Year In Review 2012: Top Ten Online Degrees


A look back at the bachelor's degrees that topped the charts among undergraduate students in online education this year.

By Andrea Argueta

While online education on the whole is steadily increasing in popularity, there are some degree programs that - to paraphrase Heidi Klum - are in and others that are out.

A report conducted by the Learning House, an organization that helps colleges develop online programs, and EducationDynamics, a company that helps colleges enroll and retain students, discovered which undergraduate degrees were trending in 2012.

After surveying students all over the country who had enrolled or planned to enroll in fully online bachelor's degree programs, they concluded that business was the most popular area of study, with one-third of online students enrolled in programs in the field. But business wasn't the only winning field...

Keep reading to find out the top 10 online bachelor's degrees of 2012.

Online Bachelor's Degree #1: Business Administration

Coming in at number one for the Learning House and EducationDynamics report was business administration.

Hot Factors: Online degrees in business administration were trending because students learn the fundamentals while they develop their writing skills, says Dani Babb, online education expert and author of "The Adult Student." Babb also thinks online business degrees were in demand because they allow students, who are usually working full time, to prep for new career opportunities while still attending their day jobs.

And this isn't the first time - and probably won't be the last - that online business programs have been on top. In an unrelated 2010 study conducted by Eduventures, a higher education and research consulting company, online business enrollments were by far the highest at an estimated 400,000.

Click to Find the Right Online Business Administration Program Now.

What You Might Learn: In a business administration and management program, you could discuss case studies that reflect real business issues as well as different management philosophies, says the College Board, an organization that helps students connect with high-quality college education.

Online Bachelor's Degree #2: Accounting

Number-crunching seems to have been in this year. In fact, it was so popular, online bachelor's degrees in accounting ranked #2 in the EducationDynamics and Learning House report.

Hot Factors: "Online accounting degrees are so popular because online tutoring is now readily available," says Babb. Students in online programs can also watch their instructors create documents during live office hours, she adds.

Click to Find the Right Online Accounting Program Now.

What You Might Learn: As an accounting major, you could learn to organize and analyze an organization's financial information, says the College Board. Learning to prepare tax filings and financial statements is also common.

Online Bachelor's Degree #3: Information Technology

Online IT bachelor's degrees were number three in this year's list of top 10 programs, and it's easy to see why.

Hot Factors: "IT students often work and may have odd hours," says Babb. Online learning lets them simulate the lab environment while working around their schedules, she adds. What's more, "They can keep the tools they learned, such as computer software, on their own computers for later use."

Online IT bachelor's programs also have a history of being popular. In 2010, Eduventures found that computer and IT programs had the second highest enrollment among online students.

Click to Find the Right Online Information Technology Program Now.

What You Might Learn: In an information technology program, you'll learn how information and computing systems support research, communications, and business necessities, while developing strong technical and communication skills, according to the College Board.

Online Bachelor's Degree #4: Finance

Online bachelor's degrees in finance came in at fourth place in 2012's list of most sought after online programs.

Hot Factors: Babb says finance was a hot online degree because it offered students live finance lectures to watch anywhere. Coupled with online testing, this advantage resulted in a program that allowed for flexibility and balance in students' lives, adds Babb.

Click to Find the Right Online Finance Program Now.

What You Might Learn: A finance degree could teach you how to make long term financial plans as well as how to raise funds and make wise investments, says the College Board. Learning what it takes to understand the stock market and interest rates is also part of this degree program.

Online Bachelor's Degree #5: Psychology

Online bachelor's degrees in psychology ranked fifth on the list of top 10 online degrees in 2012.

Hot Factors: Students learn a lot of the fundamentals of psychology through reading and self-study, so this degree was perfect for earning online, says Babb. Additionally, she says, "New partnerships with online universities and real-world settings allow students to get more hands-on experience than ever before while still keeping their day jobs."

What's more, online psychology programs are showing signs of picking up steam. Since 2010, they've jumped three positions from their former spot as the eighth most popular online program, according to Eduventures.

Click to Find the Right Online Psychology Program Now.

What You Might Learn: As a psychology student, you'll "study the way humans and animals act, feel, think, and learn," says the College Board. To do so, you'll discuss numerous issues, often including methods to treat eating disorders, the roots of violence, and the way age affects learning.

Online Bachelor's Degree #6: Health Care Administration

Health care administration is holding down the sixth spot in the report on top 10 degrees for online study in 2012.

Hot Factors: "Thanks to advances in technology, online students are able to do some clinical work using the Internet, and to learn to read and write in a manner acceptable to the field of health care administration in an online environment," says Babb. It is a great option for those already working in the health care field who need flexibility to pursue a degree, she adds.

Click to Find the Right Online Health Care Administration Program Now.

What You Might Learn: In a health services administration program you'll learn the ins and outs of managing health care facilities, such as rehabilitation centers, hospitals, or nursing homes. You might also study the issues affecting the health care industry, such as the rising costs of health care insurance and public funding, says the College Board.

Online Bachelor's Degree #7: Computer and Information Systems Security

This program made it to seventh place on the Learning House and EducationDynamics list of popular online degrees in 2012.

Hot Factors: Babb says this online degree was popular in 2012 because students learned to design secure networks and test them using online simulators. "Similar to IT programs, students can keep the tools after class, essentially turning their home computer into a lab."

Click Here to Find the Right Online Computer and Information Systems Security Program Now.

What You Might Learn: Learning to calculate the security needs of computer systems is not the only thing you'll learn in a computer and information systems security program, says the College Board. You'll also learn to design solutions that protect computers, it adds.

Online Bachelor's Degree #8: Social Work

Bachelor's degrees in social work were popular among students in 2012. In fact, they ranked number eight on the list of top 10 degree programs.

Hot Factors: Babb says it was popular in 2012 because students learned the fundamentals of social work while keeping their current jobs or changing careers. "Social work is usually regulated and a serious discipline but doesn't need traditional education, particularly for students that learn well independently."

Click Here to Find the Right Online Social Work Program Now.

What You Might Learn: In this program, you'll learn how to do social work in different types of settings, says the College Board. For example, you could learn how to work in child welfare agencies or hospitals. You may also explore a broad range of other issues, such as struggles faced by gay and lesbian youth.

Online Bachelor's Degree #9: Paralegal Studies

How popular was this online bachelor's degree in 2012? It ranked number nine on the top 10 list by Learning House and EducationDynamics.

Hot Factors: While learning to do legal research in an online bachelor's degree in paralegal studies, students could work during the day and tend to family needs, says Babb. "Paralegal degrees online allow students to learn the legal language and to write legal documents on their own time."

Click to Find the Right Online Paralegal Studies Program Now.

What You Might Learn: Paralegal majors learn how to conduct investigations, keep records, and work under the supervision of a lawyer, says the College Board. They also learn to use online legal databases and draft legal documents.

Online Bachelor's Degree #10: Elementary Education

Last but not least, online bachelor's degrees in elementary education ranked number 10 in the report on top online degree programs.

Hot factors: Its popularity, says Babb, derived from students being exposed to other teaching styles from a very diverse group of classmates who from many different regions. "They will learn about what is going on in education from a more national population and learn how those teachers are handling various scenarios."

Click to Find the Right Online Education Program Now.

What You Might Learn: In an elementary school teaching program, you might learn to create lesson plans and to manage a class as a whole, while giving individual attention to each student, notes the College Board. Common classes include reading fundamentals, teaching methods, and instructional resources and technology.

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