When choosing a college major, looking at the most common majors makes sense. The question is, how do you choose the right major for you?
Think realistically about your strengths and interests. Although many people talk a lot about the value of a STEM degree, you’re unlikely to succeed in these areas if you’re a poor math student. You might be happier pursuing a program that better matches your skills, like a journalism degree, if your favorite subject is English.
Asking what majors are most in-demand can help you choose between the career paths you’re considering, but a positive job outlook won’t mean much if you hate the coursework you have to take.
Smart students also consider their return on investment. What do future employment opportunities look like for students in the major you’re considering? What income level can you expect throughout your career in this field?
The next question students ask is how to go about choosing a school. Future college students should look for a school with a great reputation for the subject they plan to study. They should also keep their budget in mind to avoid sinking too deep into student loan debt.
Students may have to make some tough decisions. Do you spring for a more expensive school, maybe out of state, just for the prestige, or do you keep debt down by going to a more affordable but less prominent school? It’s a personal decision with no right or wrong answer.
Looking at the programs of study other students have chosen can inspire your major search and help you decide on a bachelor’s degree.
What are the most common college majors? Read on to find out.
Popular Majors To Consider
What are the most popular college majors? Business is consistently one of the top-ranked college majors. Since the 1980s, colleges have awarded more bachelor’s degrees in business than in any other field, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). During the 2019-2020 school year, colleges awarded 387,851 bachelor’s degrees in business.
When you study business administration, you take coursework in all areas of business, including:
Related Resource: Best Bachelor’s in Accounting Degrees
One of the most common majors of 2022, nursing, is also the popular undergraduate degree program in the healthcare profession. During the 2018-2019 school year, colleges in the U.S. awarded 139,952 registered nursing bachelor’s degrees, according to the NCES.
In Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs, students take classes like nursing fundamentals and gain clinical experience in areas like:
- Mental health
- Women’s health
- Medical-surgical nursing
Related Resource: What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
3. Biomedical Sciences
With technological innovation transforming the future of healthcare, biomedical sciences is one of the best college majors for the future. The 4,818 undergraduate degrees awarded in general biomedical science from 2018-2019 represent a 173% increase from the 1,633 degrees awarded a decade earlier, the NCES reported.
Biomedical sciences students take courses such as:
- Natural sciences
Biology and biological sciences are the popular majors for a bachelor’s degree for many students who want to:
- Go to medical school
- Become a pharmacist
- Become a physical therapist
- Work in biological research
Colleges awarded 75,016 undergraduate degrees in biology and biological sciences from 201-2019, according to the NCES. Expect to take classes in all types of biology—animal, plant, cellular, clinical, and population—along with interdisciplinary biology electives.
An undergraduate background in psychology could be your first step toward a psychologist or counselor career, or it can also lead to roles in business, marketing, communications, and criminal justice, according to the American Psychological Association.
The NCES reported that colleges awarded 116,536 total four-year degrees in psychology from 20118-2019. Psychology students study areas like cognitive, social, biological, and abnormal psychology.
Related Resource: Top Mental Health Graduate Counseling Programs
Fewer college students major in history than they did a decade ago. The NCES reported that 23,169 undergraduate degrees were awarded from 2018-2019, compared to 34,441 from 2007-2008.
Still, history remains a popular major in 2022. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an overall median salary of $63,940 for professional historians and a $101,910 median salary for those working for the federal government.
See Also: Best Bachelor’s Degrees in History
One of the college majors with the best return on investment is engineering, for which the BLS reported an overall median salary of $79,840. Engineering refers to the use of science and math principles in designing solutions to a variety of problems. Critical thinking skills are a must in this field!
There are many disciplines and subdisciplines of engineering, including:
- Mechanical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Chemical engineering
If you’re wondering which college majors are the most successful, consider communications. This soft skill applies to every discipline, from the technical to the artsy, philosophical, or practical.
Colleges awarded 96,972 degrees in communications and communications technologies from 2018-2019, according to the NCES. Improve your writing and public speaking skills as you study:
- communication theory and strategy
- business communications
- digital communication
- critical thinking skills
9. Criminal Justice
Criminal justice encompasses studies in safety, law enforcement administration, police science, and corrections. All told, U.S. colleges awarded more than 50,000 degrees in these areas of criminal justice study, according to the NCES.
Undergraduate studies in criminal justice might include:
- Criminal and constitutional law
- Criminal investigation and procedures
- Corrections and rehabilitation
- Ethics and multicultural issues
- Criminal justice administration
10. Computer Science
If you have ever wanted to develop video games and software applications, program artificial intelligence systems, or create computer security solutions, consider majoring in computer science.
This program of study is broader and more versatile than a degree in software engineering or cybersecurity. Optional areas of emphasis allow students to tailor their studies to specific interests while cultivating a breadth of technical skills. If computer and information sciences interest you may look into a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
See Also: Best Bachelor’s in Computer Science
11. Political Science
Politics may seem like an inexplicable game to the uninitiated, but political science students learn about:
- political theory
- the American government system
- foreign relations
- the global political economy
- matters of terrorism and homeland security
- comparative politics
In the 2018-2019 school year, U.S. colleges awarded 35,527 bachelor’s degrees in political science, the NCES reported.
The field of economics doesn’t just revolve around money. Instead, economics is concerned with the analysis of all types of resource-related human decision-making, according to U.S. News & World Report.
While finance focuses on financial wealth, economics emphasizes the forces that drive resource allocation behavior. Colleges awarded 26,121 economics undergraduate degrees from 2018-2019, according to the NCES.
See Also: Best Undergraduate Economics Schools
13. Social Sciences
Social sciences combine the curiosity of scientists with interests in the social world. Social sciences like sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, and psychology use scientific principles to analyze societies and social structures.
Some schools offer an interdisciplinary major in social sciences. Colleges awarded 137,459 total degrees in social sciences from 2018-2019, the NCES reported.
See Also: Top Online Bachelor’s in Social Science
Despite the cliche of the starving artist, tens of thousands of American students earn four-year degrees in art each year. Schools offer fine arts and studio arts degrees in creative visual media such as:
- ceramic arts
Art majors spend a lot of time in the studio, polishing their skills and creating new works for their portfolios.
See Also: Best Art and Art History Degree Programs
15. Environmental Science
If knowledge is power, knowledge of environmental science gives you the power to shape the future of environmental conservation. College students earned 6,697 bachelor’s degrees in environmental science during the 2018-2019 school year, according to the NCES.
This interdisciplinary major brings together the studies of:
Coursework is in:
- environmental policy
- environmental politics
- global climate change
16. Information Technology
What sets information technology (IT) apart from other computer-focused disciplines is its focus on using computers to solve the problems and needs of businesses and organizations.
IT encompasses the hardware and physical infrastructure of computer systems and networks as well as:
- governance policies
- system maintenance
- tech support services
- network security
Colleges awarded more than 10,000 IT bachelor’s degrees from 2018-2019, the NCES reported.
See Also: Top Bachelor’s in Information Technology
17. Religious Studies
As of 2020, more than two-thirds of American survey respondents reported having some religious affiliation, according to the Pew Research Center. Majoring in religious studies will expand your knowledge of religions like:
Students of religious studies gain knowledge about the world around them and improve skills in reading, writing, and critical thinking.
Mastering an instrument takes years of practice. If you prioritize your art in college, you might opt to pursue a Bachelor of Music or Bachelor of Arts in music. The NCES reported that 7,292 degrees were awarded in general music in 2018-2019.
Additionally, 4,062 degrees were awarded in general performance, 533 in music theory and composition, and 1,515 in music management.
Physics is a math-heavy branch of science that explores the matter, forces, and laws that compose the universe. College students earned 7,380 bachelor’s degrees in physics during the 2018-2019 school year, the NCES reported. Although physicists often need a doctorate, the American Institute of Physics reported that companies are hiring candidates with bachelor’s degrees in physics in:
- banking and finance
Teachers shape the knowledge of the next generation, so it’s difficult to overstate their importance. Education as a whole is one of the most popular college majors with schools awarding 83,946 bachelor’s degrees in the subject from 2018-2019, according to the NCES.
In traditional coursework and student-teaching experience, aspiring teachers learn the theories of teaching and strategies for lesson planning and classroom management. They develop:
- critical thinking skills
- communication skills
- problem- solving skils
The misconception that an English degree is worthless for earning a living hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of reading and writing aficionados. From 2018-2019, American students earned a total of 39,335 degrees in English language and literature, the NCES reported.
English majors spend a lot of time:
Some write literary analyses and others produce creative works.
22. Legal Studies
A major in legal studies may appeal to anyone who wants to work in the legal industry, whether as a legal assistant, paralegal, probation or law enforcement officer, lawyer, or judge. A bachelor’s degree in legal studies provides an undergraduate background in all varieties of civil and criminal law and helps students build their skills in legal writing and conducting legal research.
Related Resource: Best Bachelor’s in Business Law Degree Programs
The aesthetic and functional design of buildings and structures is the focus of the field of architecture. Students in a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) degree program spend so much time “learning by doing” in the design studio that these programs require a fifth year of study. They also study building, structural, and environmental systems that affect architectural design.
24. Culinary Arts
Foodies flourish in a culinary arts program, which teaches them the skills to master safe and delicious food preparation. Although culinary arts programs are more common (and popular) at the associate’s degree level than the bachelor’s degree level, pursuing an undergraduate degree in the subject is particularly helpful if you want to work as a head chef or restaurateur.
25. Pharmaceutical Sciences
You won’t be qualified as a licensed pharmacist after earning an undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical sciences, but that is one path to consider if you pursue doctoral training. Pharmaceutical sciences graduates often work in drug research and development in the pharmaceutical industry.
Bachelor’s degrees in pharmaceutical sciences cover:
- Drug classes
- Dosage forms
- Drug discovery
- Development methods
More than 50,000 undergraduate degrees in accounting were awarded from 2018-2019, according to the NCES, making it a common college major. Accounting is the discipline concerned with financial recording and reporting.
Undergraduate accounting students learn to create financial statements, such as balance sheets and income and cash statements, as well as study managerial accounting methods to develop the skills for identifying opportunities for business improvement.
Often confused with sales, marketing focuses on the strategies and campaigns used to generate customer interest in a product, service, or brand. Marketing majors study the process of conducting market research, analyzing data, developing marketing strategies with consumer behavior in mind, and coordinating and managing campaigns.
Colleges awarded 39,229 four-year degrees in marketing from 2018-2019, according to the NCES.
28. Elementary Education
Within the education field, elementary education is the most popular major, comprising 28,603 of the 83,946 degrees awarded in the field from 2018-2019, according to the NCES. Elementary school teachers generally teach the first through fifth or sixth grades, although at certain schools, they may teach up to the eighth-grade level, according to the BLS.
Finance is the business major that deals with monetary wealth. Coursework in finance might encompass:
- Security analysis and valuation
- Risk management
- Business finance
- Financial analysis
- Financial management
- Financial technology
A finance major might end up working in high-paying roles in financial planning, portfolio analysis, financial analysis, and other roles in banking, insurance, and risk management.
30. Mechanical Engineering
The engineering discipline that awards the most degrees—36,817 for the 2018-2019 school year—is also the broadest. Mechanical engineering refers to the application of engineering principles to mechanical systems, or systems made up of moving parts.
Mechanical engineers design large and small machines, from automotive engines and HVAC systems to minuscule microbots for biomedical applications.
Sociology is among the most common social science majors, with 26,702 students completing a undergraduate degree in the subject during 2018-2019. In sociology, you study social relationships, behaviors, institutions, and norms.
Sociology majors take classes in the principles of sociology, statistical methods and data analysis for sociology, qualitative research methods, and areas of specialized interest, such as social groups or problems.
32. Commercial Art & Graphic Design
For artistic students, a major in graphic design might be a happy medium between pursuing their passion and preparing for a plausible career. Graphic designers create the visual messaging used by businesses and organizations and may be self-employed or work for:
- Design agencies
- Advertising agencies
- Printing companies
The BLS expects a 6% increase in journalists from 2020 to 2030. This is good news considering just a few years ago the journalism field was declining.
American students received 10,809 bachelor’s in journalism degrees from 2018-2019. Journalism students take classes in writing and reporting, news editing, and audio/visual newsgathering. Additional coursework may focus on investigative reporting and newsroom management.
34. Computer and Information Systems
If IT is an interdisciplinary computer field due to its focus on business needs, computer information systems is even more so. This field emphasizes the strategic choice of computer solutions for businesses.
Computer information systems professionals aren’t just looking at how business technology works but instead at which technologies to choose, so they need a big-picture view of business operations and strategies. IT professionals are in high demand, so naturally computer and information systems is a popular major in 2022.
35. Social Work
Another of the most popular college majors of 2022 is social work, the discipline concerned with promoting the welfare of families and communities. The BLS reported that opportunities for social workers are growing at a much faster than average rate from 2020-2030. Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) programs emphasize the skills for social work practice.
So, what is the best degree to get in 2022?
The answer is specific to your personal goals, interests, and skills. It’s wise to consider the most common college majors, but the most popular college majors and the subjects that correspond to the jobs with the most growth aren’t the right fit for every student.
Getting to know yourself and your plans for the future will guide you in the right direction.
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