Popular College Degrees and Programs

Want to see what degrees are the most popular among students seeking postsecondary education? Below is a list of the 200 most popular degrees and certificates awarded between 2015 and 2016 per the most recent data published by the NCES.  No differentiation is made between the varying degree levels, though minor degrees are not included. The list provides a quick idea as to which areas of study are commonly being pursued and which are believed to provide the most career choices upon completion. The data is taken from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Top College Majors List by Area of Study

To view the listing of college majors by area of study, we have meticulously compiled a list by learning clusters.  In other words, you may be inclined to search for nursing degrees or criminal justice careers by category instead of by state or school size.  Regardless of your current college search status, you can learn details about nearly 8,000 accredited colleges and nearly 1,500 college degrees with MatchCollege.  To learn more about a particular college area of study, simply select the learning domain listed below to find an array of college degree pathways.

12 Most Popular College Majors by Degree Type

The most popular college degrees conferred in the United States can be found visually below.  Data was gathered from the NCES for their most recent reporting years to visually help college-bound students understand each degree cluster and its relative popularity.  Degrees were ordered from highest to lowest for the current reporting year, the last year, and the prior year to provide you with degree trend patterns.   A full list of the top 200 college majors are listed below the graph to provide you with the opportunity to delve into each college major.

Graph of the Top College Degrees

Most Popular College Degrees Conferred in the United States

College Major Quiz

To help you think deeply about your future academic & career options, we have assembled a few critical questions and resources to consider.  Whether you are a high school senior, a working adult, or college student mapping out necessary employment skills for your career, we have the tools for you.  Carefully think through the following questions about your potential college major:

What inspires you & motivates you in life?  Invest the time to think about your interests, hobbies, and how you spend your free time.  Combining these three factors may help illuminate an area of study or possible career track.  You may be inspired by helping others in a healthcare field to running your own website to building homes.  Remember, your goals are personal and must represent your priorities not someone else.

Have you researched college degrees in-depth?  After creating a list of career options, dig into MatchCollege to find college majors that align with the skills needed to perform that career.  You may be interested in traditional career paths like nursing, engineering, or law.  Likewise, your interests and skills may lead you to niche fields of study such as robotics, cosmetology, or respiratory therapy.

Are you motivated to test drive courses online?  If you are not sure which college major to pursue in school, you can take an online class for free.  Portals worth considering include platforms such as EdX, Udacity, Coursera, Stanford University, Open Culture, Harvard University, and iversity.  Jump into a course, commit to finishing it, and rate the content of the course compared to what you expected.  If you love it, take another class; otherwise, you can simply move on to the next course.

Have you consulted family members and advisors?  Asking school counselors, advisors, and family members for input is a great way to back-check your work to date.  They will have a different perspective based on their experiences and gladly share ideas with you as you work towards a college major.

Do you understand the college admissions process?  Spend quality time reading our college admissions guide to understand what it will take for you to get into college.  Invest the time to learn the steps you need to take, the potential pitfalls, and how to increase your chances of admissions.  Secondarily, you will want to read our guide on how to get into your top college choice.  This advanced guide will help you navigate the college admissions process with greater efficiency.

How will you pay for college?  There are dozens of guides to help you understand how to finance your college education.  Some are quality sources to research like the U.S. Department of Education's FAFSA site while others are not helpful at all.  Our award-winning guides for understanding financial aid, school rankings by financial aid, and how to maximize your college aid.

List of the Top 200 Most Popular Degrees & Programs

The table below lists the total degrees and certificates awarded from all accredited colleges and universities in the United State from 2015-2016.  Simply click on the best degree program for you to learn more about career pathways, top ranked colleges, popular online degrees, admissions insights, average financial aid awards, employment trends, average income by profession, and much more.

RankProgram NameTotal Degrees Awarded
#1Business Administration318,254
#2Liberal Arts299,934
#3Registered Nursing (RN)231,193
#4Psychology126,588
#5General Studies108,798
#6Medical Assistant84,930
#7Biology81,539
#8Accounting81,195
#9Cosmetology77,073
#10Social Work50,196
#11Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)49,934
#12Criminal Justice48,951
#13Nursing Assistant45,869
#14English45,642
#15Elementary Education40,926
#16Law40,630
#17Finance40,626
#18Speech Communication and Rhetoric40,049
#19Auto Mechanic38,944
#20Political Science38,247
#21Advertising and Marketing37,215
#22Welding35,960
#23Mechanical Engineering35,511
#24Economics35,365
#25Sociology33,942
#26History33,047
#27Law and Justice Administration32,384
#28Early Childhood Education30,153
#29Education29,536
#30Electrical Engineering29,255
#31Computer Science27,666
#32Educational Leadership and Administration26,994
#33EMT & Paramedic26,430
#34Kinesiology And Exercise Science26,083
#35Math24,078
#36Dental Assistant23,269
#37Accounting Technology23,152
#38Healthcare Administration21,017
#39Bus and Truck Driver20,193
#40Culinary Arts20,113
#41Special Education20,036
#42Massage Therapy19,910
#43Information Technology19,904
#44Chemistry19,836
#45Social Science19,607
#46Curriculum and Instruction19,370
#47Civil Engineering18,845
#48Medicine18,551
#49Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC)18,219
#50Public Administration17,266
#51Human Services17,052
#52Esthetician16,431
#53Human Resources15,630
#54Pharmacy15,341
#55Paralegal14,952
#56Pharmacy Technician14,683
#57Computer Networking14,608
#58Information Science14,144
#59Journalism13,853
#60International Relations13,543
#61Public Health13,536
#62Electrician13,520
#63Medical Executive Assistant13,417
#64Sports Management and Fitness Administration13,218
#65Sports Medicine12,975
#66Guidance Counselor12,544
#67Administrative Assistant12,488
#68Fine Arts and Studio Arts12,222
#69Information Systems12,044
#70Medical Insurance Coding Specialist11,993
#71Anthropology11,961
#72Chemical Engineering11,634
#73Physical Therapy11,594
#74Music11,373
#75Graphic Design11,240
#76Medical Insurance Specialist and Medical Biller11,052
#77Counseling Psychologist11,012
#78Health Information and Medical Records Technology10,912
#79Secondary Education10,815
#80Drama and Theatre Arts10,712
#81Physics10,610
#82Physical Education10,421
#83Architecture10,415
#84Diesel Mechanic9,460
#85Medical Office Assistant9,427
#86Spanish Language and Literature9,318
#87Family Studies9,165
#88Biomedical Engineering9,115
#89Nail Technician9,036
#90Veterinary Assistant8,997
#91Fire Science8,500
#92Biochemistry8,499
#93International Business8,467
#94Surgical Technologist8,439
#95Criminology8,396
#96Dental Hygienist8,352
#97Family Practice Nurse8,299
#98Cinematography And Film8,139
#99Phlebotomy8,132
#100Physician Assistant8,106
#101Baking And Pastry7,910
#102Respiratory Therapy7,899
#103Philosophy7,653
#104Engineering7,639
#105Audiology and Speech Pathology7,517
#106Industrial Engineering7,512
#107Physical Therapist Assistant7,438
#108Behavioral Science7,431
#109Geology7,395
#110Organizational Leadership7,361
#111Occupational Therapy7,243
#112Environmental Science7,220
#113Ministry7,172
#114International and Global Studies6,956
#115Creative Writing6,825
#116Reading Teacher and Literacy Specialist6,596
#117Auto Body6,589
#118Computer Programming6,442
#119Drafting and Design Technology6,388
#120Nursing Administration6,318
#121Theology6,254
#122Animal Science6,237
#123Radiation Therapy (RT)6,132
#124Logistics and Supply Chain Management6,097
#125Geography6,014
#126Web Design5,985
#127Interior Design5,971
#128Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling5,967
#129Dentistry5,934
#130Biomedical Science5,811
#131System Networking5,740
#132Public Relations5,728
#133Management Science5,698
#134Fashion Merchandising5,690
#135Corrections Officer5,665
#136Design and Visual Communications5,590
#137Entrepreneurship5,537
#138English as a Second Language (ESL)5,520
#139Neuroscience5,507
#140Office Management and Supervision5,444
#141Mental Health Counseling5,430
#142Hospital and Healthcare Facility Management5,408
#143Osteopathy5,355
#144Recording Arts Technology5,351
#145Clinical Psychology5,251
#146Aircraft Mechanic5,246
#147Diagnostic Medical Sonography5,119
#148Athletic Training5,064
#149Industrial Mechanics5,061
#150Industrial Technology4,981
#151Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)4,926
#152Fire Prevention4,922
#153Operations Management4,809
#154Medical Office Management4,788
#155Organizational Behavior Studies4,755
#156Commercial and Advertising Art4,727
#157Religious Studies4,687
#158Public Policy4,629
#159Dietetics4,584
#160Machinist4,552
#161Child Development4,543
#162Statistics4,481
#163Nursing Science4,408
#164Medical Lab Technician4,371
#165Animation4,363
#166Fashion Design4,356
#167Engineering Management4,324
#168Child Care4,300
#169Multimedia4,294
#170Middle School Teacher4,113
#171Art History4,080
#172Financial Planning3,868
#173Hotel and Hospitality Management3,762
#174Parks and Recreation Management3,700
#175Carpentry3,695
#176Exercise Physiology3,617
#177Higher Education Administration3,615
#178Medical Technology3,542
#179Aviation3,507
#180Rhetoric and Composition3,466
#181Systems Engineering3,381
#182Marriage and Family Therapy3,360
#183Manufacturing Engineering Technician3,344
#184Community Organization and Advocacy3,320
#185Real Estate3,310
#186Computer Repair Technician3,309
#187Photography3,227
#188Machine Shop Technology3,189
#189Urban Planning3,168
#190Linguistics3,141
#191Computer Support Specialist3,134
#192Cellular and Molecular Biology3,116
#193Project Management3,094
#194Forensic Science3,093
#195Nutrition3,085
#196Materials Engineering3,011
#197Biotechnology2,981
#198Executive Assistant2,956
#199Agriculture2,932
#200School Psychology2,872