For most Americans, their educational experience ends with four to five years in an institution of higher learning. Yes, that’s right, we’re talking about college. In light of the expense associated with earning a bachelor’s degree, what are the most popular declared majors across the country, and what career opportunities can they provide?
We break down the top majors so that you can help your college-bound friends and family members make one of the most important decisions of their lives. Our statistical figures for total degrees by major are mainly based on this study from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) that references the 2015 to 2016 academic year. However, it’s important to note that multiple credible sources provide a range of majors. The majors listed below appeared most frequently in our research.
1. Business Administration and Management
Number of graduates: 371,694
If you’ve ever had a dream of being your own boss, it’s a good idea to learn the basics of owning and managing a business. A business degree offers the most universal appeal regardless of the industry niche that you might want to pursue. A degree in this course of study will give you relevant exposure to areas such as finance, critical thinking, accounting, marketing, human resources, and statistics.
All of these principles are essential whether you’re managing your own small business or have goals of moving up the ranks to CEO of a multinational corporation. If you want to sport the ultimate business pedigree, consider applying to Harvard University, University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California—Berkeley, or Stanford University.
Number of graduates: 233,339
Hands down, nursing is a hot career track with no signs of slowing down. Depending on where you are in the United States, hospitals in your area might be experiencing a nurse shortage. While NCES doesn’t have a recent report on total nursing degrees conferred, recent figures from DataUSA.io state that the number of college students who graduated with a nursing degree is 233,339 for the 2015 to 2016 academic year.
If you think that the career options might be limited to LPNs and RNs, this isn’t the case. A nursing degree can include professions like midwifery or allow you to focus within a specialty like pediatrics, labor and delivery, or oncology to name a few. The best nursing schools in the U.S. are at Duke University, New York University, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Johns Hopkins University, and Vanderbilt University.
Number of graduates: 124,009
This is a collaborative listing as engineering can further be divided into a variety of studies such as chemical engineering, architectural engineering, materials engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering. According to the most recent figures from the NCES, the total number of engineering degrees earned in the 2015 to 2016 academic year were 106,850 for engineering students and 17,159 for engineering technology students.
A degree in these programs can open a world of opportunities across industries depending on your area of focus. If you think that engineering might be the career track for you, consider applying to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, or Carnegie Mellon University.
4. General Psychology
Number of graduates: 117,440
Learning how to interact with others and how to understand the mind are real concerns. As the stigma around mental health discussion decreases and access to mental health services increases, the need for professionals with psychology degrees has increased.
However, the emphasis on interpersonal relations means that your psych degree is just as appealing for professions outside of traditional psychology. Psych majors can find gainful employment through a career in marketing, education, law, child development, consulting, human resources, or social work. Stanford University, University of California at Los Angeles, Harvard University, University of California at Berkeley, and University of Michigan at Ann Arbor offer the best psychology programs in the U.S.
5. Communications and Media
Number of graduates: 97,378
You have a great idea, and you want to relay it to your target audience. In short, that’s a form of marketing called communications, and it’s one of the most popular college majors in the U.S. Officially, that number of graduates represents two study tracks. According to the NCES, of the total communications and media post-secondary degrees conferred during the 2015 to 2016 academic year, 92,554 were for a communications, journalism, or related program, while the remaining 4,824 were given for communications technologies programs.
Successfully completing a degree in these niches will prepare you to work in the advertising, public relations, or marketing departments for any business regardless of industry. It’s important to note that this particular field of study is constantly changing as new mediums like social media platforms continue to rise in importance. If this field speaks to you, you should apply to University of Southern California at Annenberg, Stanford University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Northwestern University, or Wake Forest University.