Office Hours with the Prof 8-22 Passion v. Demand

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine about the numerous advantages that online teaching offers and after a few minutes of discussing the lifestyle, flexibility, and support that I (usually) enjoy, I began to notice an ever-brightening twinkle in his eye.

“Online Prof, you know how much I would kill to do what you’re doing?  My wife and I divorced a few years back and I don’t have any kids so I can pretty much go anywhere.  No attachments.”

We talked for a bit longer and I gave him my basic rundown on landing an online teaching position.  He was receptive and asked some good questions.  Ones I had heard a few times before.

However, some of the most common ones can still kinda shock me.

“So…what do you think that I should get my graduate degree in?  What would be the easiest area to get a job in?”

I guess I’m probably a bit naïve and would like to think that people pursuing either graduate degrees or online teaching positions would, ya know, focus on an area that they were actually interested in.

Maybe I’ve just been playing up the perks of online teaching too much!

In this case, the question was actually pretty easy.  My friend mentioned his undergraduate degree in finance and his close to twenty years of industry experience.

There are a lot of people with MBAs, for sure, but not a ton who are looking to get into online teaching (at the moment).  Also, pretty much every college in America has a business program (many have both undergrad and grad programs) so online teaching gigs in B-school are plentiful.

But what if he had told me that his undergraduate degree was in Anthropology or Southern Studies?

Things would have been a little bit trickier, for sure.

For those people who already possess a graduate degree, I think it makes sense to scope out the scene within your area to get a feel of the number of online teaching gigs that are currently available and that may come available in the future.

If you’re rocking a master’s degree, see how far it can take you before even thinking about committing to a doctoral program (a terminal degree is always ideal, but is certainly not always necessary).  The opportunity costs and monetary costs of such an undertaking alone necessitate a great deal of serious contemplation.

For those who do not have a graduate degree, it is worth exploring online teaching opportunities where a bachelor’s degree is sufficient (community college or technical school programs are good starting points).

However, even these positions are likely going to prefer those with master’s degrees or at least 18 graduate hours in the topic or subject matter.

If you can make it work with a bachelor’s, more power to you but possessing a graduate degree will really begin to open doors for you.

So what field should you pursue?

It’s a tough call.

If you know that certain fields or subjects are currently in demand, but you have little to no interest in them (or worse, they bore you sick!) it probably doesn’t make much sense to pursue them.

Guy studying in library

For one, graduate school can be pretty tough…for subjects you are interested in.

Roll up on the first day to a program that you have little to no interest in and you’ll be in the bursar’s office asking for a refund my lunchtime.

Also, the popular or “necessary” fields of 2017 may not be what are hot in 2027 or even in 2022.

Sure, the field that you’re must interested in may not be the hottest field now, but it sure beats a trip down a rabbit hole that ends with…a skunk.

As it is, it difficult to accurately predict what subjects and areas will be the best for securing online teaching gigs in the future.

Business is a pretty consistent stalwart and the classes are easy to teach and to facilitate.

In recent years, criminal justice has blown up and healthcare programs, particularly those related to facility administration, have seen their popularity grown exponentially.

What do all of these areas have in common?


Start paying attention to the news and paying attention to goods and services (especially) that are being talked about with greater regularity.

Imagine the potential demand for these goods and services in the near and distant future and how the provision of these items will likely be facilitated.

If there is a particular field that is closely associated with these fields or even something that possesses a more tertiary relationship (ex. Logistics) it may be worth looking into programs that are likely to produce graduates who will possess these positions and relationships.

In contrast, you can follow your passion and get a bit more enjoyment out of your studies, both during and after graduate school.

The main advantage of this route is that your passion will be much more genuine and apparent and is not likely to go unnoticed in interviews or even as a program coordinator reviews your CV.

Maybe an intersection of the two?  Who doesn’t love a good venn diagram??!!


With so many hybrid fields and programs now, with a little research and soul-searching, you can’t go wrong.

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