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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Innovative Degrees for Adults
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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Innovative Degrees for Adults

Enrolling in innovative, 21st-century degree programs can be an effective way for adult students to make strategic career moves or update their skills.

Back in the day, students went to college to receive a degree in a standard field such as education, medicine, finance or psychology. This isn’t the case in the 21st century. Today, universities are constantly creating new majors and exposing students to entirely new areas of education. Think these degrees are only applicable to a younger set of students? Think again.

It can be risky for young undergraduates to pursue a specialized degree because they might end up realizing they are really not interested in going into their chosen field after graduation. Most non-traditional adult students, on the other hand, know exactly what they want to gain by going to school, thereby negating this risk.

Technology is changing the world we live in and, sometimes, it can be hard to keep up. Going back to school and gaining an understanding of technology can help set you apart when applying for a new job. What if you are not looking to change careers? Pursuing one of these degrees could help you land a promotion, along with a steep raise.

Digital forensics, homeland security and game design are just a few of the new degrees that have recently cropped up. While the unemployment rate in the United States remains above seven percent, demand for these fields is on the rise. Whether you are looking to change career paths or just looking to increase your salary, having one of these specialized degrees can be highly beneficial.

Are you currently working in forensics or criminology? You might want to consider a degree in digital forensics or cyber security. As technology evolves, sexual predators, burglars and terrorist organizations are evolving as well. Having a simple forensics degree may no longer cut it. According to security expert Dickie George, job demand in the digital forensics field has grown “tenfold over the last ten years.” Within the field of study, students learn about protecting computer systems and personal computers from viruses, hackers, terrorist threats and corporate espionage. Computer security specialists can earn more than $100,000 a year, and having a specialized degree could bump your resume to the top of the pile.

Are you more interested in design and aesthetics? Game design degrees offer a hefty salary and Millennials will be floored with your expertise. According to Game Developer Magazine, the average salary for game designers is $75,065. For programmers, wages average a cushy $92,151. The global computer game design industry is projected to reach $82.4 billion by 2015. Having a game design degree, while being familiar with new technologies, can also help when producing interactive solutions for architecture, medicine, law and other industries.

It’s been said having a degree in nanotechnology today can almost guarantee you a job. By 2020, it is estimated two million workers will be employed in the nanotechnology field. The industry is expected to reach $2.4 trillion worldwide by 2015. Nanotechnology is the study and application of extremely small particles. Professionals currently employed in medicine, the sciences and environmental studies can greatly benefit from studying nanotechnology.

Nano-materials are currently being used in golf clubs, skis, car parts, dental implants and so on. It’s anticipated nanotechnology will be used to help build lighter bridges, aircraft and sturdier buildings, and to aid in environment cleanup. A degree in nanotechnology is highly versatile and can lead to a job in the physical sciences, materials science, physics, biophysics, chemistry or biochemistry.

These are just a few of the 21st-century degrees to consider, but there are plenty more out there ready to be explored. If you’ve been thinking about continuing your education, now is a great time. Breakthrough markets and advancing technology are offering up many options for those in search of a new or updated calling.

For more information on the 21st-century degree programs and job opportunities discussed in this article, please see this infographic.

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2 Responses to Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Innovative Degrees for Adults

  1. C Demichelis Reply

    2013/09/10 at 7:32 am

    Wallace correctly identifies some of the growing fields and, in so doing, shows the importance of keeping current and being familiar with trends in your industry. While I agree generally with the premise of his piece that continuing education, particularly in a highly specialized field, is useful, I believe this piece wrongly sets up the expectation that pursuing this type of credential results in a higher salary or position. Being specialized might make you better at your current job but, as with any postsecondary credential, does not guarantee success.

  2. Francis Beyer Reply

    2013/09/10 at 3:24 pm

    I’m surprised Wallace only discussed degrees, because a lot of continuing education is about certificates, diplomas or simply courses. The piece seems to be aimed at individuals who already have a higher education credential, likely a degree. Thus, it seems there would be less incentive to add another degree, which can be expensive and take longer to complete than a credential such as a certificate.

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