When it comes to marketing your degree, the old axiom for real estate holds true -- it's all about location, location, location. Check out these top degrees available online, matched with some of their best areas nationwide and earnings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Associate Degree: Medical Assisting
The BLS has medical assistants on its list of fastest-growing careers through 2016, with about 148,000 new jobs expected to enter the field in the coming years. A short, two-year associate degree is considered proper training for this growing health care industry career.
Top Industry: Physicians' offices hire the most medical assistants by far, with mean annual earnings of $28,460 in 2007. However, specialty hospitals paid more, at $31,860.
Top Location: Areas with high levels of retirement communities, such as Arizona and Florida, are expected to see an influx of career opportunities for medical assistants. Look for locations with hospitals, nursing care centers, and physicians' offices.
Bachelor's Degree + Certificate: Teaching
Career training to become a teacher means playing a direct role in the next generation. A bachelor's degree plus teacher certification is the typical path for most teachers, though some school districts require teachers to complete a master's degree within a certain period after hire. Areas of high growth are typically good for teaching occupations.
Top Industry: Secondary school teachers make more than preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school teachers, with mean annual earnings of $52,450. Vocational education teachers at the secondary level aren't far behind.
Top Location: The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reports that Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia will experience the greatest student enrollment increases. Job prospects for teachers are expected to be better in rural and inner city areas than suburban locations.
Certificate: Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Want to work in the legal industry but wary about years of law school education? Career training programs for paralegals and legal assistants put you in law offices and businesses, assisting lawyers as they build cases and protect assets.
Top Industry: Though the vast majority of trained paralegals and legal assistants work in the legal industry and saw mean annual earnings of $46,110 in 2007, those working in the federal government earned $59,180.
Top Location: The District of Columbia is the top-paying employer nationwide for paralegals and legal assistants, with mean annual earnings of $57,450. The tiny district also had the highest concentration of workers in the field in the nation.
Master's Degree: MBA in Finance
The popular MBA takes a technical turn with a finance concentration. Forbes cites finance degrees on its list of most lucrative college majors, noting a salary growth that soars over $84,000 for those with 10 or more years of experience. You may see even more impressive earnings if you're smart about your industry and location.
Top Industry: Personal financial advisors see a lot of success in the legal services industry, where mean annual earnings were $103,990 in 2007.
Top Location: New York has long been known as a financial hub, and for good reason. Financial analysts working in the state saw mean annual earnings of $100,350 in 2007. That same year, personal financial advisors in the state earned $131,660.
Bachelor's Degree: Computer Engineering
This high-tech degree is in high demand -- Forbes calls it the most lucrative college major available, and even graduates with a bachelor's degree and up to five years of experience earn a whopping average salary of $60,500.
Top Industry: Computer engineers break out of the cubicle in scientific research and development services, a top-paying industry for systems software engineers with annual mean earnings of $102,790.
Top Location: California remains the go-to state for IT professionals, with applications engineers earning $95,820. However, systems software engineers in Virginia earned a whopping $101,850 in 2007, making the southern state a six-figure surprise location for computer engineers.
Earnings vary greatly based on experience and education, and your experience may vary, but an education can be the best way to secure employment in these challenging, growing, lucrative fields.
Amelia Gray is a freelance writer in Austin, Texas. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature from Arizona State University and an MFA from Texas State University.