What are Online Students Studying?

Popular Degrees Provide Career Insight

Despite the fact that hundreds of different online degrees exist, it’s not surprising that many students gravitate to particular degrees and majors and that a subsequent and intriguing list of ‘most popular’ make their way to the surface. It’s entirely possible to make a fairly accurate estimation of the trendiest online degrees by simply opening your eyes. Online search engine results and keyword analysis suggest strong trends, and online degree providers often advertise their most popular programs.

Online research surveys suggest that though trends in online degrees fluctuate quarterly and within degree levels, these the main fields of interest remain:

Further evidence suggests that students are increasingly pushing beyond the bachelor’s degree level, taking advantage of the convenience of online master’s and Ph.D degrees.

Business Degrees

Business people are competitive, so it makes sense that should a convenient avenue to a professional degree present itself, it would draw plenty of interest. Online business degrees come in associate, bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D levels, but according to many sources, the bachelor’s and master’s degrees remain most popular. The master’s in business administration degree has become an industry standard among mid-level business managers and maintains an overwhelming market share of the online degree business products. The newest trend in MBAs, though, are concentration or specialization options, such as human resources management or finance. Business leadership degrees – a new trend – suggest new directions in corporate America and another level of management and administrative professionals.

Healthcare Degrees

Healthcare continues to evolve: decentralized niche specialties drive demand for well-trained specialists and the growing pains lead to sharp personnel shortages. And speaking of shortages, nursing degree programs continue to experience the strongest interest. Nursing degrees have shot to the forefront of online degrees for a variety of interrelated reasons.

In response to the widening chasm between nurses retiring and new recruits, the healthcare industry as a whole has found it necessary to advertise the abundance of nursing jobs available as well as shine light on the career benefits. Congruently, online educators have responded to student interest in the field with menus of online nursing degrees from associate through Ph.D. In addition, RN-BSN degree completion programs are a staple among degree providers, with Master of Science in Nursing programs, particularly education and health systems administration, becoming increasingly popular.

Education Degrees

Within the education field, many more online degree seekers now opt for graduate or post-graduate degrees in education. There seems to be an industry drive for administration jobs, positions where decision making and critical thinking skills may thrive. Perhaps this trend is a direct result of the state of education, worn thin in almost all areas.

Engineering Degrees

Engineering has always offered a bright and lucrative career future. Now that many more programs, especially graduate, have come online, there is a growing interest in them. Undergraduate engineering programs continue to be somewhat constrained to a campus environment, simply because most undergraduate coursework entails a significant amount of hands-on work that in traditional programs engaged students in internships and co-op education.

Graduate engineering students, however, are typically required to complete upper-level courses that are more informational and theoretic than hands-on. Specializations such as mechanical engineering and electrical engineering are popular, but workforce and professional certificates and standalone courses are featured elements of online engineering programs.

A Better Question

Alternative degrees that continue to grow in popularity include criminal justice, psychology, and information technology. But an appropriate question many are trying to answer when looking for what is popular? is what pays well?

It should not be a surprise that these topics are often not well aligned. Why? Well, if many people want to do something for a living (say, video game design), then such opportunities will be more saturated and heavily commoditized. Whereas if fewer people are interested in a topic (say petroleum engineering), then those who gain expertise in it often earn more. With this in mind, we looked at BLS data to find out where the best and worst returns were in college education. Some of the conclusions we came to: