Selecting a major or field of study to pursue is a big part of college life. After all, it could very well dictate the career you pursue after graduation! It’s something that deserves plenty of thought. Some students know exactly what they want to study even before they apply to college. However, others may decide later on after they’ve taken a few college courses.
The most popular undergraduate majors are studied for a reason. Maybe it’s the career field, the average salary, or the projected job growth rate. In this article, we’ll cover exactly what the most popular undergraduate majors are and give you some advice on selecting your own area of study during college.
What Are the 10 Most Popular Majors?
Here are the 10 of the most popular undergraduate majors and fields of study, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Shocker…but not really. Business majors have been the most popular undergraduate degree options for what seems like forever. Like the health professions, business is a ridiculously diverse field with a multitude of focuses and job opportunities. Often seen as a lucrative field, it attracts many undergraduate students and even graduate students.
The NCES defines business as “business, management, marketing, and related support services, as well as personal and culinary services.” Students pursuing a bachelor’s program in business can choose from a multitude of areas of focus, from finance to marketing and more. Your business degree can come from finance majors, economics majors, and even accounting majors. It all depends on your career goals, passions, and interests!
There are about as many specialties within the healthcare field as there are stars in the sky, and these valuable degrees are looking to increase in the next decade. It is an incredibly diverse study, with just as many potential career paths for its students. Just because it’s one of the most common college majors doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of jobs to choose from.
From nursing to healthcare management and from dental to surgical, the choices are certainly endless. It’s important to note, like psychology, certain career paths will require further education and experience. For example, to become a fully licensed doctor, it can take up to 14 years to achieve!
They say those who don’t pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it, so it’s definitely an important field of study! Humans are social creatures by nature, and so studying relationships, networks, communities, and societies is just as imperative as remembering the histories of those who came before, so we can constantly work towards a better future for all.
Classes in both social sciences and history can vary greatly depending on your passions and areas of focus. Usually, you will take courses on specific periods, issues, cultures, historic preservation, public policy, recording, theories, and other related areas.
In recent years, engineering has shot up to be one of the most common majors in the United States among undergraduates. And there are a number of areas for students to study, from biochemical engineering to civil engineering and construction engineering to aerospace engineering.
Coursework in this popular college major really depends on your area of study, but careers in the field generally really require an aptitude for complex problem-solving, critical thinking skills, math, analytical skills, and judgment. And the careers for students with an engineering degree feature some high-paying jobs!
It comes as no surprise that biology and biomedical sciences would be one of the most popular college majors. As the studies of life as it relates to health and medicine, it is also a crucial part of our everyday lives. Bio and BioMed students can go on to advance the industry and save and improve lives in the process.
Undergraduate coursework can cover health, medicine, research, biomedical disciplines, and more. What you study really depends on your program and focus.
Currently the 6th most popular college major in the United States, psychology used to come in at number 4 between 2009 and 2016. Students who study psychology have a wealth of fields to enter, such as forensic or clinical psychology, and often go on to earn master’s or doctorate’s in the field – many jobs require it, in fact.
Classes can cover behavior (both individual and collective), bases of behavior, analysis of disorders, treatment, research, and more.
It should come as no surprise that computer science is a popular major among students, and it’s growing! From video game design to cybersecurity, there are plenty of areas of work under the information technology (IT) umbrella. And, especially with the recent surge of AI tools, the field will continue to grow for some time.
Students in these classrooms can learn everything from best security practices to improving hardware and designing software to creating video games. Quite a bit of the courses will be hands-on, too.
Another common major according to the NCES is communications and related fields. Popular subsets of this area of study include journalism, speech communication and rhetoric, and general communication. What you study under communications can vary quite a bit major to major, but generally, students will learn about public speaking, writing, digital communication, theory, strategy, business communications, and critical thinking.
From 2019 to 2020, there were over 85,000 bachelor’s degrees granted in education fields. Elementary education and teaching and early childhood education and teaching were the most popular among graduates, followed by physical education teaching and coaching and special education and teaching.
These classes prepare future teachers for lesson planning, coursework, class management, and more. Some states do require instructors to have more than a bachelor’s degree, however, so further education will be needed in these cases.
Art and Art studies were the most popular majors under visual and performing arts majors according to the NCES, followed by fine and studio arts and drama and theatre. In total, 2019 to 2020 saw over 92,000 degrees granted to those in visual and performing arts.
This area of study covers a wide range of majors, from drawing to acting, so the classroom experience will be different for everyone! The types of careers available, too, are endless.
Should You Study One of the Most Popular College Majors?
While the most popular college majors may seem like a safe bet in regard to your area of study, you should give plenty of thought to your decision. Your education and career shouldn’t be based on a, “Sure, that sounds fine.” Many of the areas of study listed above have a number of different pathways you can take. Business, for example, can lead to a career in finance, your very own business, or plenty of other jobs.
It’s important to think about what drives you. What are your passions? Your interests? Is there a way you can translate that to a career?
If you’re having trouble deciding, try:
- Talking to the people who know you best – friends and family. They can give you insight into yourself that you may have not known before.
- Meeting with your guidance counselor or college advisor. They can give you advice on majors, careers, job growth, and more.
- Shadowing a career field you’re interested in. Many of us have romantic notions of a number of fields, and often find out too late they’re not like the media portrays. Forensic science is one of those! CSI has given us a very different view of how the career works!
- Testing the waters. Many colleges don’t require you to declare a major immediately; you often have until sophomore year. You can try out various classes to see what strikes you.
- Using College Raptor’s Career Finder and Major Search tool. Both can give you in-depth information regarding expectations, skills, the best schools for your goals, job growth, and more.
Deciding on a major can be a big decision but knowing the most popular college majors may make your choice a little easier. Do any of the areas of study above drive you?
Interested in any of these majors? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to discover great schools that have programs!