When it comes to thinking about college, you have to make a lot of decisions: where to go to school; where to live; what classes to register for; and, eventually, what you are going to study. Sometimes, if you’re having a hard time deciding what to major, taking a look at what other students are doing may be helpful. Some of the more popular major courses of study track along with growth areas or high-demand sectors in the job market — nursing or education, for example — which will go a long way toward helping you land on your financial feet after graduation.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ intermittent “Condition of Education” reports, business administration tops the list of undergraduate majors — and also did so during the tough financial times of past years. A list compiled by Top5.com notes that one reason for its popularity as a major is the variety of career options a business degree affords. From recession-resistant career paths in finance and lucrative jobs in accounting, a business degree can give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to making that next big decision: what to do after you graduate.
Social Sciences & History
A Wall Street Journal survey of salaries by degree surprised me: people with undergraduate degrees in the social sciences actually have a much higher earning potential than most of their liberal arts peers. This has put degrees in the social sciences, including history but excluding psychology, high on the list of majors that are popular among undergraduate students. Political science and economics, which are included in this category, are among the most frequently chosen majors. Econ majors have the highest median starting salaries of any non-hard-science or engineering major. Social science majors also tend to go on to graduate school more frequently than many of their undergraduate counterparts.
An aging, longer-living population, along with technological advances and considerable public discourse about healthcare keep majors in this area popular. Top5 notes that nursing, in its own right, is one of the most popular college majors due to the high — and steady — demand for skilled nurses in the job market. When combined with other health-related programs, such as pre-med, degrees that lead to a job in the healthcare industry are near the top in popularity. Nurses and physician assistants both command high starting salaries and maintain strong earning potential throughout their careers. Graduate programs in nursing can open even more doors.
The Princeton Review and Top5 both highlight education’s popularity as a major among undergraduate students. Education, which includes the extremely popular specialty area of elementary education, is a path chosen by many college students not only for the rewards that come with helping children — and adults — broaden their horizons, but also because the degree can open the door to jobs that are in high demand. If you have talents in math or science, in particular, your job search in the education field will be a short one. Education careers are not limited to teaching, however. You could end up doing anything from leading a college to counseling students.
CollegeCrunch and Top5 both break out psychology from the rest of the social sciences — and there is some academic rationale for doing so, as not all scholars agree that psychology should be a social science (check out this article for an example of one such argument). Anyway, if it were included, it would likely push the combined category to the top of the list. But here, it’s not. A degree in psychology opens the door to a wide range of career options, but most often leads to graduate school. Psychology majors develop observational and analytical skills that are important in today’s business and healthcare fields. Psych majors may end up working directly in their field as psychologists, but they may also follow other career paths that rely on their skill sets, such as social work, marketing or even criminal profiling.