The 12 Most Popular College Majors in 2022-2023

November 8, 2022

Each year, the bulk of degrees conferred by American colleges and universities come in just 12 areas of academic concentration. There are roughly 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the nation. However, only around 3,000 of these grant four-year degrees. For the purpose of determining the most popular college majors, we only factored in bachelor’s degrees. Two-year associate’s degrees in the same areas of concentration we covered in this article were not counted.

In order to look at the most accurate official data currently available, we relied on the National Center for Educational Statistics. These are the numbers collected and analyzed by the federal government. The Department of Education’s most recent figures are cited for each major below. Please note that median salaries are for individuals who earned a degree in a particular discipline. These numbers are different from those actually working in the associated occupation. For example, a biology major does not necessarily work as a “biologist”.

Let’s dig right in and look at the most popular college majors in the United States.

1) Business

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 387,851

Business is by far the most popular college major in the U.S. today. It has held steady in the top position for many years, In fact, the last time that business was not the most popular major in the nation was way back in 1975, when education held the top spot.

Best Colleges for Business

Types of degrees:

  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Entrepreneurship
  • International Business

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 9% (for finance jobs)

Median Salary: $65,000

2) Health Professions

Nursing is the most common major within the umbrella category of health professions. Majors in these areas have never been more popular. Over the last decade, the number of health profession majors has nearly doubled.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 257,282

Best Colleges for Nursing

Types of degrees:

  • Nursing
  • Speech Pathology
  • Music Therapy
  • Public Health
  • Occupational Therapy

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 6%

Median Salary: $63,000

3) Social Sciences & History

The number of degree-seekers in the social sciences has remained fairly constant over the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and throughout the 2000s. This broad category covers a number of popular majors which are outlined further below.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 161,164

Best Colleges for: History; Sociology; Anthropology; Economics, Political Science

Types of degrees:

  • History
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Political Science

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 7%

Median Salary: $64,000

4) Engineering

Almost three times as many American teens elect to major in engineering in 2022 as did 50 years ago. Amazingly, the number of engineering degrees awarded by U.S. colleges has risen every year since the turn of millennium.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 128,332

Best Colleges for: Aerospace Engineering; Biomedical Engineering; Chemical Engineering; Civil Engineering; Electrical Engineering; Industrial Engineering; Materials Science and Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Petroleum Engineering

Types of degrees:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 4%

Median Salary: $93,000

5) Biology

Like with engineering, the number of biology degrees earned has skyrocketed in recent decades. To further quantify this, the figure has doubled since 2000. The number of degrees awarded annually was still in the 5-futures as recently as 2010.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 126,590

Best Colleges for Biology

Types of degrees:

  • Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 9%

Median Salary: $65,000

6) Psychology  

One of the more consistently popular majors over the last decade-plus, psychology attracts a large number of American college students each year. While those seeking to become counselors and psychologists will require advanced degrees, many enter alternative professions. For example, some with psychology degrees enter sales, business, healthcare, management, among others.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 119,968

Best Colleges for Psychology

Types of degrees:

  • Psychology
  • Industrial Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 6%

Median Salary: $50,000

7) Computer Science

Unsurprisingly, given the rise of computing in recent decades, the number of computer science degrees conferred in 2020 was 40 times higher than the figure in 1970 and almost 4 times the number in 1990. Now in the #7 position in the nation, computer science shows no sign of slowing down as massive job growth is expected in this sector over the next decade.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 97,047

Best Colleges for Computer Science

Types of degrees:

  • Computer Science
  • Information Sciences

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 21%

Median Salary: $85,000

8) Visual & Performing Arts

No matter what trends and fads come and go in the wider world, we will always need artists of all kinds. Therefore, it is not shocking that the number of degrees issues in areas such as film, art, drama, dance, and music have remained quite steady over time.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 92,332

Best Colleges for: Art, Dance, Music, Drama, Film

Types of degrees:

  • Studio Art
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Drama
  • Film

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 6%

Median Salary: $42,000

9) Communication/Journalism

While the field of journalism has changed massively with the advent of the internet and social media, the volume of students wanting to enter the profession has not. For more than two decades, comparable numbers of young people have earned degrees in the field on an annual basis.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 91,752

Best Colleges for Journalism

Types of degrees:

  • Journalism
  • Communications
  • Advertising and Public Relations

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 6%

Median Salary: $54,000

10) Education

With most majors we’ve looked at thus far, there has either been massive growth or rock-solid stability in recent decades. Education is our first exception to that rule. Incredibly, the number of education degrees earned each year by American college students today is half of what it was 50 year ago. This has led to a massive teacher shortage in the country.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 85,057

Best Colleges for Education

Types of degrees:

  • General Education
  • Elementary Education
  • Special Education
  • Early Childhood Education

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 5%

Median Salary: $48,000

11) Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, and Firefighting

As the barriers to entry have risen in law enforcement/security fields, so have the number of individuals pursuing them. The number of degrees earned in this academic discipline rose after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 and have been relatively stable ever since.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 57,044

Best Colleges for Criminal Justice

Types of degrees:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Homeland Security

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 3-4%

Median Salary: $45,760

12) Parks, Recreation, Leisure, Fitness, and Kinesiology

The eclectic grouping of academic disciplines encompasses everything from forestry to exercise science. Altogether these disparate fields have collectively attracted between 42,000 and 54,000 degree-seekers over the last decade.

Number of bachelor’s degrees conferred: 53,749

Best Colleges for Forestry; Kinesiology; Hospitality Management

Types of degrees:

  • Environmental Science & Forestry
  • Kinesiology
  • Hospitality & Recreation

Job Growth Rate (2021-2031): 4%

Median Salary: $48,000

Most popular college majors: What college major should I pick?

Determining a college major while still in high school is only critical for students applying directly into highly-competitive majors out of high school. For example, many colleges of business, engineering, and computer science have a rigorous selection process to be accepted into any of these degree programs. Other schools will allow you to transfer in (with varying degrees of difficulty) as an internal transfer, as you progress through your collegiate career. However, for most students, being “Undecided” upon entering college is an excellent place to be. After exploring coursework in a wide array of disciplines as an underclassman, settling on a major will likely be a far clearer and better-informed choice.