10 Most Popular College Majors

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Learn about the most common college majors, including salaries and entry-level positions associated with each.

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The most popular college majors in the United States are business, health, and social sciences, according to data from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES). Of the 2 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in the US during the 2019-2020 school year, these three majors made up almost 40 percent. Moreover, these three areas of study have topped the list of most popular majors since 2010 [1].

This article details the top ten most popular majors according to NCES data. We also calculated the percentage of degrees conferred in each major and added median US salary data associated with each major, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [2].

Here’s a summary of what we found:

PopularityMajorTotal degreesPercentage of degreesMedian salary
1Business387,85119.0%$65,000
2Health257,28212.6%$63,000
3Social sciences and history161,1647.9%$64,000
4Engineering128,3326.3%$93,000
5Biological and biomedical sciences126,5906.2%$65,000
6Psychology119,9685.9%$50,000
7Computer and information sciences97,0474.8%$85,000
8Visual and performing arts92,3324.5%$42,000
9Communication and journalism91,7524.5%$54,000
10Education85,0574.2%$48,000
TotalAll majors2,038,431100.0%$60,000

Keep in mind that this list refers to the popularity of majors across all US institutions, but popularity levels may differ at individual schools. A major’s popularity at a specific school may be related to factors such as the strength of individual programs or the breadth of offerings. For example, business majors are likely to be the most popular at a business school, whereas psychology may top the list at a university with a distinguished psychology department.

Not sure what you should major in? Check out our guide to choosing a major, with reflective questions to ask yourself and important factors to consider as you choose the right path.

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Let’s take a closer look at each of these popular majors, as well as specialized majors included within each category and related entry-level jobs:

1. Business

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 19.0 percent

  • Median salary: $65,000

Business is the most common major, with nearly one-fifth of all bachelor’s degree recipients choosing this path. Business majors include several areas of study, such as business administration, management, and marketing. They tend to be in high demand among employers, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) [3].

Some entry-level jobs you may get with a business degree include administrative assistant, marketing coordinator, human resources assistant, sales representative, and business development associate.

Learn more: Is a Business Degree Worth It?

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2. Health

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 12.6 percent

  • Median salary: $63,000

Health majors are the second most popular for undergrads and can include nursing, public health, and health science. Many high-paying jobs in health care require credentials beyond a bachelor’s degree, such as a master’s or professional degree. However, it’s possible to start your career in health with a bachelor’s degree.

Some entry-level jobs include registered nurse, health care administrator, nutritionist, public health researcher, clinical lab technician, and exercise physiologist.

Learn more: Is Health Care a Good Career Path? Outlook, Jobs, and More

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3. Social sciences and history

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 7.9 percent

  • Median salary: $64,000

With a major in the social sciences, you’ll study societal systems: how they’re built, how they operate, and how people interact with them. These majors tend to be interdisciplinary—meaning they relate several areas of study—so students who pursue a social science major may develop strong transferable skills. Some examples of social science majors are anthropology, economics, environmental studies, political science, and sociology.

Some entry-level jobs for social science and history majors include legal assistant, economic analyst, market researcher, public policy analyst, and community health worker.

Learn more: Your Guide to Liberal Arts Majors

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4. Engineering

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 6.3 percent

  • Median salary: $93,000

Engineering majors design and build things. The specific things they build and the scale at which they build them depends on their discipline. Some popular engineering disciplines include electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, and computer engineering.

Entry-level engineering jobs are often titled "entry-level engineer" in their decided discipline, for example entry-level mechanical engineer or entry-level electrical engineer. They may also enter the workforce as an assistant, associate, or analyst.

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5. Biological and biomedical sciences

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 6.2 percent

  • Median salary: $65,000

Biological and biomedical science majors study living organisms. Some disciplines include biology, physiology, microbiology, and molecular biology. Biology is among the most common majors for students interested in pursuing a medical career, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges [4]. Many undergraduate biology students go on to pursue a doctoral or professional degree, later becoming medical scientists, physicians, pharmacists, or dentists.

Entry-level jobs associated with a biological or biomedical science degree include research assistant, nutritionist, medical writer, pharmaceutical sales representative, or laboratory technician.

Learn more: 16 Science Majors (and Related Careers) to Consider

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6. Psychology

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 5.9 percent

  • Median salary: $50,000

Psychology, the study of human behavior and mental processes, is technically a social science, but the popularity of the specialized major warrants its standalone categorization. (If we included psychology among the social science majors, then psychology majors alone would make up 45 percent of the category. Additionally, the social sciences category would rank second overall on this list.)

As a social science, psychology programs tend to nurture several desirable transferable skills, which could broaden career possibilities. Still, many psychology students go on to earn a master’s degree or more in order to pursue a career as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Some entry-level jobs you may pursue with a psychology degree include case manager, counselor, human resources coordinator, market researcher, and research assistant. 

Learn more: 11 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get with a Liberal Arts Degree 

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7. Computer and information sciences

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 4.8 percent

  • Median salary: $85,000

Computer and information science majors include computer science, computer information systems, and information technology. The popularity of computer and information sciences saw 8.7 percent growth year-over-year, the highest of all the majors on this list. (For context, the average growth across the most popular majors was 2.2 percent. Across all majors, the total number of degrees conferred grew by 1.2 percent year-over-year.) This major’s popularity has seen similarly exceptional growth over the past several years.

This increase in popularity could be related to employer demand. According to NACE, computer and information sciences sits just behind business as the most in-demand major among employers, and they stand to be among the highest paid graduates [3]. Some entry-level computer science jobs include computer support specialist, web developer, software developer, and information security analyst.

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8. Visual and performing arts

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 4.5 percent

  • Median salary: $42,000

Visual and performing arts majors can include graphic design, fine arts, theater, photography, and music. A bachelor’s degree isn’t always necessary to start a career in the arts. According to the BLS, about 21 percent of people who pursue a visual and performing arts major end up working in art, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations [5].

Still, a Bachelor of Fine Arts can enable you to practice your craft as you prepare for entry-level design positions such as graphic designer, photographer, user experience (UX) designer, studio assistant, or visual content producer.

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Visual Communication, Branding Communication, Graphic Design, Art History, Typography, Creativity, Graphics, Design Theory, Color Theory, Adobe Illustrator, History, Adobe Indesign, Art, Graphic Arts, Adobe Photoshop

9. Communication and journalism

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 4.5 percent

  • Median salary: $54,000

Communication majors focus on the various ways to share information. Common areas of study include general communications, journalism, and mass media.

Some entry-level jobs associated with a communication degree are social media coordinator, public relations specialist, marketing assistant, editorial assistant, reporter, and media planner.

Learn more: What Can You Do with a Communication Degree: 10 Career Paths

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10. Education

  • Percentage of degrees conferred: 4.2 percent

  • Median salary: $48,000

An education major prepares students to work in a school setting. Degree programs may focus on general education, or they may center on a specific type of student, such as early childhood education, elementary education, or special education. Most people who study education end up finding a job as a teacher, which often requires a teaching certification in addition to a bachelor’s degree. Some people may go on to pursue their master’s in education in order to qualify for administrative positions.

Some entry-level positions associated with an education degree include elementary, middle, or high school teacher, substitute teacher, school librarian, curriculum design specialist, and teaching assistant.

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Most in-demand majors

In addition to a major’s popularity, it may be worth considering a major’s demand among employers. According to NACE, three types of bachelor’s degree majors stand out: business, computer science, and engineering [3].

Specifically, here is their ranking for the most in-demand majors, as of their winter 2022 survey:

  1. Finance

  2. Accounting

  3. Business administration/management

  4. Computer science

  5. Logistics/supply chain

  6. Information sciences and systems

  7. Electrical engineering

  8. Management information systems

  9. Marketing

  10. Mechanical engineering

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Article sources

1

National Center for Education Statistics. “Bachelor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study: Selected years, 1970-71 through 2019-20, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d21/tables/dt21_322.10.asp.” Accessed November 28, 2022.

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