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Most popular majors

Question:
What are the most popular majors for postsecondary students?

Response:

Of the 1,840,000 bachelor's degrees conferred in 2012–13, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (361,000), health professions and related programs (181,000), social sciences and history (178,000), psychology (114,000), education (105,000), and biological and biomedical sciences (100,000). At the master's degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (189,000) and education (165,000). At the doctor's degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of health professions and related programs (64,200), legal professions and studies (47,200), education (10,600), engineering (9,400), biological and biomedical sciences (7,900), psychology (6,300), and physical sciences and science technologies (5,500).

In recent years, the numbers of bachelor's degrees conferred have followed patterns that differed significantly by field of study. While the number of degrees conferred increased by 36 percent overall between 2002–03 and 2012–13, there was substantial variation among the different fields of study, as well as shifts in the patterns of change during this time period. For example, the number of degrees conferred in computer and information sciences decreased 33 percent between 2002–03 and 2007–08, but then increased 32 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13. In contrast, the number of bachelor's degrees conferred in the combined fields of engineering and engineering technologies increased 8 percent between 2002–03 and 2007–08, and then increased a further 23 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13. In a number of other major fields, the number of bachelor's degrees also increased by somewhat higher percentages in the second half of the 10-year period than in the first half. For example, the number of degrees conferred in physical sciences and science technologies increased by 23 percent between 2002–03 and 2007–08 and then by 26 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13. The number of degrees conferred in health professions and related programs increased by 56 percent between 2002–03 and 2007–08 and then by 62 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13. Also, the number of degrees conferred in public administration and social services increased by 18 percent between 2002–03 and 2007–08 and then by 36 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13. Other fields with sizable numbers of degrees (over 5,000 in 2012–13) that showed increases of 30 percent or more between 2007–08 and 2012–13 included homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting (50 percent); parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies (43 percent); multi/interdisciplinary studies (39 percent); agriculture and natural resources (39 percent); and mathematics and statistics (35 percent).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Digest of Education Statistics, 2014 (NCES 2016-006) Chapter 3.

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