Have you ever wondered just how popular online courses are? Or what online course topics are the most popular?
If you're planning on starting a small business and are looking for a profitable online course idea then this research study is for you.
This case study aims to shed some light on which online learning topics are the most searched for. There is a big list of courses here, all organized by industry and it's not just based on ideas, but on actual data. This study aims to help course creators decide from a big list of the top searched for course topics.
How the Study was Conducted
I found key phrase searches with the terms, ‘online course’ and ‘online courses’ using a popular keyword tool.
The searches were limited to those with 200 monthly search volume or more in the U.S. There were 1,000 searches in total to sift through.
Many of the searches ended up being for the same type of online course.
For example, ‘accounting courses online’ vs ‘online accounting courses’. When I encountered key phrases like that I combined the search volume.
In the end, after sorting through the 1,000 top searches, I was left with right around 300 different online course searches.
Top 50 Online Course Key Phrase Searches
The chart below lists out the top 50 online course key phrases from my research.
The column on the left is the key phrase. In instances where multiple, similar key phrases were combined together, it’s the key phrase with the highest search volume. The column on the right is the average monthly number of searches in the U.S.
Here are the top 50 searches for online courses:
Breakdown of the Top 5 Online Course Searches
I'll go through the top 5 online course searches here …
#1 Defensive Driving Online Courses (40,300)
Defensive driving online courses with an estimated 40,300 monthly searches online were the most searched for online courses.
I would have never guessed that one, but when reviewing a little more of what it’s about I see that you can get a reduction in your insurance rate for taking online classes like these. Some of these courses count for motor vehicle point reduction or ticket dismissals. One site even makes a claim that if you take their course they’ll pay up to $250 for your ticket if it’s not dismissed.
So sweet … getting lower insurance sounds good. Now that I know about that, I may sign up for one.
#2 Online Accounting Courses (13,300)
OK, this one wasn’t a big surprise as accounting is a popular career field to get into. Accounting pays decent wages at right around $70,000 per year, only requires a Bachelor’s degree, and has a huge number of jobs with a faster than average job outlook.
In addition to just those thinking about a career as an accountant, there may be other people searching for this because they’d like to learn more about doing their own taxes. I didn’t think it was popular enough to make #2 on the list but would have expected it within the top 20.
#3 Online Programming Courses (11,200)
Another online course search that makes sense is online programming and/or coding courses.
Software development is a huge business so seeing 11,200 monthly searches on this topic is not a surprise. Plus there are a lot of specific types of programming courses searched for if you go through the list.
Creating a business around online programming courses is a big win. You can attract a large potential audience around this market and help people learn a new skill.
#4 Online Statistics Course (9,900)
Who knew statistics would be such a big hit? I sure didn’t.
I still don’t know why statistics has so many searches per month (9,900 to be exact). My guess is a lot of people need to pass statistics for college credit.
#5 Online Driving Course (9,850)
Similar to defensive driving is searches for online driving courses. I put these in a different category since they're not as targeted.
Related searches were for safety courses and online driver education. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d prefer High School students to learn how to drive in real life and not online, but it’s got 9,850 searches per month.
Here are a couple of additional facts to notice.
Even at the bottom of the top 50 chart, we’re still well above over 1,000 monthly searches for each type of online course. Online courses are popular.
A lot of the searches have the word “free” in the search. This doesn’t mean you'll never get sales if you offer a paid course on that topic. You can always offer a shorter, free version of your course, and then offer an upgrade with more complete content. People love to search for free stuff online. We all want everything for free if we can get it.
Next, I broke down the different topics.
There are still many searches that didn’t make it into a category, but when there’s a lot of the same type of course being searched for, I think it’s useful to pull them out.
Here are the different course topics …
Top Language Online Course Searches
A lot of searchers are interested in learning a new language as shown in the chart below:
Online Spanish courses (5,900), general searches for online language courses (4,650), English courses online (3,450) make the top of the list.
Top Programming Online Course Searches
Another course topic that really popped out is computer courses. Some of the searches were very general, others very specific. Here's the chart …
As you can see, searches for online python courses (4,900) are high. Online programming/coding courses (11,200), free online computer courses (4,700), and online computer science courses (2,850) are all kept separate and rank near the top. IT courses online (3,100), Java online courses (1,950), and C++ online courses (1,550) are ranked very highly as well.
Although they aren't represented here in the most popular courses list, I'd imagine data science and machine learning courses will start trending in this industry.
If you do a Google search on any of these key phrases, you’ll mostly see actual courses on the top of the results pages. If you offer a professional online course for programming, it’ll likely do well as long as you can get traffic to your site.
Top Test Prep Online Course Searches
I was surprised how low down the list I had to go before I got to any test prep searches. This is probably due to the fact that my target keywords were limited to ‘online course' and ‘online courses' searches only.
Many people looking for a test prep program might type in ‘review course’, ‘study program', ‘prep course’ or even ‘online training’ when searching for these types of courses.
Online GED courses (2,850) came up at the top of the list. Online SAT prep course (1,200) and GRE prep course online (1,100) are both very high on the list as well. You’d really have to add in more key terms to get a good representation of which test prep options people are actually searching for the most.
Top Design Profession Online Course Searches
As you can see from the chart below there are a lot of professional design searches.
Online graphic design courses (7,450), online interior design courses (4,750), and online web design courses (3,350) make the top of the list. These get a high volume of monthly searches.
Top Medical Profession Online Course Searches
My guess was that nursing courses would top the list, but again, the study was limited to only online course/online courses searches. As you can see from the chart below, there are a lot of different health professionals searching for online courses.
Online course for medical coding and billing (8,100) tops the list while medical terminology online courses (5,400) come in second. Online EMT/paramedic courses (2,100) rank third and online CPR courses (1,500) rank fourth.
Top Misc Profession Online Course Searches
The chart below offers just a sample of the different types of miscellaneous courses searched for.
As you can see, online real estate courses (9,800) tops the list. A Google search reveals the results pages include mostly a list of actual courses to become a realtor. Next up is online babysitting course (3,850) which is probably popular with the young adult/teenage crowd as with most of these courses the student will get a certification which might help them get more babysitting jobs.
FEMA online courses (1,900) is third on the list. FEMA, or Federal Emergency Management Agency offers courses through the EMI or Emergency Management Institute. I had no idea what that was or that it would make the top of an online course search list.
Top Science Online Course Searches
People are definitely searching for science-related online courses as shown by the chart below …
Anatomy and physiology online course (3,500) searches get a lot of traction online. as well as online physics courses (3,100), and online biochemistry courses (2,350). College students are probably searching for these to fulfill part of their course requirements or to get into a specific degree (like nursing or medical school).
Top Math Online Course Searches
In addition to searches for online science courses, people are searching for online math courses. Here's a chart showing the monthly search volume for the top key phrases …
Again, online statistics courses (9,900) rank high and are at the top of this list. It's searched for nearly twice as often as the next online math course search which is the general ‘online math courses' (5,950). Third in popularity are searches for online calculus courses (4,500).
I hope this helps you see the potential with online courses and start or grow your own online course business.
With all keyword research tools, there are limitations to the results, but this study gives you a good idea of the most popular online course search terms.
As you can see, people are searching for online course-related key phrases at a high rate.
If you're researching markets to get into, then you can use the list above to help you get started. In addition to searching for ‘online course’ and ‘online courses’ you'll want to type in many other related phrases like ‘training' ‘prep', ‘study', and more.