Online Schools in Texas
Online and Hybrid Degree Programs: Providing a Place to Learn
Texas is the second largest and second most populated state in the U.S., creating some unique challenges for its residents. Chief among them is the difficulty for students in isolated areas to easily access a postsecondary education that can help lead to job opportunities or career advancement.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (thecb.state.tx.us) has mapped out dozens of two- and four-year postsecondary institutions in Texas, the majority of which are located near Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio—the state’s largest urban centers. The urban density of these institutions means that those in the state’s northern panhandle plains region or Big Bend country to the west may struggle to access higher education. Online schools in Texas can help bridge the geographic gap, turning any room of the house into a classroom.
Texas Online Programs Meet Increasing Demand
Texas is inextricably linked to oil, and the discovery of vast reserves of “Texas tea” in the early 20th century resulted in petroleum displacing agriculture as the principal engine driving the state’s economy. The Texas Workforce Commission (twc.state.tx.us) anticipates that the oil and gas extraction industry will see an increase of 18,900 jobs between 2008 and 2018, and that petroleum engineer will be the third-fastest growing occupation over that time, increasing by a projected 49.9 percent. A master’s degree in petroleum engineering can be earned online from Texas A&M University (tamu.edu), allowing working professionals to continue their full-time employment while they work toward a degree. Coursework enhances students’ understanding of petroleum drilling, production and reservoir engineering, which could result in opportunities for career advancement.
In October 2012, the University of Texas System (utsystem.edu) joined a consortium with Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley that provides free worldwide access to massive online open courses, or MOOCs. The initiative is being driven by edX (edx.org), a non-profit company founded by Harvard and MIT that provides free online courses to students anywhere in the world, while allowing universities to track user trends. Currently, anyone can enroll and take non-credit online courses for free, regardless of their educational background. Computer science and programming courses are currently available, and the computer systems design industry is pegged to grow at a rate of 30.6 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Texas Workforce Commission (twc.state.tx.us), making it the state’s 11th fastest growing industry over that time.
Hybrid Programs: Assisting Working Professionals
Texas Tech University (ttu.edu) is one of the most extensive online schools in Texas, with more than 40 online degree programs available. In January 2012, the school introduced a hybrid program that allows students to work toward a doctor of philosophy in curriculum and instruction, with a specialization in science education. The majority of coursework is completed online, and includes three intensive two-week summer sessions that provide face-to-face instruction. The hybrid program at Texas Tech targets professionals who seek to become science instructors, supervise a school district’s science program, or lead state or regional science curricula.
The University of Houston (uh.edu) offers students flexible instruction through online and hybrid programs. The school’s most popular distance learning option is a bachelor’s degree in psychology. The hybrid program enhances student convenience, while also maintaining close contact with instructors; 50 percent of coursework is completed through online study, while the other 50 percent occurs in a classroom environment on campus. A psychology degree can help to prepare students for careers in social services, such as social workers and counselors. Social assistance will be one of the fastest-growing industries in Texas, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, which projects the number of positions in the field to increase 27.1 percent between 2008 and 2018.
Industries for Job Growth in Texas
Texas employed approximately 11.1 million working professionals in August 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2013). Trade, transportation and utilities was the state’s leading employment industry, with the majority of its approximately 2.23 million jobs falling into the retail trade category. Government positions made up approximately 1.8 million jobs, making it the second-highest industry for employment in Texas. Education and health services made up just over 1.5 million occupations, ranking third among state industries.
A number of education degree programs are offered by online colleges in Texas. The Texas Workforce Commission estimates that the number of special education teachers will increase by more than 41 percent between 2008 and 2018, and anticipates that approximately 90,000 elementary and middle school teaching positions will be added during that time-frame. Meanwhile, network systems and data communications analyst is projected to be the second-fastest growing occupation in the state, as businesses rely on these professionals to meet their technical needs. The number of analysts is expected to increase by 53.9 percent, trailing only home health aides (projected at 55.1 percent).
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/apps/GM/
Sam Houston State University, http://shsu.edu/
Texas A&M University, http://www.tamu.edu/
Texas Workforce Commission, http://www.twc.state.tx.us/
Texas LMCI Tracer, 2008, http://www.tracer2.com/?PAGEID=3&SUBID=114
University of Texas System, http://www.utsystem.edu/
University of Texas System, 2012, http://www.utsystem.edu/news/2012/10/15/university-texas-system-joins-edx
Texas Tech University, http://www.ttu.edu/
University of Houston, http://www.uh.edu/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.tx.htm