Who’s The Popular Kid In Class? Trending College Majors And Employment

In the past, majors were traditionally limited to classic humanities degrees such as philosophy, literature, theology and history. These days, some universities offer as many as 125 majors covering a range of subject areas, which may reflect the increasing specialization of contemporary disciplines and ultimately careers. Many universities today offer a standard organization – a humanities school, a sciences school and other specialized schools such as law, arts, business or medicine. A recent change in universities nationwide is the popularity of computer-related majors [US News]. This might be a result of our familiarity with technology as a widespread, pervasive and constant presence in our lives.

Recently, the manufacturing and sales of smartphones overtook “dumb” phones for the first time in history [Huffington Post]. More than simply audio communications devices, these handheld devices make sophisticated technology easily accessible for many. Just how much computing power does your phone have? More than NASA did when they put us on the moon in 1969 [NPR]. Perhaps understandably, the wide adoption of technology may be affecting the career aspirations of college students, as enrollment in computer science programs has risen over the last three years across the nation.

Of course, the popularity of computer-related majors may be part of a related trend: that of the increasing demand for professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields [White House]. Other areas of study still endure, however. Business degrees have been the most popular degree conferred from the early 1980s through 2009-10 and may continue to top the list [National Center for Education Statistics]. Business hasn’t always been popular. Education was the most awarded degree in the 1970s.

What majors have historically been popular and what are the current trends? This infographic takes a look at recent popular majors and employment trends by major.


“Computer Science Continues Growth on College Campuses”, U.S. News & World Report, July 2012

“More Smartphones Sold Than Regular Cell Phones for the First Time Ever”, Huffington Post, April 2013

“Physics of the Future”, NPR, November 2011

“Engage to Excel”, The Whitehouse, February 2012

Digest of Education Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, May 2011 (most recent)

For a complete list of sources, please view the infographic.