Top 10 Online Public Service Degrees

Earning an Online Degree

Many careers in public service require a bachelor’s or higher degree, and even professionals in occupations that do not require a college education should consider the many benefits of attaining their higher education. Most persons interested in public service careers will benefit considerably from additional education. Although the cost of education is skyrocketing – including living costs and school supplies on top of tuition – online options are making it more feasible for working professionals to pursue their higher education with lower costs and more flexible learning.

Earning an Advanced Degree – Return On Investment (ROI)

Average worker salaries increase with education, and unemployment rates decrease. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, in 2007 the median annual income of individuals holding a master’s degree was $52,390 to $9,247 higher than for individuals with a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, a person who earned a master’s degree would recover the cost of the degree through increased earnings in less than a decade after graduation. Adults with advanced degrees earned four times more than those with less than a high school diploma. In 2006, workers 18 and older with a master’s, professional or doctoral degree earned an average of $82,320, while those with less than a high school diploma earned $20,873. In 2012, the average increase in salary between those with an associate’s degree and those with a bachelor’s was by 74 percent, while the average increase for those with a bachelor’s to those with a graduate degree was by 64 percent.

Top 10 Degrees for Public Service Professionals

1. Bachelor’s in Fire Science
Online degrees in fire science provide strong foundations in technical aspects of fires and hazardous materials and emphasize professional skills, ethics, service, and leadership. While most firefighters have a high school diploma, workers with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fire science are often preferred, and an associate’s degree is required for executive fire officer certification from the National Fire Academy. Some departments offer incentives such as tuition reimbursement or higher pay for advanced degrees or training. Online bachelor’s or master’s degrees in fire science (or related fields such as public administration) can also help firefighters move up the career ladder – helping them reach higher positions in their field, such as fire captain, chief or investigator.

2. Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice
Criminal Justice is a top choice for professionals looking to get their foot in the door in law enforcement. Specialties such forensics and criminology could be the key to top government jobs such as with the FBI or CIA. Top-paying careers for criminal justice students include positions as lawyers, private investigators and detectives, police officers, federal marshals, forensics analysts, paralegals, probation officers, corrections officers, victim advocates, and court clerks.

3. Master of Public Health
One of the best paying master degrees, public health professions earn a median salary of $60,046, with a 680 percent average return on investment. Public health professionals work to solve some of today’s most complex and challenging social issues, including substance abuse, poverty, and crisis management. An online bachelor’s or master’s degree in public health qualifies individuals for a number of positions in education, administration and management, public policy, community practice and research.

4. Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Another one of the best paying master degrees, business administration professionals earn a median salary of $64,925, with a 679 percent average return on investment for their degree. With many MBA programs incorporating socially-focused curricula, this area of study is an option for individuals looking to get into operations and logistics management, as well as many other areas of business as applies to the public and private sector.

5.MS Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Since the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks, there has been an exceptional growth in the demand for emergency management experts. The field now encompasses public administration, public health, environmental science, social science, and engineering. Working in public and private sectors, these leaders help individuals, businesses, and communities avoid and respond to crises. Common jobs for those with a degree in Emergency Management include crime scene investigation unit managers, customs and border protection officers, disaster response consultants, emergency management directors, fire chiefs or marshals, highway safety specialists, homeland security coordinators or managers, intelligence operations specialists, and law enforcement specialists.

6. Master’s in Public Policy (MPP)
A master’s in Public Policy equips students in the areas of teamwork, communication, and leadership, and prepares leaders for working in the public sector to develop and implement public policy. Most MPP degrees require two academic years to complete. Many programs also offer joint degrees to combine public policy with business or law.

7. Master’s in Education
A master’s degree in education is the most popularly pursued program for educators who want to advance their careers. The Master of Education degree is designed for certified teachers. Popular specialties include Special Education and Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Professionals who wish to become educators but who have an undergraduate degree in a different field may pursue the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degree, which is often designed to lead to initial teacher certification.

8. Ph.D. Psychology
Practicing psychologists generally are required to have a master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree in psychology for licensure. The doctoral degree focuses on scientific models with an emphasis on experimental methods and research, and will prepare professionals for practice and conducting research in the field. Specialty areas in include Clinical Psychology, School Psychology, Sports Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Health Psychology, and Industrial-Organizational Psychology. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment for psychologists is expected to grow 22 percent from 2010 to 2020.

9. BA Social Work
A challenging and rewarding career, social work professionals strive to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable and in-need populations. Many specialize in specific populations or demographics such as pediatrics, families, geriatrics or at-risk groups such as abused children. The need for qualified, educated social workers is great and exists in all areas across the country and around the world.
A degree in social work is generally required for managerial positions in the field and programs often include up to a year of field work. Common social service careers include working in adoption support, child protection, employment, hospice care, mental health counseling and school social work. Employment for social workers is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2018, and job prospects are expected to be favorable, particularly for social workers who specialize in the aging population or work in rural areas.

10. BA Political Science
A bachelor’s degree in political science equips students with skills and knowledge to be the next generation of leaders within the government sector. Curriculum focuses on the study of geopolitics, economics, political behavior, power and authority, policy development, international relations, and conflict resolution. Political scientists often pursue careers in law, politics, education, journalism, communications, and other areas of public service.