Online bachelor’s degrees have rapidly gained in popularity over the past few years, thanks to a number of factors including an unpredictable economic climate and the constantly evolving nature of many fields due to advances in technology. According to a 2011 study by the Babson Survey Research Group, as of 2010 there were over 6 million completely online undergraduate students. This number has doubled between 2007 and 2011, and the growth looks to continue as the popularity and accessibility of these programs rises. There are a number of different degree options online, and many factors to consider when choosing an online school; here are some of the best programs, and what to look for when choosing one.
The five most popular online bachelor’s degree programs currently are criminal justice, business, health care, computer and information technology, and nursing. One common theme among all of these degrees is that they are extremely career-oriented. The average fully online student is in their 30’s, and many are looking to change careers. This is one of the biggest differences between online and traditional students; fully online students are much more likely to choose a major that will lead directly into a specific career compared to a standard liberal arts curriculum many “traditional” students will take.
Business is by far one of the most popular online degree programs, and has a number of more specific concentrations within it such as marketing, entrepreneurship, economics, human resources, information systems, finance, accounting, and management. This is one of the advantages that makes online business degrees so popular – the large and varied number of potential occupations they can lead to. Another plus to an online business degree is the potential for it to elevate a student’s position in a company they already work for, while providing the flexibility to study in their free time as they continue working. Online business degrees are a perfect example of why would-be students are looking more and more to online classes for the flexibility and career options they provide.
Ranking as one of the highest-paying bachelor’s degrees, it’s no surprise that computer science and information technology is also one of the most popular among online students. High pay combined with low unemployment rates (there is no lack of new tech jobs in today’s economy) make for a lucrative online degree program. The constantly and rapidly changing nature of computer technology lends itself well to online study, in which students need to stay on top of the latest advances to ensure their skills are relevant when they complete their degree.
Health care is another extremely popular online bachelor’s degree program, in part due to the fact that the health care sector has very high employment rates, particularly for careers related to nursing. The large number of different fields that are necessary to study in order to earn a degree in health care – including business, technology and administrative skills in addition to medical science – also make it a great option for online students who can study at their own pace. Like the two previous programs, healthcare will continue to be one of the most popular online programs for study as the demand for qualified students in the field grows.
Usnews.com, an influential college ranking website, ranks online bachelor’s programs by the following broad criteria, each made up of many smaller factors: student engagement, faculty credentials and training, and student services and technology. Factors like graduation rates, class size, retention rates, and average time to degree completion are all important specific elements to look at in choosing an online degree program. There are a wealth of resources available online for those interested in pursuing an online bachelor’s degree, from explaining different programs to helping choose the perfect school.
About the author:
The author Laura Oppenheimer works for an online tutoring company that works with many students taking online courses.