Best and Most Popular College Majors

Have you chosen your college major yet? We’re highlighting the most popular college majors for 2011, as well as online education options for each. We’ve also compiled a list of twenty-five excellent studies and rankings for college majors and degrees, shown at the end of the article. So if you’re still deciding on a major–read on!

There are actually many published studies and articles out there showing the best college majors by salary, popularity, etc., and they don’t always agree with each other. We’ve decided to expand upon this article from, since it is recent and published by a mainstream media outlet. In order, the most popular college majors in the US are: Biology, Business, Communications, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Elementary Education, MarketingPsychology, and PoliSci / Sociology.

1. Biology or biotechnology majors usually study genetic engineering, stem cell treatment, personalized medicine, regenerative medicine, and artificial photosynthesis as well as other related science subjects including general chemistry and physics. Online degrees in biology are available at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

2. Business majors usually receive undergraduate classes in a wide range of disciplines including: marketing, management, accounting, finance, and information systems. Online business degrees are available at every level of education, including associate’s degrees (usually an AA in business administration), bachelor’s degrees (often known as a BS in business administration, or BSBA), and master’s degrees (almost always known as the Master of Business Administration, or MBA).

3. Communication or Journalism majors usually study public relations, marketing, advertising, English, writing, communications, print media, and electronic media. The majority of communication degrees offered online are at the bachelor’s or master’s degree levels and are either a part of a university’s business college or arts and communications college.

4. Computer Science or Computer Technology majors generally take course work in: programming, databases, networking, operating systems, information technology, and a wide variety of digital topics such as gaming and mobile. Online computer science degrees are usually available at the bachelor’s or master’s degree levels.

5. Criminal Justice majors take a broad base of courses including: psychology, sociology, cyber crime, legal studies, and forensic sciences. Online criminal justice degrees are available at every degree level: associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s.

6. Elementary Education or Education/Teaching majors usually study teaching children with special needs, reading and literacy education, and psychology. Most online education degree programs are offered at the master’s degree level (typically a Master of Arts or Master of Education), though there are also some associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs available as gateways to more advanced education.

7. Marketing or Internet Marketing majors take general business classes and specific classes such as: communication, digital communication, public relations, marketing, management, and advertising. Most online marketing degrees are either bachelor’s or master’s level degrees and are offered through a communication or business program.

8. Nursing / BSN majors coursework includes: pharmacology, chemistry, anatomy, ethics, and health care policy. The most common type of nursing bachelor’s degree program is the RN to BSN, which is designed for registered nurses who have not yet completed their bachelor’s degree. Additionally, there do exist some LPN to BSN programs and many MS in nursing (MSN) programs.

9. Psychology or Counseling majors are related degrees that usually center around courses such as: career counseling, mental health, school counseling, and young-adult psychology. Online psychology degree programs are available at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.

10. Political Science and Sociology majors study general education topics as well as: history, government, human studies, and social work. PoliSci/Sociology online degrees are available at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.

Do not take that major to heart, though, if your heart is not set on any of the above majors. Over the long haul — some other majors may equal the highest-paying initial fields (business, engineering etc.) in mid-career pay raises. Additionally, if you are considering getting your degree online, you might want to look at a variety of factors besides major such as accreditation and school size (e.g. see the largest online colleges, as well as the smallest online colleges) in order to fully understand all of the available options.

Other Authoritative Reference Pages Concerning College Major Popularity

The following list is provided in alphabetical order by article and/or study title and sources are listed in most cases.

  1. 10 Most Popular Majors and What They Pay: This list shows that biology comes in first, but it does not pay the most — the highest paying college degree is in marketing, and it is near the bottom of the popularity list.
  2. 52 Career Starting Salaries: This writer for College Crunch provides a list of career options that show career options by salary. Good list to peruse before you pick a major.
  3. Average College Graduate Salaries: Simply Hired offers a different view of average salaries and related titles in this article.
  4. Average Starting + Current Salaries by Major: StudentsReview provides a list that shows numbers generated from survey data. Astronomy ranks high with economics and finance.
  5. Average Starting Salary by Degree for 2009: This list, gathered from National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), shows the change in major between 2008 and 2009. Chemical engineering remains strong.
  6. Careers: This undergraduate section at the Vanderbilt University Web site offers a wider look at a number of career options, including starting salaries, gathered from a variety of sources.
  7. College Graduate Salaries by Field and Major: This University Language Services list us based upon the NACE report, but shows average salary for all new college grads as well (almost $50k).
  8. How Much Are You Worth? If you want an engineering degree because it might offer a larger salary, learn more about this trend from Mechanical Engineering.
  9. Is your degree worth $1 million — or worthless? Take a look at this article to learn more about the degree level you might want to choose, based upon return for your money. Doctors receive high marks here.
  10. MBA Schools: Whose Graduates Earn High Salaries? If you’d prefer an MBA degree, learn more about which schools push out the highest-paid graduates. Traditional business schools such as Harvard and Penn are high on the list, but you may be surprised at what other universities make the cut.
  11. Most Lucrative College Degrees: Based upon the 2009 NACE report, this CNNMoney report shows that petroleum engineering currently is the most lucrative college degree, with an average starting offer of $83,121.
  12. PayScale College Salary Report: This is the source for many reports shown here. Learn more about top salary potential by type of school, degrees that pay you back and more.
  13. Salary and Recruitment Trends 2009 Report: Top MBA offers salary recruitment trends for MBA majors.
  14. Salary Increase By Major: What does the Wall Street Journal say about salary increases by major? Look closely to find Economics at $210,000.00 at mid-career 90th percentile salary.
  15. Salary Offers to College Class of 2009 Are Flat: This article is based upon the NACE report as well as a Salary Survey report. In this perspective, business administration majors saw an increase in salaries from 2008.
  16. Six-Figure Jobs You Don’t Have To Go To College For: If you’re about to give up on a college career, try this Forbes list to learn how you can earn money without a degree (but college degrees usually always help when it comes to hiring for top positions).
  17. The 10 Most Worthless College Majors: This is useful as a humorous interlude in this list, and it also contains a degree of truthfulness in the article and in the comments. Art History does rank higher than religion in this list.
  18. The Best and Worst College Degrees by Salary: This MoneyWatch article shows the worst paying college degrees, which works a bit backwards, but shows you were not to do if money is an objective. Topping this list is social work.
  19. The College Degrees With The Biggest Salaries: Forbes tosses in their tallies with an article and images that explains the NACE report with a high degree of clarity. Engineers, over time, may not have it as good as history and psych majors? Find out.
  20. 50 Things You Can Do with a Business Degree: Are you a career changer? Are you looking for a promotion within your organization? Check out this list.
  21. Top 10 College Degrees in 2009 with Massive Demand: Although taken from the NACE list, read the writer’s take at the end of the article, which contains a link to a 2008 comparative list as well.
  22. Top 10 Most Lucrative College Majors: Netscape Money offers this scale, based upon The lists show the highest starting salaries (chemical engineering), highest mid-career salaries (aerospace engineering) and lowest mid-career salaries (social work tops this list).
  23. Top Colleges ranked by Average Salary of Graduates: While this article does not broach majors, one look at the list says it all: engineering (think MIT and Cal Tech).
  24. What is engineering degree worth? Engineers get top pay! This Michigan Tech interpretation of the NACE report is more in depth than other articles.
  25. What Your College Major Pays: Careerbuilder is at it again, using to find common majors and their starting salaries. The best salary on this list is business administration at $57k per year.

So there you have a list of the best and most popular majors out there. Selecting a major is only half of the equation, however. When selecting a college for your major, there are many other elements one should consider. The size of the institution; some students prefer large colleges to small colleges, yet both can offer excellent degree programs. The cost of colleges is also extremely important to consider. Simply looking for the highest cost university does not mean that the degree will automatically be higher quality. There are several low cost colleges that can help students across a variety of majors obtain an excellent degree.