The 10 Most Popular College Majors In America

Job & Salaries

Only 32 percent of high school seniors who take the ACT (American College Testing) exam select a college major that correlates with their interests, according to ACT, Inc., a nonprofit organization that assesses college readiness. When students register to take the exam, they also complete an ACT Interest Inventory. In 2013, the company compared the high school students’ data with those of previous test-takers who chose the same majors. The results reveal that 32 percent of students select a major that poorly correlates with their interests, and 36 percent choose a degree path that only moderately fits their interests.

These statistics are important because ACT research also reveals that students who pursue degrees closely related to their interests are more likely to remain in those fields, and also more likely to graduate on time. In addition, these students are more likely to be happy both in school and in their chosen career field.

Another survey by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce analyzed data on 171 undergraduate majors to determine the most popular undergraduate choices among college students. It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 majors are in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and technology) areas – which may or may not be a problem. On one hand, some experts say that there is a severe shortage of U.S. born STEM graduates, and the popularity of other degree choices does nothing to address this issue.

On the other hand, a 2013 study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) refutes the theory of a STEM worker shortage. According to the EPI, it’s true that only a small number of U.S. students earn a STEM degree. However, EPI’s study reveals that American STEM graduates have difficulty finding jobs – even those who major in engineering and information technology. In fact, IT jobs account for 59 percent of STEM careers, and the study reports that foreign workers occupy a higher percentage of IT jobs.

In any event, the 10 most popular majors pay median annual salaries ranging from $40,000 to $63,000. Females overwhelmingly pursue some of the degrees, while others have an equal gender mix, and a few appear to be more popular among males.

10. Communications – Mean Annual Salary $50,000

The tenth most popular major is communications, with a gender composition that is 58 percent female and 42 percent male, according to the GU report. The material covered by the study of communications may vary by college, ranging from advertising and public relations to journalism to strategic public communications and public relations to telecommunications to film, video and media studies. Career opportunities are representative of these areas of study.