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Most popular majors

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

Response:

Of the 1,981,000 bachelor's degrees conferred in 2017–18, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (386,000), health professions and related programs (245,000), social sciences and history (160,000), engineering (122,000), biological and biomedical sciences (119,000), psychology (116,000), communication, journalism, and related programs (92,000), and visual and performing arts (89,000). At the master's degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (192,000), education (146,000), and health professions and related programs (125,000). At the doctor's degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of health professions and related programs (80,300), legal professions and studies (34,500), education (12,800), engineering (10,800), biological and biomedical sciences (8,200), psychology (6,300), and physical sciences and science technologies (6,200).

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 27 percent overall between 2007–08 and 2017–18, 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 foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics increased 3 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13 but then decreased 22 percent between 2012–13 and 2017–18. Also, the number of degrees in social sciences and history increased 6 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13 but then decreased 10 percent between 2012–13 and 2017–18.

In a number of other major fields, the number of bachelor's degrees increased by higher percentages in the second half of the 10-year period than in the first half. The number of bachelor's degrees conferred in the combined fields of engineering and engineering technologies increased 23 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13 and then increased a further 37 percent between 2012–13 and 2017–18. Also, computer and information sciences increased 32 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13 and then increased 56 percent between 2012–13 and 2017–18. Some other major fields had smaller increases between 2012–13 and 2017–18 than between 2007–08 and 2012–13. For example, the number of degrees conferred in agriculture and natural resources increased 39 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13 and then 17 percent between 2012–13 and 2017–18. The number of degrees conferred in health professions and related programs increased 62 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13 and then 35 percent between 2012–13 and 2017–18. Also, the number of degrees conferred in public administration and social services increased 36 percent between 2007–08 and 2012–13 and then 12 percent between 2012–13 and 2017–18. The other field with a large number of degrees (over 10,000 in 2017–18) that showed increases of 25 percent or more between 2012–13 and 2017–18 was parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies (26 percent).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Digest of Education Statistics, 2019 (NCES 2021-009) Chapter 3.

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