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Education & Certifications

The Most Popular College Majors in 2024

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Choosing a major is a significant step in your college career. In addition to determining which courses you’ll take, your major also impacts your job opportunities after graduation and earning potential. It’s an important decision that you shouldn’t take lightly. 

To help you make an informed choice, we’ll reveal the top college majors in 2024. We’ll also detail some of the career prospects you’ll have with each degree and the salary outlook for each one. 

What is a college major?

As you approach college, you’ve probably heard the word ‘major’ thrown around a lot, but what does it mean, exactly? A college major is the primary area of study a student focuses on during their time in school. 

Every college has its own list of available majors, and each major has a list of courses required to successfully complete that field of study. Some colleges are known for certain majors, and students may choose these schools for their positive reputations. Northwestern University, for example, is consistently recognized for having one of the strongest communications programs in the country, while Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the top schools to attend if you’re interested in engineering. 

No matter which major you choose, you’ll still be able to explore a variety of courses that suit your interests, but most of your credit hours each semester will be dedicated to classes within your major.

Major versus degree

So is major just another word for degree? The answer is no. They’re two different things. 

A degree refers to a level of education. There are four distinct degree levels, each more advanced than the previous one:

  • Associate’s degree
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s/graduate degree
  • Doctorate/professional degree

Here’s where things can get confusing. There are also degree types for each degree. You’ve probably heard of some of the most common types of bachelor’s degrees, like Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science. Different majors fall under these degree types. For example, at most schools, an art history major would obtain a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. A chemistry major would obtain a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. 

Different schools classify majors differently, which complicates things. On top of that, there are dozens of recognized major types, including Bachelor or Engineering, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Liberal Studies, and many more. 

The important thing to understand is that a major defines your field of study, while a degree conveys the level of education you’ve obtained. 

Here are the most popular college majors in 2024. This list is based on the most current data from the National Center for Education Statistics, which covers the number of degrees awarded in each field of study. 

1. Business 

Nearly one in five undergraduates who obtained a four-year degree majored in business. It’s no surprise this area of study is so popular, as it’s a versatile major that can lead to a number of engaging and high-paying jobs in fields like management, finance, sales, and marketing. 

The median annual wage for all workers in business and financial occupations is $76,850. Job growth projections are strong, with an estimated 911,000 openings annually over the next decade. 

Here are some examples of jobs you can pursue with a business degree. 

Budget analyst

Budget analysts help organizations plan their finances and make strategic budgetary decisions. They prepare reports, analyze funding requests, monitor the organization’s financial health and project future budgetary needs. 

Median salary: $82,260

Job growth through 2032: 3%

Marketing director

Marketing directors plan and oversee activities to generate interest in their organizations’ products and services. They strategize marketing campaigns, supervise teams, negotiate contracts and approve budgets.

Median salary: $138,730

Job growth through 2032: 6%

Human resource specialist

Human resource specialists help identify, recruit, screen, and hire talent to support an organization’s goals. They may also handle HR functions like compensation, benefits, onboarding, and training. 

Median salary: $64,240

Job growth through 2032: 6%

2. Health professions

Healthcare professionals continue to be among the most in-demand workers in our society, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. The ‘healthcare professions’ umbrella includes clinical career paths, like nursing, along with the administrative side, like healthcare management.

These are a few of diverse career paths you can pursue with a degree in the health field.

Physician assistant

Physician assistants (PAs) examine patients, diagnose medical conditions and advise on treatment plans under the supervision of a physician. PAs typically hold a master’s degree. 

Median salary: $126,010

Job growth through 2032: 27%

Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists provide dental care and examine patients for signs of oral disease. They support dentists in cleaning patients’ teeth, taking X-rays, documenting care, and providing oral health education. 

Median salary: $81,400

Job growth through 2032: 7%

Athletic trainer

An athletic trainer helps diagnose, treat, and prevent athletic injuries to muscles and bones. They work under the direction of a physician and treat patients of all ages, from children in youth sports programs to professional athletes. 

Median salary: $53,840

Job growth through 2032: 14%

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3. Social sciences and history

If you pursue a degree in social sciences, you’ll take courses that examine humans and their role in society. Social sciences is a broad set of disciplines that may include history, sociology, economics, political science and more. People who major in this area can often be found working in K-12 and higher education, the legal field, the public sector and even sales. 

Here are some jobs where it would be beneficial to major in social sciences.

Political scientist

Political scientists conduct research to understand and predict how political policy influences people, groups, businesses and government agencies. They use their findings to inform organizations that plan and execute political policy and strategy. 

Median salary: $128,020

Job growth through 2032: 7%

Social worker

Social workers help clients cope with challenges in their lives and find healthy strategies to overcome them. In addition to working with individuals, social workers are involved at a broader level in developing community programs, shaping political policy, and advocating for vulnerable groups. 

Median salary: $55,350

Job growth through 2032: 7%

High school teacher

In addition to teaching academic lessons in areas like math, science, and English, high school teachers play a big role in keeping students engaged in learning and helping them prepare for college or the workforce. 

Median salary: $62,360

Job growth through 2032: 1%

4. Biological and biomedical sciences

This degree area covers a broad range of sciences, including biology, biochemistry, and genetics. If you choose this major, expect to participate heavily in lab work. At many universities, you’ll be able to work alongside professional scientists using cutting-edge equipment. 

In addition to pursuing further education in the medical field, you could parlay a degree in biological and biomedical sciences into one of the following careers:

Biochemist

Biochemists study the mechanisms by which cells develop and work to learn how genetic traits are passed from one generation to the next. They plan and execute lab work, prepare reports of their findings, and apply those findings to solve problems. 

Median salary: $103,810

Job growth through 2032: 7%

Forester

Foresters manage forests and other natural areas, working to preserve the land and ensure its sustainable use.  

Median salary: $64,420

Job growth through 2032: 4%

Science writer

A science writer or technical writer uses expertise in one or more areas of science to communicate complex topics to a widespread audience. They may write for scientific journals, newspapers and other media outlets, government agencies, universities, and research organizations. 

Median salary: $79,960

Job growth through 2032: 7%

5. Psychology

Are you fascinated by observing how people behave and analyzing the reasons for those behaviors? If so, you may find the study of psychology highly engaging. Psychology majors take courses on the human brain, animal behavior, personality theory, psychology ethics, and more. The rising focus on mental health means an increased demand for professionals with psychology skills in various fields. 

Here are some jobs you could obtain with a psychology degree. 

Psychologist

Psychologists use various methods to help people overcome problems related to their mental, emotional, and behavioral health. They work in private practices as well as public settings like schools and hospitals. 

Median salary: $85,330

Job growth through 2032: 6%

Public relations manager

A public relations manager is responsible for promoting and maintaining a positive public image of their organization. They do this through PR campaigns, press releases, media interviews, and events. 

Median salary: $125,620

Job growth through 2032: 6%

Private detective

Private detectives use investigative techniques to discover information on behalf of their clients. They conduct research and surveillance to investigate personal, legal and financial matters.

Median salary: $52,120

Job growth through 2032: 6$

6. Engineering 

With a heavy emphasis on math, science, and technology, engineering majors study how things work and use that knowledge to solve real-world problems. The field of engineering covers machines, products, and infrastructure, as well as the processes and systems that help society function.

A degree in engineering can help you pursue a range of high-paying and in-demand roles, including:

Mechanical engineer

Mechanical engineers design, install, and maintain mechanical systems and their components. They create everything from vehicles and power-generating machines to building components and consumer products. 

Median salary: $96,310

Job growth through 2032: 10%

Civil engineer

Civil engineers are responsible for planning and building the infrastructure we use every day, such as roads, bridges, tunnels, and sewer systems. They also work on public facilities like airports.

Median salary: $89,940

Job growth through 2032: 5%

Environmental engineer

Environmental engineers design processes and technologies that aim to protect the environment and optimize the use of natural resources. 

Median salary: $96,530

Job growth through 2032: 6%

7. Computer and information sciences 

Studying computer and information sciences will teach you how to use technology to achieve business goals and improve society. Professionals in this field are consistently in high demand, and it’s the fastest-growing sector of the economy. In light of this growth, the number of students who pursued this major doubled over the last decade. 

With a degree in computer and information sciences, here are some of the jobs you could obtain. 

Software developer

Software developers design, build, and troubleshoot software and applications for personal and commercial use. 

Median salary: $124,200

Job growth through 2032: 25%

Network administrator

A network administrator manages an organization’s computer network. This includes duties like setting up devices and equipment, configuring and updating software, and resolving network issues.

Median salary: $90,520

Job growth through 2032: 2%

Data scientist

Data scientists use various tools and techniques to extract meaning from data sets. Many work for government agencies, financial firms, healthcare providers, and corporations. 

Median salary: $103,500

Job growth through 2032: 35%

Things to keep in mind when choosing a college major

Choosing a major is undoubtedly a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be definitive. Many students change majors multiple times before settling on one that’s right for them, and it’s very common to end up in a career that’s not directly tied to your major. So, while it’s important to consider your choice carefully, know that your major won’t make or break your career prospects for the entirety of your professional life. 

Instead, think of your major as a foundation for success. By choosing a field of study that interests you, you’ll arm yourself with a solid knowledge base to build a career that suits your goals and passions.

Check out this guide for more tips on how to pick a college major.