Being a single mother is hard work. Not only do single mothers have to take care of their children, but in most cases they have to provide for them as well. When child support is insufficient, or simply doesn’t materialize, times can be tough, and many single mothers find themselves working two full-time jobs: childcare and their day job.
Unfortunately, not all single mothers have jobs that are sufficient for making ends meet, often because they lack the education and credentials that could help them secure a better job, or even a fulfilling career. However, going to school and obtaining an appropriate degree can be the key to a better, less stressful and more prosperous life for both single mothers and their children.
What degree options are available for single mothers? Opportunities abound, but here are some of the best degrees for women who want to balance motherhood with school and a subsequent career:
1. Paralegal Studies
Paralegals, also called legal assistants, take care of a great deal of lawyers’ day to day business. They prepare for trials, mediation, and other important legal procedures. Lawyers frequently rely on paralegals to draft arguments and analyze cases, so a solid understanding of the law is a prerequisite for the job. Because paralegals can do some of their work from home, and the hours are regular, it is a good job for a single mother who has to set aside time for parenting as well. During important court cases, paralegals may need to work overtime, but most law firms will offer flexible scheduling to ensure their staff can balance work and home demands. Today, there are many programs that offer training in becoming a paralegal, and lawyers increasingly request some formal training before hiring a paralegal, so a degree in paralegal studies can be important for those wishing to enter this field. Luckily, these degrees can be completed entirely online and in just two years, so single mothers won’t have to wait long to start their new careers.
Accountants are always in demand, and obtaining a degree in accounting is a great way to ensure plentiful job opportunities for those who like to work with figures. Single mothers with a good head for numbers and a businesslike demeanor should consider becoming certified public accountants (CPAs), as the position will give them a great deal of choice and flexibility in their careers. Accounting degree programs prepare students for the Uniform CPA Examination, which is required for licensure, and many businesses require the degree in new hires. Job growth for accountants is expected to be excellent for the foreseeable future, and opportunities will abound. For those who can handle the coursework, an accounting degree is a very solid choice.
Accounting also offers a clear path for advancement. Single mothers can start with an associate’s degree in business or accounting and start working. Once employed in the accounting field, it’s possible to find a company who will pay for continuing education, so mothers don’t have to struggle financially while advancing their careers. Many schools offer a combined bachelor’s and master’s in accounting program, which lets students count advanced undergraduate coursework towards a graduate degree. This double-counting of classes allows busy moms to earn a master’s degree quickly.
Dispensing opticians help people who need glasses and contacts, recommend and adjust frames and prepare lenses. They also take measurements to best fit glasses to individuals’ faces, and their job involves some degree of skill in sales. Single mothers who like to work in a clean environment and have good people skills may find being a dispensing optician well-suited to their nature. A degree in opticianry takes two years to complete, and provides students with accreditation as dispensing opticians. While an opticianry degree requires extensive hands-on training, almost all classes are held during business hours, so moms can still help their children get ready for school and spend the evenings with their families. Although accreditation is not always required, employers have come to prefer it, and a number of states require licensure, so those who want to start out in the field should obtain an opticianry degree. Because many replacements for retiring workers are needed, opticians have plenty of job opportunities, and those who have the proper credentials should never be lacking for work.
4. Physician Assistant
Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine under the supervision of a physician and perform sophisticated tasks such as treating and examining patients. A PA degree requires two years of postgraduate study – far less than medical school. The job is generally very well compensated — on the order of $75,000 per year for recently graduated PAs. Job prospects are expected to be better than average, particularly in underserved communities where there are is a low ratio of doctors to patients. A single mother who completes a PA degree will be well-positioned to provide for her family and work in a rewarding, respected position. As a highly trained medical professional, a PA can choose the job location and work hours that best suit her family. Many PAs choose to work part-time while their children are young then transition to full-time work once their families are more independent.
5. Health Information Technician (HIT)
Jobs in medical records and health information are growing fast, and those trained in the field in high demand. Because most employers prefer those who have the proper credentials, a health information technician degree is important for those who decide to work in medical billing, record keeping and data. HITs are responsible for keeping patient records private as well as making vitally important medical information available to nurses and physicians. Given the technological sophistication of medicine today, it is a very important job, and competent HITs are considered very valuable employees. For single mothers who are interested in working in the medical field, but don’t have the time for a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree, a health information technician degree can get them started in a medical career. Most HIT work can be done remotely, so employers are often willing to negotiate work-from-home hours to accommodate high-performing employees.
6. Dental Assistant
Dental assistants provide dentists with crucial assistance by treating patients, helping with office work and taking care of equipment. They perform some dental procedures themselves, and assist the dentist during oral surgery, restoration and cavity filling. Dental assistant degrees prepare students for certification with the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential, which is administered by the Dental Assisting National Board. Certified dental assistants will find job opportunities to be excellent, and most positions provide good vacation time and health benefits, which are always important to single mothers. Furthermore, many clinics are located in neighborhood settings, which allow for a convenient position close to home. Getting a degree in dental assisting is a relatively short affair, and can provide single mothers with steady, comfortable employment and great job prospects. Many dental offices operate part-time or on a compressed workweek, so single mothers can often have one or two weekdays without work responsibilities, which makes it easier to accompany their children on school field trips or volunteer in the classroom. Some dental assistants work at multiple clinics to earn the highest possible income, so single mothers with older children or good childcare options can work as many hours as they can fit into their schedules.
7. Executive Assistant
Executive assistants handle important tasks for business executives, such as drafting documents, coordinating meetings, keeping track of important information and keeping staff and executives informed of important information. In recent years with the proliferation of information technology, more and more people are finding work as virtual assistants, who can perform many of these duties from home. This is ideal for single mothers who must balance work and home life, and often have to be near their children. Executive assistants work long hours, but often their schedules can accommodate family life. For example, an executive assistant may need to work traditional business hours to schedule meetings, consult with their executive and provide real-time support, but other work, like answering emails or typing up meeting notes, can often wait until after the children have been put to bed. Executive assistants are financially well-compensated for their work, so this can be a good career for hard-working single moms who need a high income.
Although a degree is not always required, executives prefer their hires to have some education, and an executive assistant degree will place candidates at the front of the hiring line. Additionally, for those who want to run their own virtual assistance business, having the proper credentials is important to finding and retaining clients. For the single mother who is responsible, well-organized and professionally-minded, an executive assistant degree can lead to a solid job in business.
8. Travel Management
A degree in travel management trains travel agents to perform their duties, which include organizing trips for clients, offering advice and finding good deals. Travel agents are expected to be knowledgeable about destinations, accommodations and their clients’ particular needs. Oftentimes, travel agents receive special perks from travel companies, such as heavy discounts on cruises, free airplane tickets or free upgrades at hotels, so this career can make family vacations more afforable. Being a travel agent requires good organizational skills, punctuality, and the ability to close sales with clients. Because technology allows much of the work of a travel agent to be done from home, it is a convenient occupation for single mothers. Self-employment is also fairly common for travel agents, allowing scheduling flexibility. Most employers prefer hiring applicants who have been formally trained as travel agents, so obtaining a degree in travel management is important for those looking to enter the field. Those who have a travel management degree are expected to have a significant edge in employment in coming years.
9. Hospitality Management
Working in hospitality can be challenging, but it is also exciting and has a number of benefits. A degree in hospitality management gives students the skills they need to run a hotel or resort and provide guests with a comfortable, rewarding experience. Single mothers who have worked in the food service industry as waitresses or hostesses have some of the skills needed for hospitality management and may consider making it a career by obtaining a hospitality management degree. Those with degrees will have better prospects at high-end hotels, and can command a higher salary. If working as a waitress seems like a dead-end job, a hospitality management degree could be what you need to make a stable career out of your service skills.
10. Education Administration
An education administration degree prepares students for working in management positions in schools. Education administrators screen and hire teachers, meet with parents to discuss concerns, and implement policies to achieve better outcomes for students. A master’s degree in education administration is necessary in many states for those who want high positions such a school principal, and qualifies candidates for work in admissions, and even as superintendents. Because single mothers have an inherent interest in education, those who are talented, motivated and good managers may find that an education administration degree opens the door to a prestigious career in education.
Working in the education field is highly compatible with the demands of being a single parent. It’s very easy for single moms to work at the same schools that their children attend, and it’s also simple to arrange after-school care and transportation. For example, a school principal could easily have their children take a bus from the children’s school to the principal’s work site then have the children work on homework while the principal finishes up administrative tasks. While education administrators often work in the evenings by meeting with parents or teachers or attending school events, all of those after-hours settings are appropriate for children of all ages. Unlike traditional, office-based settings, schools understand the many demands placed on single mothers and are willing to accommodate non-traditional childcare needs.
Earning a degree not only allows single mothers to provide better opportunities for their children. It also models the value of education and hard work. Additionally, many of these degrees for single mothers offer a path towards more flexible schedules, higher rates of pay and family-friendly workplaces. It’s hard to balance parenthood while working evenings as a waitress or weekends at a retail store. While it may take several years for single mothers to complete their degree, the rewards are worth the wait.