Skip Navigation

Most popular majors

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

Response:

Of the 1,895,000 bachelor's degrees conferred in 201415, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (364,000), health professions and related programs (216,000), social sciences and history (167,000), psychology (118,000), biological and biomedical sciences (110,000), engineering (98,000), visual and performing arts (96,000), and education (92,000). At the master's degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (185,000), education (147,000), and health professions and related programs (103,000). At the doctor's degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of health professions and related programs (71,000), legal professions and studies (40,300), education (11,800), engineering (10,200), biological and biomedical sciences (8,100), 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 bachelor's degrees conferred increased by 32 percent overall between 200405 and 201415, 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 27 percent between 200405 and 200910, but then increased 50 percent between 200910 and 201415. In contrast, the number of bachelor's degrees conferred in the combined fields of engineering and engineering technologies increased 12 percent between 200405 and 200910, and then increased a further 30 percent between 200910 and 201415. 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 15 percent between 200405 and 200910 and then by 38 percent between 200910 and 201415. The number of degrees conferred in health professions and related programs increased by 61 percent between 200405 and 200910 and then by 67 percent between 200910 and 201415. Also, the number of degrees conferred in public administration and social services increased by 17 percent between 200405 and 200910 and then by 35 percent between 200910 and 201415. Other fields with sizable numbers of degrees (over 5,000 in 201415) that showed increases of 30 percent or more between 200910 and 201415 included homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting (44 percent); parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies (47 percent); and mathematics and statistics (36 percent). Some fields with sizable numbers of degrees did not have increases during the 200910 to 201415 period. The number of degrees in English language and literature/letters was 14 percent lower in 201415 than in 200910, and the number of degrees in philosophy and religious studies was 11 percent lower. The numbers of degrees in the fields of education; architecture and related services; and area, ethnic, cultural, gender, and group studies were each 10 percent lower in 201415 than in 200910.

Also, the number of degrees in foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics was 9 percent lower in 201415 than in 200910; the number of degrees in liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities was 7 percent lower; and the number of degrees in social sciences and history was 3 percent lower.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Digest of Education Statistics, 2016 (NCES 2017-094) Chapter 3.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)