What Are the Most Common Distance Learning Degree Programs?

Distance learning degree programs provide educational opportunities to students who cannot attend school in a traditional campus setting. Some common distance programs include accounting, business administration and information technology.

Distance Learning Described

Many colleges and universities, including profit, not-for-profit, 2-year and 4-year institutions, have distance learning programs. Distance learning programs offer the same range of degrees awarded at traditional campuses, including associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, and they often have identical curriculums to on-campus programs. Programs are typically taught through online course management systems. Programs vary by school, although several degree programs stand out as more commonly found at distance learning schools than others.

Important Facts About Distance Learning Degree Programs

  • 6% of undergraduates earned a degree entirely online in 2012, and 18% of graduate students completed a degree fully online.
  • Students over 30 made up the majority of distance education learners, with over 40% taking online courses; 13% earned an undergrad degree fully online, and 25% earned a graduate degree in 2012.
  • Approximately 170,000 undergraduate degrees and 230,000 graduate degrees were awarded for distance learning programs in 2012.
  • Online degree programs can be accredited by national, regional, field-specific and distance-only accrediting agencies.


Accounting programs prepare students to enter a robust industry, readying them for work in public, corporate and government spheres. Students can earn associate, bachelor's and master's degree in accounting through distance learning programs. Besides basic accounting courses, curriculums often require classes on economics, statistics and business studies. Graduates find work as tax consultants, financial analysts, international accountants and forensic accountants.

Business Administration

A common business administration degree is the Master of Business Administration, but bachelor's and associate degrees may also be available online. Business administration programs often have theoretical and hands-on coursework. Usually, students majoring in business administration must choose a specialized concentration, such as finance, marketing or management. Graduates can work in many industries.

Information Technology

Information technology programs help students develop the skills needed to build, operate and maintain technology. Like business administration, IT programs frequently require students to specialize in a given area, such as security management, software application programming, or web development. Some programs include business studies in addition to technology coursework. Students in online information technology degree programs may be required to purchase specialized software.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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