Study: Business Most Popular Field of Study Among Online Students

A new report reveals the motivations of current or prospective online education students.

A recent study reveals that business is the most popular field of study for undergraduate and graduate online students.
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One out of every three students who enroll in an online education program study business, according to a recent report about online students in 2012 by The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research, which included survey responses from 1,500 current and prospective online students nationwide.

Thirty-four percent of survey respondents reported that they're studying or plan to study in the field of business; and fields of study in health professions and social sciences rounded out the top three most popular areas with 16 percent of online students currently studying or planning to study in each discipline.

[See why top MBA programs are embracing online education.]

This trend is consistent in traditional U.S. higher education as well, with subjects in the business field accounting for roughly 20 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded annually—making it the nation's most popular field of study.

More than 90 percent of online students noted that their primary motivation for joining an online program involved their careers: 46 percent reported that their motivation was to advance in their current career, while 29 percent hoped to change careers.

"Changes in people's careers most often directed them to further education," the study's authors write. "Failing to rise to the next level or increase income drives many people back to school to gain the credentials they need to succeed."

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Online students are also motivated to consider online programs or institutions that have a nearby campus or service center, according to the report. In fact, about 80 percent of online students reside within 100 miles of a campus or service center of the program they attend.

"Online students seriously consider physical location when selecting an institution," the report's authors write. "Institutions that offer online programs should promote their programs to local residents within 100 miles of campus."

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