Demographics of an Online Learner
Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of adults pursuing higher education degrees online. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed students of all ages out of the classroom and onto computers, but once campuses reopened, many college students chose to remain learning online. Adults are increasingly turning to online degree programs as a convenient pathway to personal and professional advancement. This trend not only reflects the evolving landscape of education; it underscores the adaptability of adult learners, who are embracing digital platforms to earn a degree while managing work, family, and other commitments. Recent research provides insights into the demographics of today’s online learners.
- Age. The average age of an online student pursuing a bachelor’s degree is 30.5, but 21% of students enrolled in an online bachelor’s degree program are between the ages of 18 and 24, which is the typical age range of students who attend college directly after high school. Thirty-nine percent of students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program online in 2022 were in their 30s. But people of all ages are pursing online degrees, and 27% are age 40 or older.1
- Motivation. In a 2023 study, 82% of students enrolled in an online degree program agreed or strongly agreed that their degree would be very important in achieving their career goals. Of the survey respondents who had graduated within the past year, 92% said that their online degree had already provided tangible value. Specifically, 45% said they’d received a salary increase and 28% had earned a promotion. Thirty-two percent noted that their confidence in the workplace had increased.2
- Degree. The top three fields that online college students chose to study in 2022 were:
- Business: 25% of undergraduate and 27% of graduate students.
- Computers and information technology (IT): 18% of undergraduate and 30% of graduate students.
- Health, nursing, and medicine: 17% of undergraduate and 12% of graduate students.3
- Employment. Most online college students work: 64% of undergraduate students work full time and 17% work part time, while 74% of graduate students work full time and 13% work part time.1
- Income. Nineteen percent of online undergraduate students made less than $25,000 annually. Eleven percent of online graduate students made less than $25,000 annually, while eleven percent earned $70,000–$84,999 annually.1
- Generation. More than one-third of online degree students are first-generation learners, meaning they are the first in their family to attend college.2
- Gender. For years, college students (both online and on campus) were predominantly female, but over the past 10 years, enrollment has started to become more evenly split between female and male students. In 2022, online undergraduate students were 45% male, 53% female, and 1% nonbinary. The same year, online graduate students were 56% male, 43% female, and 1% nonbinary.1
Whether you’re a first-generation learner, a recent high school graduate, or a career-changer in your 50s, online degree programs offer a convenient learning platform that can empower you to continue working full time or part time while you earn a degree. The most difficult part of returning to school might be picking an online university!
Walden University is a leader in adult education and has been providing distance education for more than 50 years. Walden, an accredited institution, is renowned for its commitment to offering high-quality online education and making it accessible to a diverse range of students, particularly those with busy schedules and personal and professional commitments. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree program online.
Walden’s faculty members are experts in their respective fields, which ensures that students receive relevant education and real-world guidance. Walden's emphasis on social change attracts students from all over the world who seek to make positive changes in their communities and in their fields. The university's global network of alumni and its strong connections in various industries provide valuable networking opportunities for students. Walden is an excellent choice for adult learners who want to earn a degree online and make a positive impact in the world.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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