Choosing a major is serious business. After all, what you chose to study — and what degree you eventually earn — can set the course for your entire professional life. It can take some time to get it right, even among the best prepared students: according to Purdue University, studies suggest over half of students change majors at least once over the course of their college careers. While there is no harm in playing the field, so to speak, TIME notes that major indecision is one of the factors that has turned the “four-year” degree into more of a five- or six-year degree for many students. College is an investment, so it can quite literally pay off to get your major right the first time. If you’re still on the fence, here’s a rundown of 10 popular college majors compiled from Princeton Review and some schools that offer them.
10 popular college majors (and schools that offer them)
- Biology: Forget about that frog you dissected in high school: biology majors walk away from graduation with a deep understanding of life systems and processes for a wide breadth of organisms and can often specialize in a particular branch of the field, like marine or evolutionary biology. They may go on to lead field research, work in a lab or head a biological campaign to save the world. The University of Pennsylvania offers undergraduate and graduate biology programs that may help prepare students for these and other roles. Students can train under accomplished faculty and participate in the school’s expansive research programs.
- Business: All industries rely on savvy business professionals, so majoring in business can open a lot of doors. Many programs allow students to specialize in a particular area of business and business schools often coordinate internships and other opportunities for students to acquire real-world experience. The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse’s business administration program is professionally accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and according to its website, strives to help students develop the business foundation they need to succeed in the workplace. The undergraduate program offers eight majors ranging from accountancy and finance to marketing and international business.
- Communications: Ever wondered what you can do with a communications degree? The short answer: Plenty. Yes, communications majors can go on to become writers or news reporters, but they can also become political speech writers, marketing specialists, public relations pros or even sportscasters. Drexel University offers both online and campus-based communications programs, both of which emphasize journalism, design, public relations and communication technologies. According to its official website, graduates should walk away with valuable, career-ready skills.
- Computer Science: You don’t have to be a geek to know that computers have become an essential part of our culture. Computer science majors develop a thorough understanding of computer technology and how humans interact with it. Courses can touch on topics like data structures, artificial intelligence and computer language theory. Princeton University’s computer science department offers undergraduate, graduate and even interdisciplinary degree programs. In addition to honing their skills in class, students often have the opportunity to participate high-tech research in areas like 3-D design, bioinformatics, functional programming and more.
- Economics: Some say money makes the world go round, but few understand how or why better than economics graduates. Economics majors can walk away from school knowing how to analyze and predict things like interest rates, inflation and the stock market. Oregon State University’s undergraduate economics programs help give students the mathematical and theoretical tools they need to accomplish these feats, and even offers the option to earn a degree online in three concentrations: economics; managerial economics; and law, economics and policy.
- Education: Teaching is often considered among the noblest of professions. For those looking to join the next generation of educators, earning a degree in education is one route to gaining a teaching license. The University of Oregon’s Department of Education Studies offers a Master of Education degree that can lead to licensure in Oregon. The program is split into two tracks: Early Childhood/Elementary and Middle/High School, and also allows students to take courses relevant to their desired field of teaching. In addition, it is the only program in the state to integrate English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training. The department also offers a non-licensure bachelor’s program and a Ph.D. in critical and sociocultural studies in education.
- English: People often assume that English majors spend most of their time reading and writing, and while may be true to some extent, that perception does not do the discipline justice. English programs teach students how to communicate effectively, think critically and develop a refined sense of what it means to be human. The University of Illinois in Springfield has been teaching English students these skills for decades. Today it offers both campus-based and online English degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, not to mention professional and teaching credentials. Students can even participate in a number of English-related clubs, including the Sigma Tau Delta international English honor society.
- Nursing: An unknown person once said, “Save one life you’re a hero. Save 100 lives, you’re a nurse.” Needless to say, nursing is important and often gratifying work. In addition to providing basic medical care, nurses answer patients’ questions and help them and their families cope with what can be a scary situation. Clarkson College offers a number of nursing programs that should suit most students’ professional goals and experience levels. Students can even complete some nursing programs partially online. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranked Clarkson College’s online graduate nursing degree programs fourth in the nation in 2013.
- Political Science: Have you ever had a heated political debate with a friend (or foe) and walked away feeling like you missed your calling? By majoring in political science, you can develop the know-how to flex your political savvy at dinner parties — or in a meaningful career. The online bachelor’s program in political science offered by Penn State World Campus can help students learn the ins and outs of politics, public policy, foreign affairs and more in a convenient format. Students can rest easy knowing that online degree programs at Penn State are highly regarded: In 2013, U.S. News & World Report ranked Penn State World Campus’ online bachelor’s degrees 16th in the nation.
- Psychology: Not all psychology graduates end up counseling patients who spill their metaphorical guts on big leather couches, though clinical therapy is a popular career path. For example, some may go on to help companies promote happier and more productive work environments as industrial-organizational psychologists or use their psychology powers to study consumer behavior for a marketing firm. UC Berkeley offers a diversity of psychology programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, some of which may be completed online. Because Berkeley is an advanced research institution, students may also get a chance to participate in important studies.
“How to pick the right major and more,” cco.purdue.edu, 2013. https://www.cco.purdue.edu/Student/major.shtml
“The Myth of the Four-Year College Degree,” business.time.com, 10 January 2013. http://business.time.com/2013/01/10/the-myth-of-the-4-year-college-degree/
“Top 10 College Majors,” princetonreview.com, 2013. http://www.princetonreview.com/college/top-ten-majors.aspx
“Pennsylvania State University — University Park,” colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com, 2013. http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/pennsylvania-state-university-main-campus-214777/overall-rankings
“Clarkson College Online Graduate Nursing Program Receives Top Ranking in U.S. News & World Report,” clarksoncollege.edu, 15 January 2013. http://www.clarksoncollege.edu/aboutus/news/pressreleases/details/?newsid=80
Note: At the time of publishing, the information in this article was deemed to be accurate. However, accreditation status and program offerings can change over time, so please check with each school for the latest information.