Online Schools in Arizona

Online Degree Programs: Removing Restrictions to Education

Arizona students in pursuit of a postsecondary education have a wide range of options when it comes to selecting a degree or discipline. The State of Arizona (az.gov) provides an extensive list of postsecondary institutions — including community colleges and universities — in the state, but the majority of them are located near densely-populated areas, including Phoenix and Tucson. Individuals who reside outside those urban centers could have difficulty accessing classroom instruction, preventing them from earning an education that can translate to additional job opportunities or career advancement. Fortunately, distance learning has opened up new avenues. Online and hybrid degree programs can benefit students living in rural areas around the Arizona perimeter, removing geographic restrictions and breaking down barriers to higher education.

Distance Learning Helps Meet Arizona Employment Demand

Many of Arizona’s distance learning programs focus on helping students transition into careers that are growing in the state. The Tucson-based University of Arizona (arizona.edu) offers more than 20 online or hybrid degree programs, including a master of arts in counseling and mental health. The hybrid program allows students to combine online learning with face-to-face instruction, and it was developed in 2012 as a merger of the school’s rehabilitation counseling and school counseling programs. Students can opt for either specialization, and coursework can help prepare them to become licensed professional counselors, which is a growing field in Arizona. The Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics (workforce.az.gov, 2010) projects that the number of mental health counselors and rehabilitation counselors will increase 29.7 percent and 20.2 percent, respectively, between 2010 and 2020.

Technological innovation has increased the need for industrial engineers to seamlessly integrate information and equipment. According to the state’s Office of Employment and Population Statistics (workforce.az.gov, 2010), Arizona anticipates an 18.9 percent increase in industrial engineers between 2010 and 2020, and online schools in Arizona are helping to meet the need. The online master of science in industrial engineering program at Arizona State University (asu.edu) is ranked 16th in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report (usnews.com, 2012). Coursework covers information systems, operations research and reliability engineering, and each lecture is recorded and posted online, allowing students to review course material at their convenience. The program is geared toward advancement for working professionals, as approximately 95 percent of students enrolled in the school’s online graduate engineering programs are employed in the engineering industry.

Online Degree Programs: Assisting Working Professionals

Whether pursuing a graduate degree in order to increase their marketability or pursue a more advanced position with their current employer, working professionals can benefit from the flexibility that online programs provide. Northern Arizona University (nau.edu) has designed an online master’s degree in early childhood education specifically for teachers, allowing them to earn a degree while they continue working full time. The curriculum focuses on early childhood development, and all assignments and coursework can be completed online. However, students also have the chance to supplement a distance learning environment, and reinforce course elements, by teaching in a classroom setting. Graduates could position themselves to move into roles as preschool and kindergarten teachers, which are both high-growth jobs. Between 2010 and 2020, the Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics (workforce.az.gov, 2010) expects the occupations to grow by 26 and 22.7 percent, respectively.

Headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, Rio Salado College (riosalado.edu) puts a strong focus on adult education, and has established itself as a leader in online programs and distance learning. Founded in 1978, the school began offering online classes in 1996. In 2004, the community college partnered with Microsoft and Dell to create RioLearn, a customized student service and course management system that notifies faculty when an online student’s attendance slips or they miss assignments. That information can help administrators accurately predict which students are likely to drop out, allowing for targeted assistance that can help keep students in school. Today, the community college offers over 60 online certificate and associate degree programs to a total enrollment of more than 50,000 students, and the school’s library and student union exist completely online.

Industries for Job Growth in Arizona

More than 2.7 million working professionals were employed in Arizona in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2012). The state’s leading employment industry was trade, transportation and utilities, which accounted for approximately 485,000 jobs. Nearly 75 percent of those positions were based in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Government positions made up approximately 415,000 jobs, making it the second-highest industry for employment in Arizona. Education and health services made up nearly 370,000 occupations, ranking third among state industries.

Online schools in Arizona can benefit those looking for career opportunities in financial services or technology – two primary areas of job growth in the state. The Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics (workforce.az.gov, 2010), estimates that the number of personal financial advisors will increase by more than 41 percent between 2010 and 2020. As the general population advances in age, advisors will work to manage the assets of a growing number of retirees. At the same time, advances in technology should increase demand for network and computer systems architects, a position expected to grow by more than 28 percent between 2010 and 2020. It is anticipated that systems software developers will also receive a boost during that time, adding over 2,200 jobs and increasing at a rate of approximately 25 percent.

Sources:
State of Arizona
University of Arizona
Arizona State University
Northern Arizona University
Rio Salado College
U.S. News & World Report, Arizona State University Overall Rankings, 2012
Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics, Arizona Employment Forecast, 2010
Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics, 2010-2020 Arizona Statewide Occupational Projections, 2010
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona Economy at a Glance, 2012

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