Skip Navigation

Most popular majors

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

Response:

Of the 1,921,000 bachelor's degrees conferred in 2015–16, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (372,000), health professions and related programs (229,000), social sciences and history (161,000), psychology (117,000), biological and biomedical sciences (114,000), engineering (107,000), visual and performing arts (93,000), and communication, journalism, and related programs (93,000). At the master’s degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (187,000), education (146,000), and health professions and related programs (110,000). At the doctor’s degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of health professions and related programs (73,700), legal professions and studies (37,000), education (11,800), engineering (10,200), biological and biomedical sciences (7,900), psychology (6,500), and physical sciences and science technologies (6,000).

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 29 percent overall between 2005–06 and 2015–16, 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 was 9 percent lower in 2010–11 than in 2005–06, but then increased 50 percent between 2010–11 and 2015–16. In contrast, the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred in the combined fields of engineering and engineering technologies increased 14 percent between 2005–06 and 2010–11, and then increased a further 33 percent between 2010–11 and 2015–16.

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 24 percent between 2005–06 and 2010–11 and then by 29 percent between 2010–11 and 2015–16. The number of degrees conferred in health professions and related programs increased by 56 percent between 2005–06 and 2010–11 and then by 60 percent between 2010–11 and 2015–16. Also, the number of degrees conferred in public administration and social services increased by 22 percent between 2005–06 and 2010–11 and then by 28 percent between 2010–11 and 2015–16. Other fields with large numbers of degrees (over 10,000 in 2015–16) that showed increases of 30 percent or more between 2010–11 and 2015–16 included parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies (42 percent) and mathematics and statistics (33 percent).

Some fields with sizable numbers of degrees did not have increases during the 2010–11 to 2015–16 period. The number of degrees in philosophy and religious studies decreased 21 percent between 2010–11 and 2015–16. Also during this period, the number of degrees in English language and literature/letters decreased 19 percent; the number of degrees in education decreased 16 percent; the number of degrees in foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics decreased 15 percent; the number of degrees in social sciences and history decreased 9 percent; and the number of degrees in liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities decreased 7 percent. The number of degrees in visual and performing arts was 1 percent lower in 2015–16 than in 2010–11.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics, 2017 (NCES 2018-070) Chapter 3.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)