For many working adults, attending college full-time is not an option because they must continue to work while simultaneously pursuing a degree. With more and more individuals unable to conform to the requirements of a traditional program on campus, many schools now offer online programs with more flexible schedules and customization options. This is making online study an increasingly popular alternative for working adults striving to reach their academic and professional goals.
Most working adults choose to pursue a degree program to advance or change their career, or even just to increase their value in their current workplace. And as the economy and job environment continues to recover from the last decade's recession, the most effective solution for job security is to look for a job opening or pursue training in a field with the most continued demand. Today, the most popular and best online degree programs are within business, healthcare, education, and engineering. These are the 10 most popular degrees for 2019.
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Note: All academic major information is from Georgetown University's The Economic Value of College Majors report. All job growth and salary information is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook .
Business Management and Administration
Graduates of a business management and administration program are skilled in directing a broad range of support services for a business or organization. The development of relevant skills makes business management one of the best online degree programs for students today. Depending on a candidate's particular skill set and career goals, they may seek employment in a broad range of positions, from administration manager to management consultant, and in a wide array of fields, including both public and private management firms and corporations, financial institutions, local government, and more.
- Number of majors: 814 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in business management and administration
- Projected job growth rate: 8%
- Average salary: $86,110
- Acquired skills: Scheduling, recordkeeping, budgeting, staff coordination, and supervision
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Earning a general business degree can provide the skills and training for a variety of careers, from administration manager to senior management. Online business degrees typically incorporate broad clerical, management, and financial competencies that are required in today's workplace, be it at a small startup company or a large global corporation.
- Number of majors: 539 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in general business
- Projected job growth rate: 7%
- Average salary: $175,110
- Acquired skills: Supervision and leadership, accounting, operations management, budget management
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All businesses and organizations are in need of employees trained in accounting to ensure finances are properly handled, making online accounting degrees one of the best online degrees students can earn for job options upon graduation. Private businesses, non-profit organizations, and government organizations all must keep accurate records, make certain employees are paid, and ensure that all applicable taxes are filed and paid properly and timely. Accounting graduates help businesses remain in compliance with all fiscal laws and regulations.
- Number of majors: 463 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in accounting
- Projected job growth rate: 11%
- Average salary: $67,740
- Acquired skills: Budget analysis, financial planning, analysis of financial documents, preparation of financial documents and statements
Nursing is growing increasingly popular as a major, as jobs in healthcare are always in demand and are applicable across a range of work environments, including in schools and hospitals. Nursing is also one of the best online degrees because it is often offered at all levels. In fact, an ADN is one of the best online associate degrees for those new to the nursing field. Many online nursing programs also incorporate accelerated RN to BSN curricula. In addition, a number of nursing programs lead to licensure in the student's state of residence after graduates complete and pass the relevant NCLEX examinations.
- Number of majors: 448 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in nursing
- Projected job growth rate: 31%
- Average salary: $104,740
- Acquired skills: Patient recordkeeping, diagnostics, administering exams and medications, consulting, research
Psychologists are responsible for evaluating and treating social, emotional, and behavioral disorders through psychoanalysis and psychotherapy; in most states, they are required to hold an advanced degree and be licensed to practice professionally in their state of residence. Psychologists often perform tests and conduct extensive research to diagnose patients and establish an appropriate course of treatment. An online psychology degree is one of the best online degrees to get for those interested in cognitive health, as students typically select a concentration within this major, such as child psychology, neuropsychology, or forensic psychology.
- Number of majors: 404 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in psychology
- Projected job growth rate: 19%
- Average salary: $72,580
- Acquired skills: Communication and observation skills, analytical and research abilities, problem-solving skills
Communications and Mass Media
Communications and mass media professionals, also called public relations executives, are responsible for maintaining a positive image of their clients in the press and to the public. An online communications degree is one of the best options for college students interested in combining creative business, marketing, journalism, and people skills in a variety of media-driven positions for diverse clients nationwide.
- Number of majors: students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in communications and mass media
- Projected job growth rate: 7%
- Average salary: $56,770
- Acquired skills: Writing, public speaking, interpersonal skills, research
Marketing and Marketing Research
Among the most competitive majors, marketing and market research professionals utilize a range of mediums to create interest in their products and services, from traditional print to more contemporary multimedia devices. With the advent of social media, marketing is quickly becoming known as one of the best online degree programs for the increasingly global market of branding and advertising possibilities. Marketing degrees include a range of areas of specialization, in areas such as sports marketing, retail, real estate and more.
- Number of majors: 315 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in marketing and market research
- Projected job growth rate: 9%
- Average salary: $128,750
- Acquired skills: Communications, journalism, finance, design, sales, computer and internet skills
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While many students pursuing a degree in education will go on to become teachers, the major is also one of the best degrees to get online for preparing candidates for related service occupations, including as community leaders and education advocates. All educators in the public school system must have licensure; students are typically also required to gain extensive field experience while earning their degree. Students who earn an online education degree will likely choose a specialization in a particular type of education, academic subject, or age group.
- Number of majors: 287 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in general education
- Projected job growth rate: 7%
- Average salary: $57,200
- Acquired skills: Communication skills, curriculum development, problem-solving, counseling
A common concentration under the umbrella of general education, elementary educators are charged with teaching basic academics, such as math and reading, to kindergarten age to eight-year-old students in elementary classrooms. Elementary education is one of the best online bachelor's degree programs for those interested in teaching young children, but practical in-classroom training is also typically required, as well as state licensure. This allows graduates to practice in most public institutions; private schools and learning facilities uphold their own individual requirements for employment.
- Number of majors: 279 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in elementary education
- Projected job growth rate: 7%
- Average salary: $54,890
- Acquired skills: Communication skills, early-childhood development, lesson planning, problem-solving, knowledge of basic academic subjects
English Language and Literature
English language and literature is one of the best online degrees for students interested in a major that could lead to many diverse career options. English has broad applications spanning the fields of communications, advertising, and education. With an in-depth degree in English language and literature, graduates may choose to pursue a career as an author or writer for books, films, or blogs; they are also qualified to become English teachers, and can also pursue a particular concentration, such as professional/media writing, creative writing, or cultural studies.
- Number of majors: 251 students out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in English language and literature
- Projected job growth rate: 7%
- Average salary: $60,250
- Acquired skills: English writing and speaking, linguistics, knowledge of early to contemporary English literature, computer and internet skills
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Mechanical engineering is one of the best online degree programs for those who want to develop cutting-edge products and items. These professionals are tasked with solving many of the challenges that are a part of daily life in areas ranging from energy and the environment to transportation and human health. Students receive a broad foundational education that includes a variety of scientific and engineering topics and emphasizes their application in real-world contexts.
- Number of majors: 34,251 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral mechanical engineering students in 2014-2015, according to ASEE
- Projected job growth rate: 5%
- Average salary: $68,794
- Acquired skills: Creativity, critical thinking, innovativeness, problem-solving, communication skills.
The liberal arts degree is one of the most flexible baccalaureate programs because it incorporates a diverse range of subjects, such as English, philosophy, the humanities, and other social sciences. This is one of the best online degree programs because it provides students with a comprehensive education that develops their understanding of different cultures and competencies that employers value, such as problem solving, analytical reasoning, information literacy, and research and analysis. A liberal arts degree prepares students for a wide variety of entry-level careers in journalism, marketing, education, administration, and sales. They are also prepared to continue their education in graduate school.
- Number of majors: 162 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in liberal arts
- Projected job growth rate: N/A
- Average salary: N/A
- Acquired skills: Problem-solving, critical thinking, analytical reasoning, information literacy, research and analysis.
A biology degree is the perfect choice for those who want to study living organisms and the systems they live in. Students may choose to specialize in one of a variety of subfields in biology, such as plant, marine, cell, or evolutionary. The most successful students have an aptitude for math and chemistry, as well as an intellectual curiosity and a desire to work in a lab environment.
- Number of majors: 206 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in biology
- Projected job growth rate: 4%
- Average salary: $53,420
- Acquired skills: Scientific ability, attention to detail, research and documentation, inquisitive and observational, analytical, critical thinking, problem-solving
Electrical engineers are responsible for designing, developing, and testing electronic equipment like motors and systems, including those in signal processing and communications. They are behind some of the most innovative technological breakthroughs and work in sectors that include research and development, manufacturing, engineering, and telecommunications. This is one of the best online degrees in engineering because many core subjects in the field, such as electronics, signals and systems, electromagnetics, and semiconductor devices, can be studied entirely online or with limited campus visits.
- Number of majors: 168 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in electrical engineering
- Projected job growth rate: 0% little to no change
- Average salary: $72,602
- Acquired skills: Scientific ability, instrumentation and electrical measurements, programming languages, research and documentation, innovative thinking, problem-solving
Criminal justice continues to garner a great deal of interest amongst students, due in part to television programs like police dramas and those that covers certain aspects of the field such as forensic science. Students in criminal justice degree programs learn about law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. This is one of the best online degrees for those interested in careers in law enforcement, criminology, forensic science and more.
- Number of majors: 219 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in criminal justice
- Projected job growth rate: Police Officer, 4%
- Average salary: Police officer, $50,980
- Acquired skills: Communication, investigative, research, critical thinking, use of technology, deductive reasoning, statistical analysis
Business organizations always have a demand for professionals with the analytical and problem-solving skills needed to address the economic challenges of the day. Those with an economics degree can leverage their abilities to forecast market trends, determine the prices for goods and services, and collect and analyze data to gain employment in almost any business sector. This is one of the best online degree programs because it teaches students how to master statistical techniques, mathematical models, and programming skills that are used in the professional world.
- Number of majors: 186 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in economics
- Projected job growth rate: 6%
- Average salary: $71,670
- Acquired skills: Analytical, critical thinking, math, statistical analysis, research, computer programs for modelling
Sociology and Social Sciences
Sociology programs emphasize the study of human behavior, social groups, and their societal impacts. Sociologists conduct research that is used by educators, lawmakers, administrators, and others to help solve problems afflicting society and as foundational information in policymaking. This is one of the best online bachelor's degree programs because it offers a wide variety of concentrations, including health and medicine, law and society, global and international studies, and families and population. Graduates are prepared for careers in the public and private sectors.
- Number of majors: 158 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in sociology and sociological sciences
- Projected job growth rate: -1%, little or no change
- Average salary: $49,435
- Acquired skills: Critical thinking, observational, analytical, communication, writing, statistical analysis, research
Computer science is a diverse field that has many different paths for students to choose from in all parts of the technology industry. The demand for optimized systems, and talented professionals who know how to operate and maintain them, will continue to grow as technology continues to advance. Computer scientists with specialization in areas such as security and assurance, AI, advanced programming, and computer architecture are particularly sought after by many large technology companies. Many schools offer computer sciences programs that are offered entirely online, making it one of the best online degree programs for distance learners.
- Number of majors: 243 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in computer science
- Projected job growth rate: -8%
- Average salary: $74,658
- Acquired skills: Math, programming, analytical, critical thinking, logical thinking for computer algorithms
Students from online history programs can leverage their versatile degrees into careers in fields such as journalism, politics, business, and education. This is one of the best degrees to get online because of its diverse applicability, allowing students to specialize their studies in concentrations like American history, European history, Roman civilization, Russia, or the Middle East. Many students choose to continue their education in graduate school, where they can earn a master's degree or even continue on to a doctoral program.
- Number of majors: 164 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in history
- Projected job growth rate: 2%
- Average salary: $43,304
- Acquired skills: Research, analytical, writing, problem-solving, critical thinking
Political science is one of the best online degrees to get for those who love to immerse themselves in political systems. One of the benefits of a political science degree is that it prepares students for a number of careers outside of the discipline. Some graduates enter law school, while others pursue careers in public relations, journalism, public administration, business, teaching, the military, or public office. Many schools offer a variety of concentrations, such as political theory, comparative politics, and justice and the law. These concentrations allow students to customize their degree based on their long-term career goals.
- Number of majors: 189 out of every 10,000 college students are majoring in political science
- Projected job growth rate: -2%
- Average salary: $50,444
- Acquired skills: Research, analytical, writing, problem-solving, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, debating, polling