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Top Online Degrees Earned in the US

Throughout the United States, online college enrollment has been experiencing substantial growth each year for more than six years now, with the last year seeing the greatest growth to-date due to the recent economic turbulence and rising unemployment. By 2008, one of every ten college students was enrolled in an online degree program.

What are the major fields where students are studying in online degree programs?  Are there certain degrees that are more popular to achieve online versus the traditional classroom?

Interestingly, the availability of degrees online is close to equal across the following seven major discipline areas, according to the Sloan Consortium’s survey, Staying the Course:

•    Business
•    Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, humanities
•    Health professions and related sciences
•    Education
•    Computer and information sciences
•    Social sciences and history
•    Psychology

About a third of the schools surveyed by Sloan offered an online program in each of these areas of study, with 36% of schools reporting online business degrees, 32% offering  liberal arts and sciences, 32% reporting health professions, followed by education, computer and information sciences, and the social sciences and history, and psychology. The other major discipline area studied – engineering – isn’t as readily available online as other subjects or in comparison to its availability in traditional classroom formats.  Only 16% of schools reported offering an online engineering degree.

Chart of Top Online Degrees

From Staying the Course by Sloan Consortium

Other sources place top online degrees in varying order; however, business is unanimously the most frequently reported online degree that colleges are offering.

Interesting trends emerge when these subjects are broken down by type of institution (public, private for-profit and private non-profit) and by type of degree (Doctoral/Research, Master’s, Baccalaureate, Associate’s, Specialized):

chart with online degrees by institution typeFrom Staying the Course by Sloan Consortium

chart of penetration rates of online degree programs by disciplineFrom Staying the Course by Sloan Consortium

One of the most noticeable trends is the penetration rates of online programs at associate’s institutions.  The only areas of discipline where associate’s institutions do not report the highest rates of online offerings are health sciences and education.  Associate’s institutions have clearly embraced online learning.

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