What’s the most prevalent undergrad major these days?

The WaPo published some education statistics extracted from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Note: The source –  ”Digest of Education Statistics” – is a veritable treasure trove of education statistics

One dissected data series was the distribution of undergrad degrees granted.

I was a bit surprised to see that roughly 1 in 5 undergraduate degrees granted are in business.

Note: The gray lines are at the 10% and 20%

Here are a few other points that caught my eye …


  • Social studies & history are down … probably reflecting diminished interest in post-grad law degrees
  • Health-related degrees are up … but are still under 1 in 10
  • Psyche degrees are up and rank #4 … say, what?
  • Education degrees are down big … used to be over 1 in 5, now are approaching 1 in 20.
  • Engineering is down to below 1 in 20 … so much for STEM!
  • Computer science is about 1 in 40… barely edging out Parks & Recreation.

I expected to see IT and computer degrees sky-rocketing since that’s a hot, well=paying discipline.

That’s not the case ….

In fact, IT & CS degrees have fallen as a proportion of the total since the early 2000s.

Go figure….


At least the nation is building up a reserve of psychologists ….


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3 Responses to “What’s the most prevalent undergrad major these days?”

  1. John Carpenter Says:

    How do these statistics handle specialized education or training? Because of the fast-paced nature of the industry, I believe college degrees in IT are not as valued or as relevant as you might think. For most positions professional certificates and experience with a particular program or technology are much more desirable then a general familiarity with IT. Research and hard-core engineering in IT are still pretty much where you find a strong academic background still important. However, a more mainstream career in IT requires more of a trade-school type of education. Graduates of these training programs are almost assured of a job, normally well paying.

  2. Dan Says:

    John, nice try, but I serve on an IT advisory board of a private university and I can say that all of the IT graduates have multiple offers before they graduate. So the empirical evidence is contrary to your conclusions. Now, that does not mean that lower level tech jobs are not in demand, they are, but strong business based IT education continues to be a good place to be.

    • John Carpenter Says:

      Keep advising, but pay attention to the industry. That’s me. As an IT professional with over 30 years experience and one who evaluates candidates for positions virtually every day, I can tell you I don’t care much about whether a candidate for a non-management IT position has a degree or not. And for a management position a degree had better be combined with some sort of relevant technical experience or education. I am just a sample size of one. But, if there is a strong demand for just a basic college IT degree as the ticket into a meaningful IT position I would assume the empirical evidence cited in this blog would not show IT degrees dropping in popularity.

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