25 Most Popular College Majors [2020 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 the top 25 college majors, and consider which one best aligns with your talents and interests.

25 Most Popular College Majors

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 see which degree path is right for you.

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

1. Business Administration

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 will cover marketing, finance, sales and management. You’ll 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 $68,350. Moving into a management position can advance you to average annual earnings of $104,240.

  • Sales Manager – $124,220
  • Administrative Services Manager – $96,180
  • Management Analyst – $83,610

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

2. Accounting

If you’ve got a mind for math, think about a career in accounting. Being detail-oriented can help in this career as well. You’ll be 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’ll study cost accounting and financial accounting. You’ll learn how to use financial-tracking software. Other topics will include auditing practices and the federal tax code.

 

Jobs in the financial sector pay an average annual salary of $68,350. The median salary for undergraduate accounting majors, in particular, is $69,000.

  • Accountant or Auditor – $70,500
  • Cost Estimator – $64,040
  • Tax Examiner – $54,440

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

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. Although you can become a nurse with less training, a BSN will do the best job of getting you ready for future nursing studies.

  • Nurse Anesthetist – $167,950
  • Nurse Practitioner – $107,030
  • Registered Nurse – $71,730

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

To explore the workings of the human mind, consider a degree in psychology. Your studies will 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 may 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.

  • Market Research Analyst – $63,120
  • Probation Officer – $53,020
  • Sales Representative – $52,510

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

5. Communications

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

The courses that you take will cover oral and written methods of communication, and you may practice giving presentations. You’ll 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.

  • Technical Writer – $71,850
  • Public Relations Specialist – $60,000
  • Reporter – $43,490

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

6. Marketing

As a marketing professional, you’ll research what motivates customers to make purchases or develop loyalty to a brand. Marketing is also a good degree if you want to work in the fields of sales or advertising.

In this program, you’ll learn about consumer psychology and how to turn those ideas into actionable strategies for building a customer base and making sales. You’ll also learn how to conduct market research. There may be classes on running promotions and using digital media.

 

The median earnings for professionals with a marketing degree is $63,000 per year.

  • Advertising or Marketing Manager – $132,620
  • Sales Manager – $124,220
  • Market Research Analyst – $63,120

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

As an educator, you’ll have opportunities to make a significant difference in others’ lives. You’ll 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 will cover human growth and development, learning processes, and classroom instruction techniques. You’ll also learn about 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.

  • High School Teacher – $60,320
  • Special Education Teacher – $59,780
  • Middle School Teacher – $58,600

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

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

The classes will introduce you to the basics of how kids grow and develop, and you’ll learn how you can support students’ physical, mental, social and cognitive wellbeing. Your studies will 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.

  • Elementary School Teacher – $57,980
  • Preschool Director – $47,940
  • Preschool Teacher – $29,780

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

9. English

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

The course of study for this degree will include many great works of literature. These will include novels, poems, short stories and plays. You’ll also learn more about the mechanics of the English language and try your hand at different forms of writing.

 

On average, people who work in media and communications earn $57,530 each year. The median annual salary for workers with a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature is $53,000.

  • Technical Writer – $71,850
  • Writer or Author – $62,170
  • Editor – $59,480

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

10. Computer Science

Computers are an important component of daily life, and they play a significant role in the business world. Understanding how computers work will give you employable skills that are in-demand by many workplaces.

The classes for this program will cover computer theories, algorithms and operating systems. You’ll explore the architecture of computer systems and networks, and you’ll learn to design these yourself. Other classes will address programming languages, network security and software engineering. There will also be math, engineering and statistics classes.

 

Computer and technology professions command a median annual salary of $86,320. More specifically, the average person with a degree in computer science earns $83,000 annually.

  • Software Developer – $105,590
  • Database Administrator – $90,070
  • Computer Programmer – $84,280

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

11. Finance

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 will guide investment decisions and help businesses know the best ways to use their money.

Accounting and economics will be important components of your finance studies. You’ll learn about global markets and the financial responsibilities of corporations. There will also be classes on financial statements and portfolio management.

 

In general, business and finance occupations have a median yearly salary of $68,350, 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.

  • Financial Manager – $127,990
  • Personal Financial Advisor – $88,890
  • Financial Analyst – $85,660

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

12. Criminal Justice

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’ll begin to study the laws and procedures that guide work in this arena. Other classes will teach you about the systems used for trying, sentencing and rehabilitating criminals. You’ll 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.

  • Detective – $81,920
  • Transit or Railroad Police – $74,030
  • Patrol Officer – $61,380

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

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

A biology program will include courses on cells, microorganisms, plants and animals. You’ll explore concepts like evolution, ecology, genetics and bioethics. Some classes will cover other scientific disciplines, such as chemistry and physics. You will take multiple lab classes during your program.

 

Biology degrees lead to a median annual salary of $56,000.

  • Microbiologist – $71,650
  • Environmental Scientist – $71,130
  • Zoologist – $63,420

Throughout all disciplines, science careers bring in an average annual salary of $66,070, but many of the highest-paying positions require a master’s degree or a doctorate.

14. Political Science

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.

For this degree, you’ll study historical and modern political systems. The curriculum will cover the structure of the American government and also address systems used in other countries. Your classes will 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.

  • Fundraising Manager – $114,800
  • Public Relations Specialist – $60,000
  • Journalist – $43,490

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

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.

The courses in your program will address both macroeconomics and microeconomics. You’ll study global markets, taxation, financial ethics and econometrics. The program may 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. A degree in business economics leads to an average salary of $75,000.

  • Compensation and Benefits Manager – $121,010
  • Economist – $104,340
  • Credit Analyst – $71,520

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

If tinkering with parts has always appealed to you, then you should consider channeling that interest into a successful career in electrical engineering. You’ll 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 will teach you the fundamentals of electromagnetics and circuits. You’ll 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 have lab courses as well.

 

The average annual income for a person who holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is $93,000.

  • Aerospace Engineer – $115,220
  • Electronics Engineer – $102,700
  • Electrical Engineer – $96,640

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

17. History

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

In a history program, you’ll 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 will also teach you to preserve artifacts and think critically about primary source material.

 

On average, history majors earn $54,000 each year.

  • Curator – $53,780
  • Archivist – $52,240
  • Museum Conservator – $43,020

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

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

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

  • Administrative Services Manager – $96,180
  • Public Relations Specialist – $60,000
  • Advertising Sales Agent – $51,740

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

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

Some of the topics that you’ll 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 will teach you about statistics, research methods and data analysis.

 

The median pay for people who majored in sociology is $51,000 per year.

  • Training and Development Specialist – $60,870
  • Social Worker – $49,470
  • Social Science Research Assistant – $46,640

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

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 will 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 will also be classes on art history, design principles and digital art. You will compile a portfolio of your work.

 

People who work in art and design earn $46,660 per year on average. Having a degree in fine arts may help you land on the higher side of that pay scale; $49,000 is the median annual salary for this bachelor’s degree.

  • Art Director – $92,780
  • Multimedia Artist – $72,520
  • Fine Artist – $48,960

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

21. Commercial Art & Graphic Design

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 use your talents in this way, enroll in a bachelor’s program for commercial art or graphic design.

Your classes will address 2-D and 3-D design as well as color theory, photography, typography and art history. You’ll 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.

  • Industrial Designer – $66,590
  • Film or Video Editor – $62,650
  • Graphic Designer – $50,370

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

22. General Engineering

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 will give you valuable knowledge from across the spectrum of engineering disciplines.

You’ll study electrical, mechanical, civic and industrial engineering during the program. Other topics will include project management, fiscal responsibility and system design. The curriculum will include many math and science classes.

 

People with bachelor’s degrees in general engineering degree earn $81,000 per year on average.

  • Environmental Engineer – $87,620
  • Mechanical Engineer – $87,370
  • Industrial Engineer – $87,040

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

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 will study how to investigate current events and present the information in clear and engaging ways. You’ll study the mechanics of English and how to edit others’ work. The program will also address journalistic ethics, investigative reporting and digital media. You may learn about some genres of journalism, such as sports, features, entertainment and opinions.

 

The median pay for people with journalism degrees is $56,000 per year.

  • Editor – $59,480
  • Television or Radio Producer – $63,620
  • Reporter or Correspondent – $43,490

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

24. Computer and Information Systems

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.

This degree program will start with introductory classes in computer systems and programming. Many of your courses will teach you about database systems; you’ll learn how to design, manage and analyze them. In other classes, you’ll discuss how to oversee projects, make decisions and keep information secure.

 

Overall, computer and information technology careers pay an average annual salary of $86,320. This particular degree earns a median salary of $69,000.

  • Computer Network Architect – $109,020
  • Information Security Analyst – $98,350
  • Database Administrator – $90,070

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

25. Social Work

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

A social work program will include classes on U.S. social work systems. You’ll also study psychology, human development, family relationships and community outreach. You will complete 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.

  • Social or Community Service Manager – $65,320
  • Probation Officer – $53,020
  • Social Worker – $49,470

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

Choosing a Popular College Major

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!

 

This article is brought to you by
Isaac Collins
Isaac Collins
Author
Joy Mays
Joy Mays
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