America’s Popular College Majors and Their Changes Over the Last Decade


According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. awards about 5 million degrees or certificates annually. To give an idea, here’s a breakdown from the 2020/2021 academic year:

  • Certificates: 19.23%
  • Associate’s degrees: 20.10%
  • Bachelor’s degrees: 40.08%
  • Master’s degrees: 16.82%
  • Doctoral degrees: 3.76%

In the 2021/2022 academic year, the U.S. awarded approximately 4.99 million certificates, a slight decrease from the previous year. Here’s a look at the most popular study areas:

  • Health Professions and Related Programs: 894,000 degrees/certificates, marking a 13.75% increase from ten years ago.
  • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services: 806,000 degrees/certificates, up by 9.54% from a decade ago.
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities: 537,000 degrees/certificates, a significant rise of 39.9%.
  • Education: 317,000 degrees/certificates, down by 10.18%. Notably, within the top 10 disciplines, only Education and Visual & Performing Arts witnessed a drop in numbers.
  • Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services: 249,000 degrees/certificates, doubling over the past ten years. This rate is second only to Military Technologies and Applied Sciences, and Science Technologies/Technicians, which surged by 303% and 116%, respectively. However, these latter fields remain niche, with just 4,192 and 6,899 degrees/certificates awarded in 2021.

Most Popular Degrees and Their Shifts in the Last 10 Years

Field of Study20102021Change
Agriculture, Agriculture Operations and Related Sciences28,70947,79266.47%
Natural Resources and Conservation19,16029,90956.10%
Architecture and Related Services18,87017,893-5.18%
Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies12,22712,3270.82%
Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs96,860111,88615.51%
Communications Technologies/Technicians and Support Services12,23813,68011.78%
Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services124,601249,17799.98%
Personal and Culinary Services45,34035,243-22.27%
Engineering Technologies and Engineering-related Fields83,18276,766-7.71%
Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics30,22924,800-17.96%
Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences49,55152,7516.46%
Legal Professions and Studies73,44665,887-10.29%
English Language and Literature/Letters67,46149,244-27.00%
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities383,877537,06639.91%
Library Science8,5486,895-19.34%
Biological and Biomedical Sciences113,137173,82553.64%
Mathematics and Statistics26,60145,50971.08%
Military Technologies and Applied Sciences1,0404,192303.08%
Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies77,806112,43444.51%
Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Studies46,31671,48154.33%
Philosophy and Religious Studies15,99616,4032.54%
Theology and Religious Vocations26,84024,155-10.00%
Physical Sciences39,44947,28519.86%
Science Technologies/Technicians3,1956,899115.93%
Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Service128,928134,0503.97%
Public Administration and Social Service Professions76,36495,90525.59%
Social Sciences176,718179,5411.60%
Construction Trades28,42129,3403.23%
Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians76,58983,5669.11%
Precision Production26,42443,39664.23%
Transportation and Materials Moving22,48520,830-7.36%
Visual and Performing Arts145,389143,315-1.43%
Health Professions and Related Programs785,803893,84813.75%
Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services736,595806,8389.54%

The National Center for Education Statistics provided a detailed breakdown of majors chosen by students of different ethnicities for the academic year 2021/2022:

  • Health Professions and Related Programs is the top major for almost all ethnic groups, with the exception of the Hispanic community.
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities holds the top spot among Hispanics.
  • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services is universally popular. It ranks fourth for Hispanics but is the second choice for all other ethnicities.
  • Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services sees notable interest from Asians, being their third preferred major. Among Hispanics, it’s ranked eighth, while for other groups, it stands at fifth.

For non-resident foreigners, the sequence is as follows:

  1. Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services
  2. Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services
  3. Engineering
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Health Professions and Related Programs

Notably, fields like Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities, which might pose challenges in job placements, are less popular among international students.

Degrees/Certificates in the U.S. for 2021/2022 Academic Year

Field of StudyAll PopulationNative AmericanAsianAfrican AmericanHispanicPacific IslandersWhiteMultiple RacesUnknown RaceNonresident Alien
Agricultural/Animal/Plant/Veterinary Science and Related Fields47,7922961,2291,7966,6246833,1691,6651,2611,684
Natural Resources and Conservation29,9092421,1477913,2155520,8811,3199561,303
Architecture and Related Services17,893501,3669582,958208,3156133983,215
Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies12,3272738451,4912,897394,959794284745
Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs111,8863545,29512,39319,18419960,9784,9712,9195,593
Communications Technologies/Technicians and Support Services13,680618091,9482,708206,067608612847
Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services249,17791833,13625,09829,002511103,2588,68110,63037,943
Culinary, Entertainment, and Personal Services35,2433111,1427,7247,1227815,6061,3141,506440
Engineering/Engineering-related Technologies/Technicians76,7665493,6336,50312,09816344,9772,3322,7993,712
Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics24,800891,5201,0936,8612311,6711,0536311,859
Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences52,7513643,0387,13114,43411423,6881,8031,267912
Legal Professions and Studies65,8874553,4215,7758,59710433,8132,1123,6737,937
English Language and Literature/Letters49,2441922,2073,9978,1096429,7092,2141,7311,021
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities537,0663,56131,50459,078148,4021,254244,37822,00016,30410,585
Library Science6,89533239357748104,93322329854
Biological and Biomedical Sciences173,82557325,40114,09126,87326384,9417,6794,3469,658
Mathematics and Statistics45,509766,0801,3564,9944317,7911,3991,13012,640
Military Technologies and Applied Sciences4,19217168389592132,429167274143
Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies112,43450911,6589,98524,55023950,1614,5133,9676,852
Parks, Recreation, Leisure, Fitness, and Kinesiology71,4813593,5368,92812,13818139,4852,9301,8202,104
Philosophy and Religious Studies16,403516828511,6442911,217528550851
Theology and Religious Vocations24,1551139573,6041,8666313,8545501,6931,455
Physical Sciences47,2851604,5792,2395,9474724,5941,9071,1756,637
Science Technologies/Technicians6,899333909951,755133,160263151139
Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services134,0509223,63219,33234,71241362,8704,4156,3381,416
Public Administration and Social Service Professions95,9056953,23717,96517,11220447,0253,2583,8542,555
Social Sciences179,54170114,05015,45137,81938082,1277,8794,96916,165
Construction Trades29,3403556422,7055,7867517,6317071,292147
Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians83,5666512,7168,91218,95323244,1792,8954,392636
Precision Production43,3966366293,6317,45911727,9011,1661,700157
Transportation and Materials Moving20,8302766024,5012,4615510,2466991,184806
Visual and Performing Arts143,3156419,23211,49824,29521074,4186,5145,44511,062
Health Professions and Related Programs893,8485,73868,830120,398138,5512,701472,06828,03644,30313,223
Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services806,8384,28158,68291,033122,0951,907405,36024,75039,96558,765

Derek Yang

I'm an immigrant living with my family in a small town on the East Coast. I love classical music, enjoy a good cup of coffee, and have a soft spot for BMWs. I believe in lifelong learning and look forward to connecting with you to share our life experiences. Twitter @mrderekyang.

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