Unusual Suspects: 7 Odd and Interesting Online College Programs

Compiled by Kenya McCullum
May 31, 2013

Thanks to technology, students have access to more degree programs than ever before. While there are many online degree programs available in conventional subjects like English, nursing, business administration, and information technology, students can also find degree, certificate and professional development programs that are a little more off the beaten path. If you're looking for something unusual, these online programs can be an out-of-the-ordinary way to prepare for interesting careers.

Master of Science in Packaging (Michigan State University): You may not think too much about the packaging process when you're fighting through foam peanuts or popping bubble wrap, but for those interested in the science behind packaging, Michigan State University offers an online master's degree program designed to train people for jobs in the packaging industry. Students enrolled in this program learn the nuts and bolts of packaging, including tamper proofing, creating packaging that is compatible with a product, packaging permeability and migration, and shelf life.

Bachelor of Science in Economic Crime Investigation (Utica College): If you've got a head for facts and figures, this New York college offers a bachelor's degree in economic crime investigation that can teach you how to investigate financial crimes, such as fraud and money laundering. By combining disciplines such as mathematics, criminal justice, sociology, and economics, this program gives students the expertise they need to gather and analyze evidence related to financial crimes.

Bereavement Studies Certificate (Hudson Valley Community College): Losing a loved one is difficult for everyone, and if you're interested in helping people navigate their way through the grieving process, you may want to consider earning a certificate in bereavement studies from Hudson Valley Community College. The program, which is offered by the college's School of Health Sciences, includes classes in the psychology of grief, funeral service counseling, multicultural attitudes about bereavement, and approaches to death and dying.

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Certificate in Organic Agriculture (Washington State University): With more and more people concerned about going green and eating healthy, it's not surprising there's an education program dedicated to organic agriculture. In order to help train people for jobs in this field, Washington State University offers an undergraduate certificate in organic agriculture. In this program, which is the first of its kind in the nation, students learn about all aspects of the agricultural chain, including the processing, regulation, and production of organic food.

The Business of Craft Brewing (Portland State University): College and beer go hand in hand for many students, but they are literally wed when you enroll in the craft brewing business program at Portland State University. Through this noncredit program, students can take courses focused on different aspects of the craft brewing business, including basic business practices, marketing, finance and accounting, and business management.

Certificate in Weather Forecasting (Penn State): From storm chasers to budding meteorologists to business professionals, there are a variety of individuals that might benefit from the weather forecasting certificate program offered by Penn State World Campus . In this online program, students learn different forecasting techniques, as well as the basics of atmospheric science.

Turfgrass Science and Management (Penn State): It takes a special type of green thumb to maintain the turfgrass you find at golf courses and athletic fields, and the Center for Turfgrass Science at Penn State is helping to sow those seeds with several degree and certificate programs -- including an associate degree in turfgrass science and management, a bachelor's in turfgrass science and a master's in turfgrass management. Students in these programs learn turf maintenance, pest control and turfgrass cultural systems.

Although interesting and unusual degrees, certificates and diplomas can be obtained over the Internet, some of the weirdest programs are still only available the old-fashioned way:

  • Master of Arts in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society from Liverpool Hope University
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Puppetry from the University of Connecticut
  • Bachelor of Arts in Popular Culture from Bowling Green State University
  • Associate of Science in Bowling Industry Management and Technology from Vincennes University
  • Auctioneering diploma program from Harrisburg Area Community College

Unique on-campus programs like these will hopefully make their way online soon. As online degree programs continue to mature, offbeat offerings may become more and more common. After all, the Internet has always welcomed innovation with open arms.