25 Most Popular College Majors [2021 Guide]

The most popular college majors are well-loved for a reason. They address interesting topics, and they equip students with in-demand workforce skills.

Popular College Majors

To choose the best major for you, look through these 25 college majors, and consider which one best aligns with your talents and interests.

25 Most Popular College Majors

Methodology: The following list of majors is based on data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics and The Economic Value of College Majors by Georgetown University.

Select the college major that most interests you to jump to that section:

  1. Business Administration
  2. Accounting
  3. Nursing
  4. Psychology
  5. Communications
  6. Marketing
  7. Education
  8. Elementary Education
  9. English
  10. Computer Science
  11. Finance
  12. Criminal Justice
  13. Biology
  14. Political Science
  15. Economics
  16. Electrical Engineering
  17. History
  18. Liberal Arts
  19. Sociology
  20. Fine Arts
  21. Commercial Art & Graphic Design
  22. General Engineering
  23. Journalism
  24. Computer and Information Systems
  25. Social Work

Compare majors, career options, and salaries to determine which are the best college degrees to get, and which ones may be right for you.

All salary data in this college major guide is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Business Administration

management analysts working in the office

Are you intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes of the stores and services you use each day? If so, think about majoring in business administration. Business professionals often work in office settings and use facts and figures to make decisions.

Classes in a business administration program cover marketing, finance, sales and management. You can also study human resources, organizational leadership, public relations and business law.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, business professions command an average annual salary of $72,250. Moving into a management position can advance you to average annual earnings of $109,760.

  • Sales Manager – $132,290
  • Administrative Services Manager – $98,890
  • Management Analyst – $87,660

You may be able to select a concentration for your major, such as sales, management or finance. Your area of specialization can influence your future career path.

2. Accounting

accountant working in her office

If you’ve got a mind for math, think about a career in accounting. Being detail-oriented can help in this career as well. Accountants are in charge of tracking income and expenditures, preparing reports and staying on top of tax obligations. Some accountants also take care of payroll.

In this college program, you can study cost accounting and financial accounting. You can also learn how to use financial-tracking software. Other common topics include auditing practices and the federal tax code.

Jobs in the financial sector pay an average annual salary of $72,250. The median salary for undergraduate accounting majors, in particular, is $69,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce).

  • Accountant or Auditor – $73,560
  • Cost Estimator – $66,610
  • Tax Examiner – $55,640

Becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) can increase your earning potential in this field. Most students need to get a master’s degree in accounting before taking the certification exam.

3. Nursing

nurse taking care of her patient

Nurses care for others and promote healthy living. As a nurse, you’ll be an integral member of a medical team. You might work in a doctor’s office, a health department, a hospital or a long-term care facility.

For a nursing program, you’ll study anatomy, physiology and biology. You’ll also learn about assessing patients, using medications and encouraging healthy behavior.

The median income for people with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is $66,000 per year (Center on Education and the Workforce). Although you can become a nurse with less training, a BSN can do the best job of getting you ready for future nursing studies.

  • Nurse Anesthetist – $183,580
  • Nurse Practitioner – $111,680
  • Registered Nurse – $75,330

Becoming an advanced practice registered nurse, such as a nurse anesthetist, requires more than a bachelor’s degree. You’ll need to earn a master’s degree or a doctorate before qualifying for APRN positions.

4. Psychology

psychologists talking to his elderly patient in his office

To explore the workings of the human mind, consider a degree in psychology. Your studies can help you understand more about both thought and behavior. This knowledge will have useful applications in a variety of fields.

The curriculum for a psychology program usually covers personality theories, social behaviors and human development. You may also learn about addiction, cognitive processes, motivation and case management. The classes can help broaden your understanding of working with people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

You may earn around $49,000 each year with a bachelor’s degree in this field. A concentration in social psychology could bump your earnings closer to $51,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). Here are some average salaries for jobs you might pursue with this degree:

  • Market Research Analyst – $65,810
  • Sales Representative – $58,770
  • Probation Officer – $55,690

Going back to school is a popular option for psychology majors. Becoming a licensed psychologist requires a doctoral degree.

5. Communications

reporter preparing in front of a camera

Having strong speaking and writing skills can help you succeed in a communications program. During your time in school, you can further improve those abilities and learn how to apply them in professional settings.

Communication courses cover oral and written methods of communication, and you may practice giving presentations. You can learn to engage audiences with intriguing visuals and powerful storytelling. You may be able to choose a concentration track for your degree; the options may include public relations and digital media.

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, communications majors may earn around $54,000 each year. Here are the average salaries for a few jobs you might pursue with this degree:

  • Technical Writer – $74,650
  • Public Relations Specialist – $62,810
  • Reporter – $49,300

Public relations is a popular field for communications majors. It encompasses jobs like communications director, social media specialist and press secretary.

6. Marketing

marketing manager meeting wit his team

Marketing professionals research what motivates customers to make purchases or develop loyalty to a brand. Marketing can be a good degree if you want to work in the fields of sales or advertising.

Marketing programs cover topics like consumer psychology, how to turn those ideas into actionable strategies for building a customer base and making sales, and how to conduct market research. There may be classes on running promotions and using digital media as well.

The median earnings for professionals with a marketing degree is $63,000 per year (Center on Education and the Workforce). Some jobs you might pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Advertising or Marketing Manager – $141,490
  • Sales Manager – $132,290
  • Market Research Analyst – $65,810

While you may need to start with an entry-level position, experience alone may be enough to qualify you for career advancement. Many sales and marketing management jobs require only a bachelor’s degree.

7. Education

High School Teacher assisting his students in class

As an educator, you’ll have opportunities to make a significant difference in others’ lives. You can impart knowledge and provide support. As a teacher, you could choose to work with children or adults in school or community settings.

Courses for this degree cover topics like human growth and development, learning processes, and classroom instruction techniques. Other common topics include school technology, curriculum selection, literacy, classroom diversity and education law. Classroom observations and student teaching experiences may be required.

You may be able to choose a concentration like secondary, special, adult or mathematics education.

The median annual salary for general education majors is $46,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). Here are the average salaries for a few education jobs:

  • High School Teacher – $62,870
  • Special Education Teacher – $61,420
  • Middle School Teacher – $60,810

If you plan to work in a K–12 school, your state will probably require a teaching license in addition to your bachelor’s degree.

8. Elementary Education

Elementary teacher teaching her students in class

If you know that your goal is to work with students who are just beginning their school careers, then selecting elementary education as your major is probably your best choice. This degree program can get you ready to teach in public or private elementary schools.

The classes cover the basics of how kids grow and develop, and you can learn how to support students’ physical, mental, social and cognitive wellbeing. Your studies can also develop your ability to select quality teaching materials and present them in age-appropriate ways.

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, graduating with this degree leads to an average annual salary of $43,000. Here are some of the average salaries for jobs in elementary education:

  • Elementary School Teacher – $60,940
  • Preschool Director – $49,160
  • Preschool Teacher – $31,930

Completing a student teaching experience can help prepare you for these classroom roles. Most elementary teaching jobs require state licensure.

9. English

writer working in his room

If you love books and poems, letters and speeches, words and grammar, then think about going to college for a degree in English. You can explore others’ words and learn to make the most of your own words.

English courses cover many great works of literature. These include novels, poems, short stories, and plays. They also discuss the mechanics of the English language and allow students to try their hand at different forms of writing.

On average, people who work in media and communications earn $61,310 each year. The median annual salary for workers with a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature is $53,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). The average salaries for common jobs pursued by English majors are:

  • Technical Writer – $74,650
  • Writer or Author – $67,120
  • Editor – $63,400

A degree in English can also contribute to a career in teaching, public relations, marketing, filmmaking or law.

10. Computer Science

software developers working in their office

Computers are an important component of daily life, and they play a significant role in the business world. This makes computer science one of the best college majors for the future as understanding how computers work can give you employable skills that are in-demand by many workplaces.

Computer science programs cover computer theories, algorithms, and operating systems. They also cover the architecture of computer systems and networks and how to design them.

Other classes typically address programming languages, network security and software engineering. There are usually math, engineering, and statistics classes included as well.

Computer and technology professions command a median annual salary of $91,250. More specifically, the average person with a degree in computer science earns $83,000 annually (Center on Education and the Workforce). Some common jobs in this field and their average salaries are:

  • Software Developer – $110,140
  • Database Administrator – $98,860
  • Computer Programmer – $89,190

You could also consider a job as a computer support specialist or a web developer.

11. Finance

financial managers reviewing legal documents

While anyone can spend money, it takes special skills to analyze financial trends and make smart decisions based on the data. As a finance major, your analyses can guide investment decisions and help businesses know the best ways to use their money.

Accounting and economics are important components of finance studies. Other topics of study include global markets and the financial responsibilities of corporations. Finance programs also include classes on financial statements and portfolio management.

In general, business and finance occupations have a median yearly salary of $72,250, but finance majors often have earnings on the higher end of that scale. The average income for those with a bachelor’s degree in finance is $73,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). Some common finance jobs and their average salaries are:

  • Financial Manager – $134,180
  • Personal Financial Advisor – $89,330
  • Financial Analyst – $83,660

You could also look into a career as a financial examiner, a budget analyst or a securities trader.

12. Criminal Justice

patrol officer securing the border

If you want to protect others and stand up for what is right, then you may feel called into the criminal justice field. Your work in this area may help safeguard communities, reduce crime and rehabilitate offenders.

After taking foundational classes in criminal justice, you can begin to study the laws and procedures that guide work in this arena. Other classes can teach you about the systems used for trying, sentencing and rehabilitating criminals. You can also learn how crime affects victims and entire communities and then discuss methods of prevention.

A degree in criminal justice leads to an average yearly salary of $54,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few common jobs to pursue with this degree and their average salaries are:

  • Detective – $86,940
  • Transit or Railroad Police – $72,580
  • Patrol Officer – $65,540

You can enter this field without a college degree, but having a bachelor’s may increase your chances of landing a competitive job or getting a leadership position.

13. Biology

microbiologist working in the laboratory

Whether you’re curious about plants, animals or the human body, a degree in biology can give you many opportunities to become more knowledgeable about these fascinating subjects. Studying for this degree can also equip you with tools to conduct your own scientific research and make discoveries that can benefit many people.

Biology programs include courses on cells, microorganisms, plants, and animals. They also explore concepts like evolution, ecology, genetics, and bioethics. Some classes cover other scientific disciplines, such as chemistry and physics. You will probably take multiple lab classes during your program.

Biology degrees lead to a median annual salary of $56,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). Some common jobs and their salaries in this field are:

  • Microbiologist – $84,400
  • Environmental Scientist – $73,230
  • Zoologist – $66,350

Throughout all disciplines, science careers bring in an average annual salary of $69,760, but many of the highest-paying positions require a master’s degree or a doctorate.

14. Political Science

Public Relations Specialist being interviewed by reporters

In a political science program, you’ll have the opportunity to study systems of government and politics. If you enjoy following political news and contributing to campaigns, this may be the major for you.

This degree covers historical and modern political systems. The curriculum typically discusses the structure of the American government and also addresses systems used in other countries. Your classes may address foreign relations, public policy, and the ways that politics and economics are connected.

The median income for a person with a bachelor’s degree in political science is $64,000 per year (Center on Education and the Workforce). Here are few jobs that political science majors pursue and their average salaries:

  • Fundraising Manager – $118,430
  • Public Relations Specialist – $62,810
  • Journalist – $49,300

If your goal is to become a political scientist, you’re going to need to earn a master’s degree next. You could also consider going to law school for a career as an attorney.

15. Economics

economist working on his laptop

If you’re fascinated by the concept of supply and demand, then you may enjoy the curriculum of an economics program. This degree addresses the market forces that shape business, politics and daily living.

Courses in economics programs address both macroeconomics and microeconomics. Common topics of study in this degree include global markets, taxation, financial ethics and econometrics. The program may also include courses on applying economic principles to specific industries, such as healthcare, corporate business, education and urban planning.

The average economics major earns an annual salary of $76,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). A degree in business economics leads to an average salary of $75,000. Some common jobs that economics majors pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Compensation and Benefits Manager – $125,130
  • Economist – $108,350
  • Credit Analyst – $74,970

To be considered for most positions as an economist who conducts research and predicts trends, you’ll probably need to go back to school for a master’s degree or a PhD.

16. Electrical Engineering

electrical engineer working in a plant

If tinkering with parts has always appealed to you, then you should consider channeling that interest into a career in electrical engineering. You can learn how to put together electrical components so they form working machines. The principles you learn may help you build small household appliances or enormous vehicles.

This program can help learn the fundamentals of electromagnetics and circuits. You may also study programming languages, design principles, computer systems and electronic components. You can expect to take quite a few math and science classes, and you’ll probably have lab courses as well.

The average annual income for a person who holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is $93,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few common jobs in the field of electrical engineering and their average salaries are:

  • Aerospace Engineer – $118,610
  • Electronics Engineer – $107,540
  • Electrical Engineer – $100,830

Other engineering fields to consider with degree include nuclear, computer hardware and energy systems engineering.

17. History

Museum Conservator checking a painting

Do you love reading stories about the past and wondering about how people lived long ago? Studying for a history major can give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in your favorite time periods, and you can learn how to share your discoveries with the public.

Most history programs provide complete overviews of American, European, and world history. You may enroll in electives that provide a closer look at your favorite eras or events. The classes may also teach you to preserve artifacts and think critically about primary source material.

On average, history majors earn $54,000 each year (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few jobs that history majors can pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Curator – $56,990
  • Archivist – $56,760
  • Museum Conservator – $45,710

If you get a master’s degree, you can pursue a job as a historian. You could also become a certified teacher so you can teach this subject to middle school or high school students.

18. Liberal Arts

Administrative Services Manager working in her office

Do you want a versatile degree that with broad applications? Think about studying liberal arts. This program can provide a strong foundation for entering professional life or moving on to graduate studies.

A liberal arts program is rich in humanities studies. You may take classes in philosophy, psychology, sociology and history. Other classes can help you get better at speaking and writing. You can read great works and learn to think critically about them. To round out your college experience, you can take math and science classes.

Liberal arts students have an enormous variety of career paths available to them. The median salary for this degree is $53,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few jobs that liberal arts majors pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Administrative Services Manager – $98,890
  • Public Relations Specialist – $62,810
  • Advertising Sales Agent – $54,940

During school, you may discover your favorite branch of the liberal arts and decide to pursue a master’s degree in that area.

19. Sociology

social worker visiting an elderly in his house

To explore the science of how humans interact with one another, think about a degree in sociology. The lessons you learn can help you better understand past cultures as well as modern relationships. Earning this degree can help you lead teams, influence people and contribute to important research.

Some of the topics that you may study for this degree include family dynamics, cultural influences, organizational structure and workplace relationships. You may study contemporary issues like poverty and race relations. Other courses may teach you about statistics, research methods and data analysis.

The median pay for people who majored in sociology is $51,000 per year (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few jobs that sociology majors may pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Training and Development Specialist – $62,700
  • Social Worker – $51,760
  • Social Science Research Assistant – $49,210

To pursue work as a sociologist who conducts research, writes reports and influences public policy, continue your education with a sociology master’s program.

20. Fine Arts

Art Director giving instructions to her colleague

If you’re a creative person with an artistic flair, you may want to spend your life creating art. A bachelor’s degree in fine arts can help you turn this passion from a hobby into a career.

Courses in a fine arts program usually focus on the visual arts, such as photography, drawing and sculpture. There may also be classes on art history, design principles and digital art. Most programs will ask you to compile a final portfolio of your work.

People who work in art and design earn $49,600 per year on average. Having a degree in fine arts may help you land on the higher side of that pay scale; $49,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce) is the median annual salary for this bachelor’s degree. A few common jobs liberal arts majors pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Art Director – $97,270
  • Multimedia Artist – $77,700
  • Fine Artist – $52,340

Having a bachelor’s degree may make you a stronger candidate for employment with a design firm.

21. Commercial Art & Graphic Design

graphic designers working together on a projject

Commercial artists and designers create art for a specific purpose. For example, their work may be intended to sell products, relay information or increase brand recognition. To help you use your talents in this way, enroll in a bachelor’s program for commercial art or graphic design.

Your classes will most likely address 2-D and 3-D design as well as color theory, photography, typography and art history. You may also have studio classes and assemble a design portfolio. Because this line of work often relates directly to branding and product sales, you may take classes in marketing and advertising as well.

With a degree in commercial art or graphic design, you may earn an annual salary of around $51,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few jobs that commercial artists may pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Industrial Designer – $71,640
  • Film or Video Editor – $67,250
  • Graphic Designer – $53,380

Alternatively, some graphic designers look for jobs in marketing, web design or drafting.

22. General Engineering

Industrial Engineers checking a machine in a plant

If a degree in engineering seems right for you, but you aren’t set on a specific branch, then you might do well to earn your degree in general engineering. The curriculum can give you valuable knowledge from across the spectrum of engineering disciplines.

General engineering programs include courses on electrical, mechanical, civic, and industrial engineering. Other topics may include project management, fiscal responsibility and system design. General engineering programs typically include many math and science classes as well.

People with bachelor’s degrees in general engineering degree earn $81,000 per year on average (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few jobs that general engineering majors may pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Environmental Engineer – $92,120
  • Mechanical Engineer – $90,160
  • Industrial Engineer – $88,950

A general engineering degree can provide good preparation for a graduate program in which you study a specific branch of engineering. Another option would be to study a different field, such as business, education or architecture, that could be enhanced by your engineering knowledge.

23. Journalism

TV producer giving instruction to a camera man

To help others know what’s going on in the world, think about a career in journalism. Whether you want to work in print, digital, radio or television media, a journalism degree can help you get started.

As a journalism student, you can study how to investigate current events and present the information in clear and engaging ways. You can study the mechanics of English and how to edit others’ work. The program may also address journalistic ethics, investigative reporting and digital media.

You may learn about some genres of journalism, such as sports, features, entertainment, and opinions, as well.

The median pay for people with journalism degrees is $56,000 per year (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few jobs that journalism major may pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Television or Radio Producer – $65,720
  • Editor – $63,400
  • Reporter or Correspondent – $49,300

Many journalism majors work in digital media, whether as content writers, website editors, video producers or social media managers.

24. Computer and Information Systems

Database Administrator working in data center

Computers are powerful tools for gathering, organizing and storing data. If you want to learn more about data management and computer networks, you could major in computer and information systems.

Most computer and information systems programs start with introductory classes in computer systems and programming. Many common courses for this degree discuss database systems and how to design, manage and analyze them. Other common topics that are studied are how to oversee projects, make decisions, and keep information secure.

Overall, computer and information technology careers pay an average annual salary of $91,250. This particular degree earns a median salary of $69,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few jobs that computer and information systems majors may pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Computer Network Architect – $116,780
  • Information Security Analyst – $103,590
  • Database Administrator – $98,860

Employers need people who can turn computer theories into practical business solutions, and that’s a skill you can gain in an information systems program.

25. Social Work

social worker caring an elderly woman in a foster home

Studying social work in college can prepare you to make a difference for people who could use a helping hand. You can learn to work with children or adults in community settings or residential facilities.

Social work programs typically include classes on U.S. social work systems. Other common studies include psychology, human development, family relationships and community outreach. Most programs also include practicums in which you can observe professional social workers on the job and try out the skills you’ve been learning.

The median salary for a bachelor’s degree in social work is $42,000 (Center on Education and the Workforce). A few jobs that social work majors pursue and their average salaries are:

  • Social or Community Service Manager – $69,600
  • Probation Officer – $55,690
  • Social Worker – $51,760

To become a licensed social worker, you’ll need to go to graduate school to earn a Master of Social Work. This can prepare you to provide counseling services and take leadership positions.

Choosing a Popular College Major

college students studying together in university campus

Which of these most popular majors most appeals to you? Getting one of these degrees could prepare you for a successful career in business, education, healthcare, art, science or another field. Whichever path you choose, it all begins with a college degree.

Take time to explore your options and find the major that’s the best fit for you. Once you’ve decided, research schools that offer that degree, and submit applications to your top choices. Then, get ready to study your way toward a promising career!

Joy Cromwelle
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.