College, and the pursuit of college degrees, have changed immensely in the last couple of decades. Just a few short years ago, on virtually every U.S. higher education campus a college freshman was generally 18 years old, a senior 21, and courses were all taught in life and in groups in campus classrooms.

Now the learning options, as well as the student demographics have changed considerably. Many baby boomers and even seniors are returning to campus to retrain for a career change, to return to work after their children have left the nest, to complete an interrupted degree, or just to get out of the house and work those dormant cerebral muscles.

To accommodate these folks, especially those who still work full-time day jobs, colleges and universities started offering night and weekend courses, CLEP testing, and course challenges. For someone who hadn’t completed their formal higher education training but had lots of real-life work experience in her or his desired field of learning, this was a boon. Now he could test his way into credits for courses with which he’d gained familiarity just by working in the field. With the advent of online courses, an Internet-savvy home-bound student could pursue her degree from the comfort of her own home and often around her own busy schedule.

In the United States today, there are more than 1000 online degree programs available, with thousands of more non-degree courses as well. A business management student, for example, has a choice of 39 different fully accredited colleges and universities that offer a Bachelor’s degree without once setting foot on campus.

Champlain College in Burlington VT, for example, offers certificates as well as degree programs that can be taken online at any hour of any day. Students can earn Associates in Science degrees on the Web in accounting, business, forensics, telecommunications, e-commerce, software development, management, international business, and others. Many of these same majors lead to an online BS degree as well.

Larry Bird’s old stomping grounds, the Terra Haute campus of Indiana State, offers an online Associates in aviation flight technology and several Bachelor’s degrees in business, criminology, human resource development, and even part of its nursing training. Here students have a variety of off-campus ways to graduate – not only via the Web but also through videotapes, live TV, and the more traditional correspondence courses.

Regis University in Denver offers an incredible array of online courses, leading to certificates, two and four-year degrees, and even graduate programs. Here you can earn your BA in business administration and go on to earn your MBA; you can complete a computer networking certificate program and expand your education to a BS in computer information systems and then an MS in computer information technology. You can earn your undergraduate degree as well in education, international management, finance, marketing, public administration, or non-profit management.

Choices now abound when you make the determination to get your degree. Neither your age, your stage in life, your schedule nor your inability to commute need to be a factor in your securing your longed-for degree. If you want it, you can earn it.

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