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The 10 Most Versatile Degrees for Career Flexibility

Methodologies and Sources

Sources

  • Mark A. Heckler, "The importance of a college education," Chicago Tribune, September 11, 2018, https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/opinion/ct-ptb-heckler-guest-column-st-0912-story.html
  • Catey Hill, "10 versatil college majors that eliminate the need to decide early on a career path," MarketWatch, May 20, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-most-versatile-college-majors-in-america-for-those-who-cant-decide-on-a-career-2019-05-20
  • "Beginning College Students Who Change Their Majors Within 3 Years of Enrollment," Data Point, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, December 2017, https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018434.pdf
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  • "Major: Business Administration and Management," BigFuture, The College Board, accessed May 22, 2019, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-business-management-administration-business-administration-management
  • "Major: Accounting," BigFuture, The College Board, accessed May 22, 2019, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-accounting-finance-accounting
  • "3 Ways a Business Degree Makes You Professionally Versatile," David Eccles School of Business, The University of Utah, accessed May 22, 2019, https://eccles.utah.edu/news/3-ways-a-business-degree-makes-you-professionally-versatile/
  • Major in Natural Resource Tourism, Colorado State University, accessed May 22, 2019, http://catalog.colostate.edu/general-catalog/colleges/natural-resources/human-dimensions-natural-resources/natural-resource-tourism-major/
  • "Major: Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism," BigFuture, The College Board, accessed May 22, 2019, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/natural-resources-conservation-natural-resource-recreation-tourism
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  • "Golf anyone? A look at golf courses and country clubs by state," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, August 27, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/golf-anyone-a-look-at-golf-courses-and-country-clubs-by-state.htm?view_full
  • Golf Course Grounds Management, Anoka Technical College, accessed May 23, 2019, http://www.anokatech.edu/ProgramsCourses/GolfCourseGroundsManagement.aspx
  • Bachelor of Science in Fire Administration, Liberty University Online Programs, accessed May 23, 2019, https://www.liberty.edu/online/government/bachelors/fire-administration/
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  • Bachelor of Science degree in Fire Services Administration, Eastern Oregon University, accessed May 23, 2019, https://www.eou.edu/fire-services-administration/
  • "Major: Entrepreneurial Studies," BigFuture, The College Board, accessed May 23, 2019, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-entrepreneurial-studies
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Small Business, U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, August 2018, https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Small-Business-2018.pdf
  • Online Bachelor's in Business Administration Entrepreneurship Degree, Southern New Hampshire University, accessed May 23, 2019, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/bs-in-business-administration/entrepreneurship
  • Nelson A. Barber, "Why hospitality management? Make yourself comfortable," The Laconia Daily Sun, September 29, 2018, https://www.laconiadailysun.com/community/why-hospitality-management-make-yourself-comfortable/article_dd711bee-c344-11e8-9bf1-a757d8248821.html
  • "Major: Tourism and Travel Management," BigFuture, The College Board, accessed May 23, 2019, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-hospitality-administration-management-tourism-travel-management
  • "Major: Hospitality Administration and Management," BigFuture, The College Board, accessed May 23, 2019, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-hospitality-administration-management-hospitality-administration-management
  • Bachelor of Science in Commerce, Major in Small Business Management, Miami University, accessed May 23, 2019, https://miamioh.edu/regionals/academics/departments/cmr/academics/majors/bachelors-degrees/index.html
  • Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Commerce, Griffith University, accessed May 23, 2019, https://degrees.griffith.edu.au/Program/1442
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You already know the benefits of a college education — higher salaries, increased career prospects and even a better quality of life. You're ready for all college has to offer, but there's one major problem — selecting a major, that is.

What if you end up not liking the major as much as you thought you would? What if you wind up with a degree that isn't useful or versatile in the job market?

Your major is an important decision, but it's not irreversible. If you wind up unimpressed by your program, you may be the one in every three first-time college students who changes majors at least once within three years.

As for choosing a versatile major, that's where we come in. Drawing on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the U.S. Census Bureau, we ranked 1,214 majors according to considerations such as the number of industries employing people with those majors, median annual salary, employment growth and more.

The result is the following list of the 10 most versatile online degrees for career flexibility, all to help you decide on the online degree that can give you the most traction in the workplace.

10 Most Versatile Online Degrees for Career Flexibility

1

Parks, Recreation and Leisure Facilities Management

parks and recreation

Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of our ranking is the prominence of recreation and leisure majors. Employer demand and salaries are growing rapidly in this field, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).This major tops our list with the largest percentage of industries employing occupations with this major, one of our highest employment figures and an impressive salary to boot.

Parks, recreation and leisure facilities management majors study how to develop and manage parks and facilities where people participate in recreation, from your local rec center to national parks, hotels, fitness centers, or sports venues, and from education to the marketing, travel, tourism, or events industries. Expect coursework to include introduction to park management, leadership training in recreation, managing nonprofits, marketing recreational enterprises, recreation financial management, camp management and outdoor leadership and more.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 90.42%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $104,205
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 3,537,000

2

Finance and Financial Management Services

finance management

By far the most lucrative degree on our list, finance, or financial management, is one of the most in-demand majors. As a growing number of baby boomers approach retirement age, the need for knowledgeable professionals to help understand and manage retirement funds is increasing. It's also a versatile degree because finance professionals are needed by businesses of all types, from banks and advisory firms to real estate firms, insurers or corporations. These professionals understand how to make important financial decisions ranging from how many people to hire to how to best invest funds or how to spend less on raw materials.

Finance majors are likely to take courses in accounting and statistics, budgeting, investments, financial management, international finance, financial markets and institutions and analyzing financial statements.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 88.3%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $127,990
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 688,800

3

Accounting and Business/Management

business and accounting

Business is one of the most versatile degrees you can earn. Not only is it applicable to any kind of business, but the skills you can acquire are in high demand: analytical thinking, financial savvy, communication and management of people and resources. Graduates may work in accounting, sales, financial management or management in all types of companies.

A business administration/ management degree can provide a broad foundation in planning, organizing, directing and controlling a company's activities, while an accounting degree concentrates more on the numbers — collecting, recording, interpreting and communicating data about a company's financial performance. For both, your coursework is likely to include accounting, business law and accounting information systems. Accounting majors may also have courses in auditing and cost and tax accounting, while business/management majors may be exposed to a wider range of subjects, including economics, human resources and marketing.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 79.4%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $94,717
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 2,555,000

4

Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism

tourism management

Tourism added a record $8.8 trillion to the world's combined GDP in 2018, not to mention 319 million new jobs. It accounts for 10.4 percent of the world's total economic activity. Students with this degree are prepared to join this impressive workforce in private commercial tourism and recreation businesses, from parks to resorts, travel agencies, tourism departments and more. Not only is this degree in demand, but the soft skills students learn in these degree programs — communication, problem-solving, dispute resolution, working under pressure — are transferable to any industry.

This major emphasizes ecotourism — tourism in natural settings that is environmentally, culturally and economically responsible. Your coursework is likely to include environmental studies with more business and hospitality-focused classes such as tourism, marketing and public relations.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 82.9%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $107,480
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 1,068,000

5

Golf Course Operation and Grounds Management

golf course management

If fresh air, green grass and working with your hands sounds like your idea of the ideal work setting, a golf course operation and grounds management degree may be a good choice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there are 11,088 country club and golf establishments in the U.S., employing 306,782 people in 2017.

But this major's emphasis on plant and soil science, irrigation, water management, pest control, site construction, turf power equipment and site management can make it applicable beyond the sport of golf. This degree could also lead to grounds management in other industries as well, from office buildings to homeowner association areas, resorts, school campuses, sports venues or recreation areas.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 82.9%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $107,480
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 1,068,000

6

Fire Services Administration

fire services

It may surprise you to learn that fire services administration makes our list as a versatile online degree. But when you consider that the incident and emergency management market is expected to grow by roughly $115 billion by 2023, it might make more sense. A fire services administration major prepares students to protect lives through fire prevention and protection measures, but this learning is also applicable to positions with government or private entities, in the areas of fire safety/protection, the military, law enforcement or other emergency management entities.

Students may encounter courses in principles of emergency services, fire protection systems, fire behavior and combustion, strategy and tactics, fire prevention, emergency services delivery, leadership in fire service organizations, emergency planning and management and more.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 82.9%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $107,480
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 1,068,000

7

Small Business Administration/Management

small business administration

Think you might have the chops to start your own small business someday? This could be the major for you. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses accounted for 66 percent of net new jobs from 2000 to 2017. This major may not only give you a head start to successful starting and running your own business, but its versatility comes from the fact that the skills you learn can be applied to any type of business.

Students can learn the foundations of entrepreneurship, business law, the principles of management, how to prepare business plans, entrepreneurial finance, investor relations and funding, product design and development and how to live an entrepreneurial lifestyle. Then you supply an idea for a business!

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 82.9%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $107,480
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 1,068,000

8

Tourism and Travel Services Management

travel services

About one in every 10 people in the global economy is employed in the tourism industry, according to a 2019 U.S. Travel and Hospitality Outlook report by Deloitte & Touche. Travel and tourism generated 10.4 percent of the world's economic activity in 2018. It's one of the world's largest industries and has some of the fastest employment growth, making this one of the best online degrees for career flexibility. It encompasses a wide range of employers, including hotels and resorts, restaurant management, event and convention planning, recreation management, transportation and marketing and sales.

This major can include courses such as destinations and cultures, hospitality law, marketing management, reservations and ticketing, travel agency management, cruise marketing and sales, computer-based information systems and more.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 82.9%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $107,480
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 1,068,000

9

Hospitality Administration/Management

hospitality administration

Another hospitality and leisure-focused major, this one merges the business of the hospitality industry with the details of travel — a powerful combination that can have applications in a wide range of positions, from restaurant or hotel manager to food and beverage director, meeting/convention planner, caterer, event planner, chef or even advertising and marketing manager.

This is a great major for outgoing students interested in having variety in day-to-day tasks, interacting with a diverse array of people, traveling and working unpredictable hours. Students can learn business topics such as employee labor relations, marketing, hospitality finance and hospitality law, and they also learn specific hospitality-focused subjects such as resort operations, facilities design, food service operations and event and festival management.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 82.9%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $107,480
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 1,068,000

10

Business/Commerce, General

business commerce

It may be 10th on our list, but business/commerce majors have the highest number of occupations matching this major in our rankings (11), not to mention the largest projected employment growth by far — in fact, it's nearly double that of the second highest. In Canada and many other countries, a degree in commerce is a general business degree, although some online business degrees in the U.S. do specifically offer bachelor's degrees in commerce, which can tend to focus a little more heavily on finance than a standard business administration degree.

Students may expect coursework that includes accounting, business law, corporate finance, management, marketing, management information systems, financial planning, economics, statistics or business analytics. Studies also may include business communications, leadership and information technology — all skills that the NACE say are highly sought-after skills in the workplace.

Data Points:

  • Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, 2016-26: 59.03%
  • Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2017: $101,099
  • Average projected growth of all jobs matched to each major, 2016-26: 6,616,500

Methodologies and Sources