20 Most Popular College Majors: The Definitive Guide

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Headed off to college this fall? If so, you might be undecided about your major. And that’s fair! It can be tough to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life, especially when you realize that you’ll be condensing everything down into four compact years of study (or perhaps a bit more, depending on the major you pursue).

While you should always pick the major that will bring you the most enjoyment (and ideally, one that also will help you make ends meet), you may want to consider pursuing one of these popular college majors if you’re having trouble deciding.

20. Civil Engineering

As a civil engineer, you won’t have the highest entry-level pay out of all the majors (particularly those in engineering) on this list. However, you will easily find a job as job opportunities in this field are more plentiful than they are in other engineering fields.

With a civil engineering degree under your belt, you will work to design and supervise the building of large projects like sewer systems, airports, and commercial buildings.

19. Biology

From cloning to wildlife, botany to microscopic organisms, biology is an incredibly broad college major that will set you up well for further study in a variety of fields. As a biology major, you’ll study plants, animals, humans, and the environments in which they all live. You could pursue a career as a doctor (after medical school, of course), veterinarian ecologist, environmentalist, and more.

18. Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering is another popular and in-demand field of engineering that you might want to consider as you hunt for the perfect major. As an electrical engineer, you’ll meet the demands of our gadget-driven world as you learn how to build, design, and improve upon existing electrical and electronic devices. You could work at countless companies or even for the government, working to design vital components our everyday use of machines and devices.

17. Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineering is a good choice for students who want a degree that forms at the intersection of chemistry, biochemistry, and engineering. As a chemical engineering major, you will learn how to reorganize the structure of molecules and design chemical processes that foods, petroleum, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals can undergo.

You may also learn how to build and operate industrial plants where materials are altered and produced. You could work at a paper mill, pharmaceutical company, or another in-demand setting.

16. Finance

A major in finance is closely related to one in business or economics – but with more of a focus on money in particular. You’ll take classes like microeconomics, macroeconomics, accounting, and statistics. Upon graduation, you could work as a financial analyst, advisor, or manager, depending on your skillset and level of expertise.

15. Nursing

If a medical degree has always interested you but you aren’t sure you have the skills (or let’s face it – the interest) in pursuing multiple years of schooling, you may want to consider a degree in nursing. If you’re compassionate and interested in learning more about how to evaluate, diagnose, and treat various health problems, a nursing major is a smart choice. You’ll be able to take a bevy of traditional liberal arts and science courses and then start clinical rotations later on in your schooling.

You can pursue a certification exam after you graduate and then choose to specialize in various fields, like obstetrics, pediatrics, or neurology.

14. Mechanical Engineering

Another engineering major to consider is mechanical engineering. As you might infer from the name, with a mechanical engineering degree you’ll learn how to study machines, including how they work and what they’re made of. You might need to take on an additional year of study with this major – many students take up to five years to complete their degrees so that they can pursue internships for some hands-on experience.

Most mechanical engineer majors go on to work as mechanical engineers (no surprise there) but you could also pursue work as another type of engineer, like a civil or aerospace engineer or even a software developer, depending on the specific classes you take.

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13. Psychology

Psychology is another one of the country’s top college majors. It’s a great choice for students who are interested in learning more about learning, intelligence, cognition, emotion, motivation, personality, mental disorders, and more. Essentially, if you’re curious about how your mind works, a degree in psychology is the right choice for you.

You’ll be poised for a variety of careers, some of which require additional schooling beyond a bachelor’s degree. Just to name a few, you could work as a clinical psychologist, a counselor, a lawyer, or a teacher.

12. Software Engineering

It’s no secret that computers are everywhere, and people who know how to make them, modify them, and control them are in high demand.

You’ll take a ton of technology-focused classes if you decide to pursue one of these majors, but you’ll also need to take some classes in things like communications and business, too. You might also take courses in programming, as many software developers go on to work as application or computer programmers upon graduation.

11. English

Do you regularly find yourself immersed in a book or writing prose of your own? If so, an English major might be the right choice for you. Don’t worry – if Edgar Allan Poe isn’t your thing, you aren’t limited to literature concentrations. You could pursue a wide variety of careers with one of these degrees, including as a journalist, teacher, writer, or advertising specialist.

10. Accounting

If you have a knack for numbers, you might want to consider a degree in accounting. As long as you have strong mathematical skills and an attention to detail, this field can work well for you. You’ll work with numerical data to help businesses and individuals create and manage their budgets, handle payments, and engage in financial forecasting.

9. Economics

Economics is another great choice for motivated college students. In this program, you’ll study individual behavior, business, and even policy, such as studying (and sometimes critiquing) how money is spent and how resources are allocated. You’ll need to have strong critical thinking and mathematical skills to pursue this major, but it’s an excellent preparatory pathway for a career in business. You could also use this college major as a springboard to graduate studies in law, international studies, or public policy.

8. Liberal Arts/General Studies

Not sure what you want to do with the rest of your life? Don’t panic – that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t go to college! Instead, you can pursue a liberal arts or general studies degree. It doesn’t matter what you ultimately decide to study – once you earn any kind of college degree, regardless of the topic, your potential earnings will be nearly twice as high as a high school graduate’s earnings.

Your career options as a liberal arts or general studies major are more varied than practically any other on this list. However, you will need to participate in additional career training or more college courses if you decide to pursue a more specialized career later on, which will likely serve as the basis for the rest of your education.

7. Business

Business is an incredibly diverse field, which is perhaps why it is one of the most popular college majors. As a business major, you’ll need great people skills as well as the ability to make prudent decisions, crunch numbers, and solve problems. Communication skills are also essential.

You will take classes in core concepts like marketing, statistics, human resources, accounting, finance, and more. Upon graduation, you could begin your own groundbreaking startup or you could work your way up the ladder to become a CEO of a multimillion-dollar corporation. The options are limitless, especially when you consider that many colleges allow business majors to specialize in various fields within the discipline, too.

6. Marketing

Marketing is a major that has enormous appeal because of the variety of skills you learn when pursuing the major. It’s closely related to a communications major, which we’ll discuss in a moment, but will also allow you to focus on relevant fields like sales, public relations, and advertisement. It’s a relevant major that will allow you to work in a variety of settings, including as a self-employed professional running your own marketing agency.

5. Government/Political Science

You don’t have to have aspirations for the White House in order to pursue a major in government or political science. This timely field is constantly changing, as it deals primarily with current events. You’ll study topics like public policy, American and world government, political philosophy, foreign affairs, comparative government, and more.

If you choose a political science pathway, you’ll likely further hone your communication and critical thinking skills, with plenty of time for math, reading, and writing. You could work as a political analyst upon graduation, become a policymaker, or work directly in government yourself.

4. Elementary Education

Do you love working with children? If so, a degree in elementary education might be the right choice for you. Teaching jobs will likely always be plentiful – particularly if you want to work with young kids.

However, do keep in mind that the salaries for teachers (at least in many parts of the country) are much lower than the potential salaries for other careers on this list. You might have to tack on a couple of extra years to give yourself time in your course schedule for student teaching – and a master’s degree, too, which is required by many states for teacher licensure.

3. Communications

Communications is another popular major. If you’re considering an English degree but would like something with a little more chutzpah, this is the program for you. As a communication major, you’ll be able to hone in on your already fiery wit and sharp personality. If you choose this kind of degree, you’re probably already a great storyteller.

In this major, you’ll spend your time analyzing different kinds of presentations, like scripts and speeches, to learn more about the strategies behind the messages that writers use to make their points. You could work to craft both verbal and nonverbal messages for companies and individuals.

Not only could you work in advertising and public relations, but you might also pursue popular career paths in human resources, business, government, media, education, social services, and more.

2. Criminal Justice

Earning a criminal justice degree isn’t just about becoming a cop – there are so many other avenues you can pursue if you decide on a criminal justice major. It’s not all glitz and glamor, though. Many students choose this major because they like the idea of a fast-paced lifestyle in law enforcement, but a smarter choice is to think carefully about your skills and lifestyle and to choose a concentration in criminal justice that meshes with your needs.

For example, you might combine your degree with another in sociology, law, forensics, or education if you want a truly versatile degree that will help you land a job. You could work as a law enforcement agent, of course, but your options extend beyond that. Some popular career choices for criminal justice majors include careers as crime analysts, forensics investigators, emergency responders, and more.

1. Computer Science

Computer science is top-ranked as the most popular college major – and for good reason. Not only is it incredibly popular, with thousands of students selecting this major each year, but it’s also diverse and highly lucrative.

In this field, you’ll be exposed to all aspects of computer science, including robotics, gaming technology, programming languages, numerical analysis, and more. Upon graduation, you could work as a computer programmer, game developer, software developer, or in some other rewarding, flexible career.

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