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Top Ten Most Common College Majors in the United States

Students from around the country will be entering and returning to college this fall. Choosing a major is a difficult decision, but ultimately is one of the most important a person will make in their entire life. It is no lie that the job market in the United States is a tough one right now. Although the economy appears to slowly be making a recovery finding a job can still be extremely difficult, especially in certain fields. Choosing the right college major is one of the most important factors in finding a job upon graduation. Too many students in the United States are pursuing a major in an oversaturated field making the job hunting nearly futile. Some of the most common majors in the United States has an excellent job outlook, whereas some have a pretty bleak forecast. Nothing is worse than graduating college after spending many thousands of dollars to discover you can’t find a job. Here are the top ten most common college majors in the United States:

10

Computer and Information Sciences

Although, ranked as only the tenth most common major in the United States, computer and information sciences probably has the best overall job outlook of any of the majors on this list. People studying computer and information sciences will gain knowledge about both computer software, hardware, and how to apply such knowledge. It some programs, students also learn how technology fits into various business scenarios and how it can be leveraged to produce business growth. Some specific areas of study under the broad category of computer and information sciences includes robotics, speech recognition, artificial intelligence, programming languages, natural language processing, numerical analysis, and gamed design. Over the next 10 years, there is predicted to be a massive shortage of IT professionals and software developers. Analysts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predict the number of jobs in this sector will increase by 18% by 2020. Not only is job growth outpacing the number of current graduates, the median pay for computer and information science professionals is  $115,780 per year, making it one of the highest paid jobs in the United States. If you are considering studying computer and information sciences, you have made a fantastic decision.

9

Political Science and Government

Political Science and Government majors concentrate their study on the fascinating and perpetually changing institution of government and the governing of people. Some of the common areas of study include the American government, public policy, foreign affairs, political theory and philosophy, and comparative government. Some of the key skills political science and government students learn are critical thinking and communication skills to express complex and often confusing ideas. For someone seeking only a Bachelor’s level degree in political science, the job outlook is currently pretty bleak. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states the predicted job growth rate to only be 8% by 2020. Considering political science and government is in the top ten most common degrees, there will be a massive shortage of jobs in this field. Prospective students may want to think twice before committing to this major. The only saving grace for political science and government students is it is considered a gateway degree into other fields such as journalist and law. Like several other majors on this list, this creates a necessity for more school before job prospects become more optimistic.

8

Communication Studies

Students studying communication, unfortunately are in a very bad job situation. Although the area of study is very diverse and has many practical applications, students studying communication will be confronted with an abysmal job market when they graduate. Communication students learn the skills necessary to give speeches, write scripts, understand both verbal and nonverbal messages, gauge audience reaction, and learn various strategies of conveying thought. As a result, communication plays a role in business, advertising, human resources, public relations, education, government, marketing, and journalism. The main problem, however, is most potential employers don’t feel communication majors have enough hard skills to be able to contribute effectively in their respective problem domain. With only a median annual income of around $40,000 per year and much slower than average job growth, many prospective communication majors should reflect on whether the degree is worth pursuing.

7

Economics

Economics students learn the theory behind how individuals and businesses choose to invest their time, money, and allocate resources. Upper division classes quantify this data in order to perform advanced analytics and help both individuals and businesses make informed decisions. Specifically, economics majors learn about the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Although upon initial inspection, it would appear that economics is quite the necessity in the modern world, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth for economists to be a lousy 6%. However, for those planning on going to graduate school, economics provides a fantastic foundation for those wishing to study law, public policy, or international business.

6

English Language and Literature

Those studying English and literature get the opportunity to analyze the English language and all its intricacies. Specifically many students get the opportunity to read a wide array of the world’s greatest works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from around the world spanning thousands of years. English students have an average job outlook due to the versatility and applications of the degree. Some potential career paths include law, journalism, publishing, education, and media. The median income of English majors varies widely due to the many different manifestations of the degree.

5

Education

Education is one of the fastest growing job markets in the United States. Like health care, there will always be a need for teachers. Students studying education acquire the skills necessary to become an effective and inspirational teacher and the ability to influence the young people of this country. Some of the specific skills of education majors includes creativity, dedication, patience, enthusiasm, communication, and compassion. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an estimated growth of 17% for teachers by 2020. Contrary to popular belief, the median annual wage of teachers has been dramatically increasing over the course of the last decade due to increased activism of teacher’s unions across the country. Teachers now enjoy median pay of over $50,000 per year. In large cities such as New York and Chicago, it isn’t uncommon for teachers to make more than $70,000 per year. Considering a degree in education is a very wise decision.

4

Biology

From organisms you can only see with a microscope, to the Blue Whale, biologists study the process of life. Various areas of study include human biology, animal biology, plant biology, cellular biology, and ecosystem biology. The job outlook for biologists is slightly above average overall. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a job growth rate for Biological Technicians to be around 14% by 2020. Biology is one of those degrees at the Bachelor level, both pay and job opportunities aren’t all that great, but for those who pursue a higher degree, the job  outlook and pay is well-above average. Students entering the field of biology should do so with the end in mind meaning if they only wish to get a Bachelor’s degree, they may be better off picking a different degree. With that said, biology is a great gateway to advanced degrees and jobs in the medical field such as doctors, laboratory technicians, and medical analysts.

3

Nursing

Nursing is the number one major on this list for projected job growth. By 2020, the need for nurses is estimated to increase by an astonishing 26%, making it one of the fastest growing job markets in the United States. The job opportunities for nurses are both plentiful and varied. Some of the available fields include pediatrics, oncology, neurology, obstetrics, and geriatrics. Nurses learn the skills necessary to evaluate, diagnose, and treat various health problems while simultaneously learning how to operate and work with sophisticated technology. In order to be a good nurse you have to be a compassionate individual and have the underlying desire to help other people even at their worst. After graduating from a nursing program, students will be required to take additional certification exams before they are officially registered. Registered nurses, on average, earn close to $65,000 per year.

2

Psychology

Having a Bachelor’s degree in psychology is a dime a dozen. Tens of thousands of students each and every year enter college with the aspiration to study psychology. What they fail to realize is, unless they pursue a doctorate degree, the job prospects are beyond horrible. It is the most oversaturated job market in the United States by far. On top of that, the lucky few who do manage to find jobs are confronted with measly pay. With that said, it is understandable why so many students choose to study psychology. The human mind and resulting behavior is a fascinating thing. Psychology majors learn why people react the way they do to their environment and about the biology of the human brain. Some major topics in psychology include learning, cognition, personality, perception, mental disorders, and individual preferences. Highly motivated individuals may be able to translate the skills and knowledge learned by studying psychology into other job sectors including advertising, marketing, business, and human resources. However, it is important to keep in mind, most prospective employers will choose someone with a degree in those areas over a person with a degree in psychology to fill the job role.

1

Business Administration and Management

Over the years business administration and management has grown to become the number one most common major in the United States. It is considered an extremely versatile degree with dozens of applications and career paths. Individuals studying business administration learn the skills necessary to successfully operate and manage a business. Specifically, students learn the theories and principles behind accounting, finance, marketing, advertising, economics, human resources, analytics, and statistics. Upon graduation, individuals will have developed the skills needed to budget, organize, plan, hire employees,  and manage an organization. The potential jobs are nearly endless. The principles of business can be applied in any industry. Potential employers consistently rank business administration and management as one of the most sought after degrees.

 

Featured image: Flickr by UNE Photos

Sources: Princeton Review: Top 10 College Majors and Bureau of Labor Statistics