Best Online Degrees for 2012


Find out which online degrees could be most beneficial to you.

By Chris Kyle    

Want to go back to school online? It sure seems like a popular New Year's resolution these days.

The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 18.2 million students will be enrolled in online courses by 2013, which is up from 3.1 million online students a decade ago.

To meet that rising demand, 89 percent of four-year public colleges and universities now offer online classes, while 60 percent of four-year private schools offer them, according to "The Digital Revolution and Higher Education," a 2011 study by the nonprofit Pew Research Center.

Not sure what to study in the New Year?

To help with your decision, we looked at a variety of studies to help us identify the best online degrees to start in 2012. While there are some old standbys on our list, other degrees may surprise you.

#1 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Business

When it comes to selecting the best online degree to earn in 2012, we're all business.

After all, how could 257,400 people be wrong?

That's how many students were studying business online in 2009, the most recent year for which numbers are available, according to "Hot Programs and Hot Markets," a report by the Boston-based educational research firm, Eduventures.

And there's good reason for this degree's popularity.

The Princeton Review's "Top 10 College Majors" report noted that a business degree could "get you thinking about issues such as diversity, ethics, politics, and other dynamics that play a role in every work environment."

Click to Find the Right Online Business Program.

Potential Career Paths: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bachelor's degree in business could help prepare you for a wide variety of careers, including personal financial advisor (average income: $91,220), marketing specialist ($66,850), and management analyst ($87,260).*

#2 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Computers and IT

Earning an online bachelor's degree in computers and information technology (IT) could help you demonstrate to employers that your skills are fresh and up-to-date. That's because you'll probably be able to boast an understanding of computers that goes beyond the basics - especially in areas like network administration and database technology.

These skills might help you attract employers, which could explain why this degree finished second overall in enrollment in 2009, according to Eduventures.

Click to Find the Right Computers and IT Program.

Potential Career Paths: A bachelor's degree in IT could help prepare you for several computer careers, including database administrator ($75,730), computer support specialist ($49,930), and computer systems analyst ($81,250).*

#3 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Education

Looking for a degree that could help you prepare for an in-demand career? Consider studying education online because in order to teach, you'll usually need at least a bachelor's degree to get started.

Come 2018, education as a field will face the second biggest shortage of qualified workers, behind health care, according to a 2010 report from Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce.

Perhaps that rising demand is leading to a surge in students studying education. Among online bachelor's degrees, education finished fifth overall in enrollment numbers, according to Eduventures' 2009 study.

Click to Find the Right Online Education Program.

Potential Career Paths: A bachelor's degree in education could help you prepare for a teaching career, along with roles like preschool administrator ($50,410) and secondary school education administrator ($89,990).*

#4 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Communications

Communication comes in all forms, from traditional face-to-face interaction to digital and social media. Earning an online communications degree could incorporate study of those very same interactions, since online programs can include cameras and streaming video as well as email and discussion board-based assignments.

When Eduventures looked at enrollment data for online bachelor's degree programs in 2009, communications finished seventh overall.

The study of communications is apparently a popular choice for employers as well, according to results from NACE's 2011 Job Outlook report. "Each year, NACE asks employers to rate the importance of certain skills/qualities when hiring possible job candidates," the report says. "Each year, without fail, strong communication skills come out on top."

Click to Find the Right Online Communications Program.

Potential Career Paths: A bachelor's degree in communications could help prepare you for careers like public relations specialist ($59,150) and technical writer ($66,240).*

*Unless otherwise noted, all average income info comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using May 2010 data.

Next Article: Five Smart Online Degree Picks »

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