace State Community College
  • University of West Alabama
  • H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College

Physical Therapy Assistant

A degree in physical therapy assisting is a great way to get started in this booming field. And because of the growing demand for physical therapy nationwide, graduates could have a bright future ahead of them. Specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job opportunities for physical therapy assistants will rise 43 percent between 2012 and 2022. These professionals also earn high wages in Alabama, with a mean annual wage of $52,600 in 2014. The following schools in Alabama offer programs in this high demand field:

  • Jefferson State Community College
  • Calhoun Community College
  • Wallace Community College

Foreign Language

Earning a degree in a foreign language can lead to a number of careers that span every industry. However, many graduates find work as interpreters or translators. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that demand for interpreters and translators in Alabama could increase by as much as 37 percent during the decade leading up to 2022. Meanwhile, interpreters and translators in the state earned a healthy mean annual wage of $39,140 in 2014. If you want to learn more about foreign language degrees in Alabama, check out these schools:

  • University of South Alabama
  • University of Alabama
  • Auburn University

Special Education

A degree in special education can put you on the path towards a rewarding career teaching and mentoring special needs students. Even better, certain special education positions are expected to see heavy growth in employment over the coming decade. One of the careers projected to fare particularly well in Alabama is preschool special education teacher. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals could see employment growth of as much as 35 percent between 2012 and 2022. And in 2014, preschool special education teachers earned a mean annual wage of $39,220. If you want to explore all you could do with a degree in special education, check out these schools:

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of West Alabama
  • University of North Alabama

Veterinary Technology

If you love animals, a degree in veterinary technology might be a natural fit. The good news is, this industry is expected to see exceptional growth in the near future, with employment of veterinary technologists and technicians projected to rise 33 percent between 2012 and 2022. In addition to excellent job prospects, wages remain relatively high in this career. As of 2014, veterinary technologists and technicians in Alabama earned a mean annual wage of $29,740. Want to learn more about this degree? The following programs can help:

  • Jefferson State Community College
  • Tuskeegee University

Biomedical Technology

Earning a degree in biomedical technology can lead to a number of occupation. However, the most lucrative and in-demand career for this degree is medical equipment repairing. Because of the many types of equipment now surfacing in the medical industry, and the level of skill and expertise required to repair and maintain them, medical equipment repairers are expected to see huge demand in the coming years. According to the BLS, job opportunities for these professionals should rise 32 percent from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, medical equipment repairers in Alabama earned a mean annual wage of $45,090 in 2014. If you want to learn more about degrees in biomedical technology, these schools can help:

  • Brown Mackie College
  • Jefferson State Community College
  • Northwest-Shoals Community College

Dental Hygiene

Due to the demand for dental care across the nation, professionals with dental hygiene degrees are currently experiencing excellent job prospects. According to U.S. Department of Labor figures, employment of dental hygienists in Alabama is expected to increase 30 percent from 2012 to 2022. High wages also add to the appeal of this degree. As of 2014, dental hygienists earned a mean annual wage of $44,070 in the state. If you want to explore dental hygiene degrees in Alabama, and what they can do for you, look no further than these schools:

  • Wallace State Community College
  • University of West Alabama
  • Fortis College

Clinical Laboratory Technician

According to U.S. Department of Labor figures, employment for medical and clinical laboratory technicians is expected to increase 28 percent from 2012 to 2022. Wages remain high as well. The BLS reports that clinical laboratory technicians in Alabama earned a mean annual wage of $35,600 in 2014, while clinical laboratory technologists earned $52,380. If you want to learn more about degrees in this field, these schools offer programs that can help:

  • Wallace State Community College
  • University of West Alabama
  • Calhoun Community College

Finance

A degree in finance can lead to a variety of careers in the business and financial services sector, including a career as a personal financial advisor. Because individuals will continue to need advice on how to manage their own incomes and investments, job prospects in this field are projected to stay strong. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of personal financial advisors is expected to increase 27 percent in Alabama from 2012 to 2022. Even better, these professionals earned a mean annual wage of $109,190 in Alabama in 2014, according to the BLS. If you want to find out everything a degree in finance could do for you, start with these excellent schools:

  • University of Alabama
  • University of North Alabama
  • Alabama State University

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Top Cities for Alabama College Students

Although many of Alabama's online education options are available nationwide, students may prefer to settle down in one of the major metro areas found within the state. This is probably partly because Alabama is such a beautiful, low-cost place to live, but also because some students prefer to take in as much of the college experience as they can -- even if they are earning their degree remotely. The following cities are the three biggest in terms of population in Alabama, and are also home to some of the most prominent schools.

Birmingham

According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the city of Birmingham was home to more than 212,000 residents in 2013. As the largest city in Alabama, and part of the Birmingham metropolitan area, Birmingham is also home to a large percentage of the state's colleges and universities. The National Center for Education Statistics lists 14 colleges, universities, community colleges, and trade schools in the Birmingham area.

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Birmingham has a lot to offer college students and young families. In addition to a number of prominent schools, including the University of Alabama, Birmingham is also home to over 40,000 businesses. The city's largest employers include the University of Alabama, Baptist Medical Centers, and BellSouth. Meanwhile, the city also offers a bustling nightlife scene and more than 500 restaurants. Almost 100 historic neighborhoods also surround the Birmingham area and solidify its place as the "cradle of the civil rights movement." Here are three of the city's most notable colleges:

University of Alabama at Birmingham

As part of the University of Alabama system, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is able to offer one of the widest selection of degree programs in the state, including 51 bachelor's programs, 51 master's degree programs, and 40 doctoral programs. Total enrollment for the school included 18,568 students in 2013, 11,502 of which were pursuing an undergraduate degree. Affordable tuition helps keep enrollment high. As of 2014-15, tuition and fees for in-state students averaged out to $7,510. The school is known for the following popular degree programs:

  • Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Marketing
  • Online Registered Nurse to BSN

Birmingham-Southern College

As of 2014, enrollment at Birmingham-Southern College included 1,185 students from 38 states and 21 countries. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1, the college leverages its small scale to provide hands-on and often intimate instruction to its full-time students. On its 192-acre campus, Birmingham-Southern College offers 30 undergraduate programs, 23 minors, and 10 special programs. Although tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year were $31,708, the school reports that more than 95 percent of its students receive some form of financial aid. Birmingham-Southern College is known for the following programs:

  • Pre-Engineering Dual Degree Program
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
  • Bachelor of Arts in Media & Film Studies

Jefferson State Community College

Jefferson State Community College offers more than 120 University transfer programs, 20 career programs, and plenty of certificate programs. By keeping tuition low (approximately $1,728 per semester for full-time students), the school aims to help students transition into the workforce or a four-year school. Some of JSCC's most popular programs include:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems Technology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Clinical Laboratory Technology
  • Associate of Applied Science - Physical Therapist Assistant

Montgomery

As part of the Montgomery, Alabama metro area, the city of Montgomery was home to a little over 201,000 residents as of 2013. Approximately 31.5 percent of those residents held a bachelor's degree or higher that year, and more than 85 percent had their high school diploma.

Affordable housing continues to make Montgomery an excellent place to live for young families and students alike. As the U.S. Census bureau notes, the median housing value in 2013 was only $119,200. This means that Montgomery college students can afford not only their degrees, but a safe place to stay while they pursue their education. Several large publications have also applauded Montgomery's value and quality, including USA Today, which once named Montgomery as one of the Best Historic Cities in the country. Meanwhile, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that Montgomery is home to 13 excellent institutions of higher education, some of which offer online degree programs. Here are a few of Montgomery's most prominent schools:

Amridge University

Although Amridge University is located in Montgomery, the schools focuses almost entirely on online education. As one of the most affordable private universities in the United States, Amridge aims to extend access to higher education to students from all walks of life and skill level. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to only $6,900, and dozens of degree programs are offered through their four colleges -- the College of Business and Leadership, College of General Studies, School of Human Services, and School of Theology. Some of their most popular degree programs are as follows:

  • Online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Leadership
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Master of Arts in Professional Counseling

Auburn University at Montgomery

Auburn University at Montgomery offers a full roster of undergraduate and graduate degrees, many of which include courses that can be completed in an online or hybrid format. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to $9,080 for in-state students, and the school is known for the following degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems
  • Bachelor of Science in Finance

Alabama State University

As one of the state's most prominent schools, Alabama State University has a lot to offer prospective students. That includes nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, a student-to-faculty-ratio of only 20 to 1, and 70 on-campus clubs and organizations. Tuition and fees came out to $8,720 for in-state students last year, although financial aid is available for those who qualify. Among their many popular degree programs, Alabama State University is known for these three:

  • Online Master of Education
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Mobile

As of 2013, the city of Mobile, Alabama was home to approximately 194,899 residents. A full 26.2 percent of adults ages 25-64 held a bachelor's degree in the city from 2009-2013, and 86.5 percent had at least a high school diploma. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 10 colleges, universities, and trade schools reside in the Mobile area, several of which offer both on-campus instruction and online education.

Meanwhile, Mobile is home to Alabama's only saltwater port, which works as a key component to the city's economic strategy. In addition to a beautiful waterfront, Mobile is also a booster of the arts with museums, its own symphony orchestra, and a professional opera and ballet company. The city is also home to these top notch schools:

University of South Alabama

The University of South Alabama is a diverse and vibrant public university with a commitment to small class sizes and affordability. During its 52-year history, the school has awarded more than 80,000 degrees and currently offers nearly 100 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to $7,188 for in-state students. The University of South Alabama is known for these top degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences
  • Bachelor of Science in Radiological Sciences
  • Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology

University of Mobile

The University of Mobile is an 800-acre, private Christian university with an enrollment of around 1,600 students. With a student-to-faculty ratio of around 14:1, the schools also focuses on personal, Christ-based education. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to $19,475, but approximately 96 percent of students receive student aid. They are known for the following popular degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Business Administration

Bishop State Community College

Bishop State Community College offers four convenient campuses in the Mobile area. With a focus on quick entry into the workforce, the school boasts dozens of popular associate degree programs for career-minded students. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to $4,260. A few of their most popular programs are as follows:

  • Associate of Science in Accounting Technology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems
  • Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Service Education

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College Roadmap

So, you've decided to earn your degree in Alabama. That's great, but where will you go? If you plan on starting a new life in the state, it might be smart to pack up and go on a little road trip to see the major regions and most popular school campuses. What do you have to lose?

If you choose to go on a college road trip of your own, this roadmap can help:

Start your journey near the northern edge of the state in the area surrounding Huntsville. There, you can check out Calhoun Community College, the largest community college in the state and region, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and an Alabama State University campus.

A quick jaunt west will land you in Florence, which gives you the opportunity to see some other schools in the region, such as Northwest-Shoals Community College, Heritage Christian University, and Alabama Technology Network.

Either way, you'll ultimately want to head south to Birmingham. There, you can take in the big city influences, explore relics of the Civil Rights Movement, and breathe in true Southern culture. While you're there, you'll also want to check out the following Birmingham schools: Birmingham-Southern College, Samford University, Miles College, Jefferson State Community College, and of course, the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

After Birmingham, you'll want to continue heading south to Montgomery, a city with plenty of institutions of higher education to check out. So take some time exploring them, starting with the beautiful campus at Alabama State University and ending with visits to Auburn University, Huntingdon College, South University, and Trenholm State Technical College.

End your trip near the beautiful coastline in the state's most southern regions. Starting in Mobile, you can check out the University of South Alabama, Bishop State Community College, and Spring Hill College.

Next, head east over Mobile Bay. Stop to take in the beautiful scenery and enjoy the quaint beach towns as you continue the final leg of your journey towards Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. On the way, check out Fortis College and Faulkner State Community College.

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Scholarships and Financial Aid

If you're worried about the cost of earning your degree in Alabama, you should know that there are plenty of opportunities for scholarships and financial aid in the state. For example, federal aid can include Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, or Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. Meanwhile, Alabama is home to dozens of state-based aid opportunities, including the following:

  • Alabama GI Dependents Educational Benefits Program
  • Alabama National Guard Educational Assistance Program
  • Alabama Student Assistance Program
  • Alabama Student Grant Program
  • Junior and Community College Athletic Scholarship Program
  • Senior Adult Scholarship Program
  • Two-Year College Academic Scholarship Program

In addition to these options, you should also check with specific schools to see what kind of aid packages they offer.

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Sources:
A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, the Lumina Foundation, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#alabama
About, BirminghamAL.gov, http://www.birminghamal.gov/about/
Alabama Key Industry Targets, Alabama Power, http://www.amazingalabama.com/key-industry-targets.html
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=AL
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alabama, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm
State & County Quickfacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Alabama, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/01000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Birmingham, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/01/0107000.html
State & County Quickfacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Mobile, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/01/0150000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Montgomery, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/01/0151000.html
Top 50 Fastest-Growing Occupations, CareerOneStop, http://acinet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu3&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=01&ShowAll=
Tuition and Fees by Sector and State Over Time, College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-time