The Future of Student Demand: Google Searches Reveal Shifting Trends

April 11, 2024

An analysis of Google keyword search volumes for academic programs gives a glimpse of the future. Students usually search for programs while they are making decisions about enrolling in a particular major. This reveals not only the consistently popular fields of study but also highlights those experiencing rapid growth.

Most Popular Programs by Google Search

Between January 2023 and 2024, the 10 programs with the highest volume of Google searches were pretty consistent. Registered Nursing was the most searched in both years, with programs in Business Administration, Cosmetology, and Surgical Tech also in high demand. There are some differences — in January 2024, Aesthetician programs had 383,000 searches, cementing their place in the top 10.

Top 10 Highest Google Search Volumes (January 2023)

Top 10 Highest Google Search Volumes (January 2024)

Source: PES Keyword Search Dashboard

Fastest-Growing Programs by Google Search

The programs with the fastest growth in Google search volume tell a very different story. Almost none of the programs with the highest search volume were among the fastest-growing programs. Aesthetician programs are a notable exception, as Google searches for these programs increased by 32 percent in 2024.

Top 10 Fastest-Growing Program Searches (YoY January 2023)

Top 10 Fastest-Growing Program Searches (YOY January 2024)

Source: PES Keyword Search Dashboard

*Minimum 10,000 searches prior year

Fastest-Growing Programs in a Shorter Period

Even over a shorter period of time, Google search data can be volatile. The fastest-growing program searches were even more different from July 2023 to January 2024 (six-month average) than year-over-year. While some programs, such as Advertising and Divinity/Ministry, grew substantially over the six-month period as well as year-over-year, others only show up in the analysis of monthly growth. For instance, Physics was third in fastest-growing keyword searches between July and January, but didn’t make the top 10 year-over-year.

Top 10 fastest-Growing Google Program Searches (Average Monthly Growth, July 2023 to January 2024)

Source: PES Keyword Search Dashboard

*Minimum 10,000 searches July 2023

Because Google search growth is so volatile, it is important to observe trends over a longer period of time to determine which programs are growing in demand at a steady rate. Consistent growth, coupled with other metrics for student demand, such as enrollment and completion rates, can indicate strong demand for a program.

Regan O'Brien

Marketing Intern

About Gray DI

Gray DI provides data, software and facilitated processes that power higher-education decisions. Our data and AI insights inform program choices, optimize finances, and fuel growth in a challenging market – one data-informed decision at a time.

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