Looking for a profitable online course idea? Finding the most popular online course topics is a crucial first step to making money online. In this post, we'll share a profitable niches list with 15 best niches for online courses in 2020 (and how to find yours).
If you're looking to make money online in 2020, you're probably thinking about selling an online course.
The fact is, online courses are the way of the future– and they are growing at an incredible rate.
In a survey conducted by BestColleges.com, 79% of online students find online learning to be “better than” or “equal to” in comparison to in-school education, a sentiment shared by an estimated 57% of the schools.
In fact, the e-learning industry is projected to hit $325 billion by 2025. That's triple the revenue of 2015!
Among the top goals of people diving into online learning is to change careers or acquire “academic credentials” in their field of employment. But people of all walks of life are looking to online courses to acquire all sorts of new skills.
So how do you choose the best online course topic for you?
To help you uncover the most profitable online course idea, we've compiled this list of profitable niches.
In the list, we've included the most popular online course topics, plus profitable niches with low competition. Then, we'll show you how to choose the niche that is best for you (and actually fun to create).
Ready to find your online course topic?
Here is a list of the top 15 categories of online course topics for 2020.
Keep in mind that these are general topics. For your course to really stand out among the competition and be successful, we recommend getting even more specific with your course topic by defining your audience.
In other words, don't create your course for anyone and everyone. Think about who you can serve best, and tailor your course specifically to them.
So for example, instead of creating a general course on "search engine marketing", you will want to narrow down that topic further by defining the audience. A course on "search engine marketing for bloggers" will be totally different than a course on "search engine marketing for content marketers", because those two audiences will have different needs for what needs to be taught, and how it needs to be taught.
With that said, let's dive in to the profitable niches list...
In this technology-driven age, it becomes necessary to understand and be proficient in using technology in its numerous forms. Technology is not only a tool to enhance and improve our day to day tasks, but also an avenue to build businesses and other sources of income.
For example, you could create an online course about:
Today there is a big demand for courses dedicated to monetizing your hobbies. That is, earning money from doing something you enjoy.
These topics that combine hobbies with business and entrepreneurship are highly sought after, especially with the continued rise in the market for freelancers and startups.
For example, you could create an online course about...
With eCommerce websites such as Etsy and Amazon, everyone with the skills to sell something can. With courses dedicated to providing knowledge and skills in arts and crafts, students are able to tap into another entrepreneurial venture.
These courses also provide house-bound individuals such as stay-at-home moms or dads, freelancers, young entrepreneurs, artists, and individuals that are looking for an alternative source of income that does not hinder their major day-to-day activities. These courses also tend to be fun to do.
Such courses require artistic flair, but also understandable enough for those not quite as learned on the topic as others. Interactive projects and linkage towards commercial production can also help engage students and assure them that these projects are not just for the art itself but can also be a business.
Some course ideas include...
People have become very health conscious over the past few years, and there is a continuously rising volume of health-centric information and media available on the internet.
People are now more knowledgeable, or at least aware, of the effects of food, lifestyle, and consumption on the human body. Also, with the increase in the number of individuals having some type of health-related illnesses due to poor health decisions, many people are now more pro-active in improving their health.
Online courses detailing the process and effects of various types of diet, exercises, healthy lifestyles, and better health decision are in demand. These courses usually take on a lot more research and scientifically-backed processes and information. The more reliable and well-researched the course, the more reliable it would be for the student. However, the format and content should still be relatable for less-scientifically inclined students.
For example, you could create a course about...
In connection to health-related online courses, fitness courses are also very popular.
These courses tend to focus walking its students through detailed processes for diet regimens, exercises, and other physical activities. Fitness courses are also very interactive and physical... some even gamify the process for its students, providing affirmation or rewards for milestones achieved.
Fitness is important in improving an individual physically and can positively impact personal mindset and emotional state. Which is why it is good if you can show that you are a trained professional, certified, accredited, or otherwise a reliable source of information.
Some examples include...
Online courses not only provide industry-specific learning but also topics on education itself. eLearning courses covering the various modes and methods of learning and teaching are also in-demand.
With globalization, learning is no longer limited to what was taught in formal education, it has gone over to cover interdisciplinary and cross-platform teaching and learning methods.
Teaching is no longer just for teachers, now it is for everyone who has the willingness and capacity to impart knowledge. Courses providing knowledge on the different ways of learning and teaching can help professionals build their capacity, and build the skills of their colleagues as well. These courses also provide more perspective on the kind of education there is in different parts of the world.
Here are a few ideas...
With content development being a large contributor to online media, more people are building their skills in this area.
Examples of course topics falling under this category include...
Personal development has become a highly popular online course topic. With the fast pace of today’s society, people have shown to be struggling with the constant need to be better and do more.
With personal development courses, individuals gain an understanding of how to address their day-to-day challenges, lower stress, and build important skills to live a happier life.
Here are some examples...
Coming of age categories typically cover topics relevant to teens and young adults, but the same topics can also be tailored to older adults who are changing careers.
Topics in demand focus on the transition to adulthood, handling more responsibilities in the different aspects of life, young entrepreneurship, distinguishing the effects of choosing between career and further education, establishing a more mature online presence, or simply guides on how to find passions.
These courses aim to help young individuals find the direction that they want to take as they mature and go further into the world. Which is why it would be most helpful to have content that is more age appropriate. To that end, there is a need for courses that are concise but still informative, as well as interactive, entertaining, and including practical applications.
Some examples of online course topics include...
Entertainment is no longer just for pure consumption. In today’s digital community, people are now moving towards creating their own version of entertainment.
With a large number of Youtube video stars attaining actual careers from the creation and dissemination of their form of entertainment, it is no wonder that more people are enthusiastic about learning how to create such media.
Entertainment is no longer limited to the television screen. With social media platforms and video hosting sites, everyone can post any form of entertainment. Courses offering knowledge on all aspects of video production and distribution, as well as establishing an online entertainment presence on platforms such as Youtube are just some of the topics that can be covered under this category of online courses.
Here are some course topic ideas...
With the current political climate in some parts of the world, people are now prompted to learn more about the ins-and-outs of politics, as well as the ramifications of current political actions. Topics in politics can cover in-depth discussions on the different forms of government, the impact of laws or bills that are being passed, and the global impact of major political maneuvers.
Topics covering politics require extensive research and impartiality, as well as a certain level of interactivity to promote critical thinking and discussion.
Some course ideas include...
With people mostly being more community-oriented in their interactions both online and in real life, social science topics become more relevant.
Social science topics can aim to help people develop or enhance communication, be it at work, online, school, or home life. Social science topics can also help provide a perspective on how society and communities work.
These courses require extensive research and a reflective approach, providing students points to ponder or reflect on.
Here are some topic ideas...
With the advancement of science, formerly complex topics are now learned at a young age. Online courses provide people with access to a wide array of science topics, leading to a greater appreciation of the world.
The way to teach science can vary from topic to topic. As a general rule, however, you should make sure that the content is relatable and interactive.
Here are some examples of course topics...
Math is no longer boring (although it can still be complicated at times). Now, math is everywhere and is applied to everything that we do, from buying groceries, to cooking, to managing your finances.
Because of how incorporated math is in our day-to-day, online courses aim to demystify math and provide a more relatable way for anyone to learn.
Math today is also heavily connected to the computing tools that we use every day. Our devices apply various forms of math to execute the tasks set out, which is why some math topics are paired with technology courses.
To make math more enjoyable (or at least bearable), an interactive format of teaching can help, as well as including plenty of real life examples or problems.
Online course topics may include...
Courses on lifestyle are diverse and revolve around travel, beauty, home improvement, food, etc. The possibilities are really limitless!
When creating online courses under this category, making use of personal accounts and reflection will help readers to relate and understand your material better.
Here are a few ideas for online courses...
OK, now that you have plenty of ideas for popular online courses, how do you pick the right topic for you?
So much effort goes into creating your own online course, so it's really important that you enjoy what you are teaching. While it's critical to choose a course topic that is going to be popular (that is, if you want to make money!), you also do not want to sacrifice your sanity or staying power.
Here are some essential points that you need to know in order to pick a fun online course idea that you can really run with!
Getting clear on the things or activities that you are passionate about can provide a guide as to what topics you are the most interested and invested in.
Being passionate about your work will definitely make your online courses less of a chore and more of a passion project, which will translate into better interaction and engagement with your audience. The more enthusiastic you are about your course, the better it will sell!
To brainstorm ideas, make a list of all the things that you enjoy doing. What do you like learning about? What do you do for fun? What parts of your job feel like "play" rather than "work"? Jot everything down on a sheet of paper, and don't worry yet about whether it would be a good idea for an online course just yet.
To supplement your passion, you should also know where your strengths lie.
If you are passionate about content development but have difficulty with writing content, it might not be the best course for you to teach.
That's not to say that you can't teach on a topic that you are just learning about yourself. You really only need to be one step ahead of your students in order to teach an online course.
However, knowing your passion and comparing it with your strengths will help you to find the sweet spot where you are highly interested in a topic and have the necessary skills to provide excellent training.
Go ahead and make a list of all the things you are good at. If you are struggling with this (let's face it, most of us have trouble identifying our own skills!), ask your friends and family to tell you what they think you are good at. You can also write down anything that people ask you for help with– these are usually the skills that you take for granted, but everyone else wishes they had (a.k.a. perfect topics for an online course!).
How much are you willing to risk in this venture? That should be a question that is answered early on.
Now you know the topics that you are passionate about, and where your strength lies. You need to decide on how ready are you to risk executing your vision.
The good news is, an online education business is FAR less risky to start up than most other businesses. That's because the costs are extremely low, and in most cases you can bootstrap your business without the need for investors or borrowing money.
Still, you'll need to ask yourself what is your budget for launching your online course? How much money do you have to spend on an online training platform, recording equipment and software, marketing tools, educating yourself, etc.? Define your budget and write it down now.
We mentioned this earlier, but it's such an important point that it's worth going into more depth.
Having a defined target audience (knowing their demographics, socio-economic status, psychographics, etc.) will be instrumental in building a profitable online course. That's because you'll know exactly what your target audience is in need of, and how to market your course to them.
Based on your identified passion and strengths, determine the type of individuals that will have a great experience if they were to enroll in your course. You should also ask yourself, who do I want to help?
Once you have an idea of who you want to serve, go ahead and create an ideal student avatar. A student avatar is a fictional (but realistic) persona who represents your ideal student. To help you with these, we created an easy, fill-in-the-blanks student avatar template (click to download it FREE).
Armed with the knowledge of your passion, strength, and target audience, now you need to identify which market or niche you best fit.
This is where we put all the puzzle pieces together!
For example, let's say you have identified that you are passionate about photography and digital marketing, and you have amassed quite the following on Instagram... in fact, one of your friends recently asked you to help them grow their followers. You know you want to help young adults and entrepreneurs. You've also looked through the list of top online course niches above and discovered that marketing is a popular topic. So, putting all the puzzle pieces together, you decide to create a course for millennial entrepreneurs on how to post beautiful photos on Instagram and grow their following.
Now it's your turn: which topic or topics make the most sense for you? (Bonus tip: if you are struggling to narrow it down to just one topic, take another look at the list of niches above to determine which topic is likely to be the most popular and/or be the most untapped market.)
Now it's time to choose a platform to create and sell your online course.
There are so many eLearning platforms available, such as Lynda, Udemy, Coursera, EdX, in the market today. However, we don't recommend any of those if you are serious about making money online.
If you really want to create a profitable online course, you need to host it on a platform where you have complete ownership and control. This way, you'll have complete control over the pricing, marketing, etc. and you don't have to share the profits with anyone else.
To learn more, check out our guide on 21 Best Online Learning Platforms to Create & Sell Your Course.
This step is important.
The fact of the matter is, you aren't likely to hit it out of the park unless you remain adaptable. You'll need to constantly listen to your students and change your course as needed in order to give them exactly what they want.
Remember: it's not about YOU. It's about THEM.
Plus, you'll need to adapt to changes in your industry. Constantly learning yourself and keeping up with the times (and your target audience) will ensure sustainability for your online education business, and strengthen your presence in your chosen niche.
One of the best things that you can do right now is to launch your course to a beta group before doing a major launch. This will allow you to test it out on a few people so that the course can be tweaked prior to it's official release.
Once you're ready, you can find 7 easy steps to create & market your first online course here.
Learning has evolved from the traditional classroom setting and has expanded to digital platforms at a very fast rate. Online courses are now in-demand and will be around for a very long time to come.
In other words, this industry is not going away any time soon!
When choosing a profitable niche for your online course, there are a few essential points you need to remember:
What will your online course topic be? Let us know in the comments!
Anastasia Stefanuk is a passionate writer and a marketing manager at Mobilunity. The company provides professional staffing services, so she is always aware of technology news and wants to share her experience to help tech startups and companies to be up-to-date.
These are powerful techniques that I've used to help grow 7- and 8-figure online businesses– and they can work for you, too.