Skip Navigation

Most popular majors

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

Response:

Of the 1,870,000 bachelor's degrees conferred in 201314, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (358,000), health professions and related programs (199,000), social sciences and history (173,000), psychology (117,000), biological and biomedical sciences (105,000), and education (99,000). At the master's degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (189,000), education (155,000), and health professions and related programs (97,000). At the doctor's degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of health professions and related programs (67,400), legal professions and studies (44,200), education (10,900), engineering (10,000), biological and biomedical sciences (8,300), psychology (6,600), and physical sciences and science technologies (5,800).

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 34 percent overall between 200304 and 201314, 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 36 percent between 200304 and 200809, but then increased 46 percent between 200809 and 201314. In contrast, the number of bachelor's degrees conferred in the combined fields of engineering and engineering technologies increased 8 percent between 200304 and 200809, and then increased a further 29 percent between 200809 and 201314. In a number of other major fields, the number of bachelor's degrees also increased by higher percentages in the second half of the 10-year period than in the first half. For example, the number of degrees conferred in agriculture and natural resources increased by 9 percent between 200304 and 200809 and then by 41 percent between 200809 and 201314. The number of degrees conferred in health professions and related programs increased by 63 percent between 200304 and 200809 and then by 65 percent between 200809 and 201314. Also, the number of degrees conferred in public administration and social services increased by 16 percent between 200304 and 200809 and then by 40 percent between 200809 and 201314. Other fields with sizable numbers of degrees (over 5,000 in 201314) that showed increases of 30 percent or more between 200809 and 201314 included homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting (49 percent); parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies (45 percent); multi/interdisciplinary studies (37 percent); and mathematics and statistics (35 percent). Some fields with sizable numbers of degrees did not have increases during the 200809 to 201314 period. The number of degrees in education was 3 percent lower in 201314 than in 200809. Also, the number of degrees in foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics was 4 percent lower in 201314 than in 200809; and the number of degrees in philosophy and religious studies was also 4 percent lower.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Digest of Education Statistics, 2015 (NCES 2016-014) Chapter 3.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)