For adults juggling jobs and family commitments, earning a degree can seem like a Herculean task.
But it doesn't have to be. By joining the millions of Americans pursuing online education, it's possible to prepare for the next great job opportunity from the comfort of your couch.
"Online learning can do two things: It can lead to advancement in an existing profession, or it can lead to a completely new profession," says Leah K. Matthews, executive director of the Accrediting Commission of the nonprofit Distance Education and Training Council. "It spans almost every field now."
The following six jobs were pulled from U.S. News & World Report's 100 Best Jobs of 2014 rankings. They earned high marks for employment opportunity, salary, work-life balance and job security, among other factors.
Nurse practitioner (ranked No. 4 out of 100 best jobs)
Median salary: $89,960
For people concerned foremost with job security, a career as a nurse practitioner could be the ultimate elixir. Employment of nurse practitioners is increasing, with an estimated employment growth of 94 percent, according to a study published in Medical Care, a journal of the American Public Health Association.
[Determine what it takes to get into an online master's program in nursing.]
Computer systems analyst (ranked No. 2 out of 100 best jobs)
Median salary: $79,680
This is not a job for a socially awkward computer whiz. The ideal computer systems analyst possesses a passion for technology and great personal skills. These professionals liaise between the IT department and a client, and are involved with both the budgetary and technical considerations of a project.
To land this job, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Colorado State University—Global Campus and Arizona State University both offer an online bachelor's degree in information technology.
Students wanting to further enhance their earning power can pursue an online master's degree in computer information technology. University of Southern California, Sam Houston State University and Virginia Tech are just a few of the top programs ranked by U.S. News.
Market research analyst (ranked No. 15 out of 100 best jobs)
Median salary: $60,300
Pepsi or Coke? Mac or PC? A good market research analyst knows what people like and why. These professionals are the ultimate observers, watching people to determine their habits and preferences. Their advice helps clients package, brand and sell products appropriately.
Entering the field requires at least a bachelor's degree, and many who join the profession come from disciplines focusing mainly on math or business.
Those interested in market research could consider an online bachelor's degree in business administration from a program such as Daytona State College or St. John's University. Earning an online MBA from Washington State University, Arizona State University or another top program could be helpful to those with an unrelated bachelor's degree or for candidates looking to impress employers with their advanced subject knowledge.
Cost estimator (ranked No. 59 out of 100 best jobs)
Median salary: $58,860
Before the ground is ever broken in a construction project, a cost estimator helps coordinate its technical, mechanical and fiscal requirements. The role requires a person with an analytic, organized mind, who is at ease working with engineers, architects and construction managers.
While a four-year degree is not required to enter the field, a bachelor's degree in construction management or building science and related work experience in accounting, finance, business or economics will give applicants a leg up.
Public relations specialist (ranked No. 85 out of 100 best jobs)
Median salary: $54,170
Those with the gift of gab are in luck. The demand for public relations specialists is expected to grow nearly 23 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To excel in this field, professionals must have excellent written and oral communication skills and understand the art of the sell.
It's possible to land a public relations job right out of college. To do so, consider enrolling in a reputable online bachelor's program in communications. Pennsylvania State University—World Campus, for example, offers an online bachelor's of arts in advertising/public relations. Pace University also offers an online bachelor's of science in professional communication studies.
Speech-language pathologist (ranked No. 35 out of 100 best jobs)
Median salary: $69,870
Speech-language pathologists, also called speech therapists, help people grappling with communication and swallowing disorders tied to stroke, brain injury, hearing loss and a range of other causes.
The majority of speech-language pathologists work full-time and almost 50 percent work in schools, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profession, which requires a master's degree, has seen a pay spike in recent years.
Students can receive an online master's degree in speech-language pathology at Idaho State University and the University of Northern Colorado, among other schools.
Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.