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Florida is one of the country's leaders in online education thanks to its innovative response to major education budget cuts. From state-wide initiatives driving accessibility to education to nationally recognized degree programs, there's a lot to discover.

Online Schools in Florida

Florida's education budget cuts have taken their toll on the state, but thanks to creative, forward-thinking educators and policy makers, the state may now be better off than it was before; and online education has played a large role in this new wave.

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One successful example is Florida Virtual School (FVS, www.flvs.net), which offers online options to students throughout the state for no-cost or price tags that are thousands less than many traditional options. Established in 1998, as of 2012 FVS was the largest state-funded online learning program in the entire country.

In addition to the success of FVS, there are other signs of Florida's move towards digital education. Many schools in Florida are using ebooks in classrooms to cut down on textbook spending and hope to have all textbooks replaced with digital materials by 2015. The state is also looking for ways to reduce teacher workload through digital education and grading systems.

This all falls under the Education Technology Modernization Initiative by the Florida State Board of Education, the latest proposal for which comes in at $442 million. This money is going to help improve internet access and bandwidth in schools all over the state and pay for more than 300,000 new computers for students who don't currently have access to one.

These initiatives suggest that Florida is dedicated to making sure its students have the skills they need for success. "We all know what's at stake: We're trying to prepare our students in the best possible way for the 21st century, for college and career," said David Stokes, chief information officer at the Florida Department of Education, as quoted in a 2012 Orlando Sentinel article.

Online College in Florida

Online colleges in Florida offer a wide variety of e-learning options, and many traditional schools are increasing their online-education presence. The Florida Virtual Campus is a good starting point for students looking to see which online courses are available through their preferred colleges.

The University of Florida in Gainsville is the state's oldest university. Building on its illustrious history, today the university offers more than 50 online programs going all the way up to doctorate level, including its online MBA program, which The Economist calls "excellent."

Similarly, the University of Central Florida boasts a distance learning center that's been going strong since 1996. Called the Center for Distributed Learning, it's a big part of why UCF now offers over two-dozen fully-online degree, degree-completion, and certificate programs along with hundreds of individual online courses.

Career Outlook in Florida

Florida's economic issues aren't limited to educational budget cuts. While the state's unemployment rate is only about one point above the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Florida's mean annual wage of $45,230 was several thousand dollars below the national average as of 2011. Despite this, the top five careers in terms of mean annual salary in Florida come report wages over $200k, based on 2011 salary numbers from BLS.

  1. Obstetricians and Gynecologists: $229,350
  2. Surgeons: $226,920
  3. Internists: $214,140
  4. Orthodontists: $209,620
  5. Other physicians and surgeons: $201,710

As far as employment goes, Florida's two largest industries both added more than ten thousand jobs between April and September of 2012. The trade, transportation and utilities industry, which is vastly important in a shipping port like Florida, went from 1,507,000 workers in April to 1,518,200 in September. Education and health services climbed from 1,122,000 workers to 1,132,300 -- something to take note of with medical professions dominating the highest-paying positions in the state.

Another high-paying industry is professional and business services, which jumped from 1,075,500 workers in April to 1,091,500 in September -- more than 15,000 new jobs. With these industries growing as much as they are, there's no time like the present for students to get started on what is projected to be an in-demand degree. With the right training, which might include online schools, your résumé could stand out from the pack during the hiring process.

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/lau/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Florida, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_fl.htm
Florida Virtual Campus, http://www.flvc.org/
Florida Virtual School, http://www.flvs.net/
"Education leaders want more than $400M to expand digital learning," Orland Sentinel, October 14, 2012, Leslie Postal, http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-10-14/features/os-florida-schools-digital-technology-20121014_1_digital-content-digital-education-digital-upgrades#mod-blogs
"A Look at Policies Surrounding Online Classes and Schools in Florida," Politic365, October 26, 2012, Rachel Higgins, http://politic365.com/2012/10/26/a-look-at-policies-surrounding-online-classes-and-schools-in-florida/
online@UCF, http://online.ucf.edu/
University of Florida, U.S. News & World Report, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-florida-1535
University of Central Florida, U.S. News & World Report, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-central-florida-3954
University of Florida, http://www.ufl.edu/

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