Majors

Information about college majors.

College Majors: Understanding College Majors & Choosing the Right College Major for You

College Majors—General Introduction

As you prepare to start your undergraduate studies, one of the biggest questions you’ll ask yourself is “What should I major in?” This question can seem overwhelming, especially as the list of college majors is extensive. 

Before we help you sort through the best college majors for you, let’s first answer: what is a college major?

A college major is the path you select as your primary field of study in college. College majors can take a variety of forms. For example, your major in college could be computer science or comparative literature. This topic will account for 50% -75% of your classes, which is why it’s important to select a major in college that excites you. While college majors often center around a single academic field, you can also find (or create) cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary college majors. In fact, interdisciplinary studies can be some of the best college majors given their versatility.

In addition to this guide, containing tips, top 10 majors lists, and links to our most popular college majors webinars, CollegeAdvisor.com has developed school-specific guides to college majors! Click on the articles below to learn more about majors at your top choice schools.

Baylor Majors Baylor University has about 14,000 undergraduate students who choose from over 125 Baylor majors and minors to study during their time on campus. What college majors a university […]

Tufts University Majors Preparing to attend Tufts University? One of the most important questions you’ll face as you consider Tufts is “what do you want to study?” With over 150 […]

Tulane Majors Ranked a top school by U.S. News and the Princeton Review, the variety of Tulane majors attracts many students. With an 8:1 student to faculty ratio, Tulane majors […]

UCLA Majors Ranked as #20 on U.S. News Best Colleges list, UCLA continues to be a popular choice among students nationwide. With an undergraduate population of about 30,000 students and […]

UGA Majors If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably gotten through your college applications. Maybe you’ve even gotten some acceptance letters. Congratulations! Now, for the fun part: choosing what you […]

Now that you’re familiar with the what a college major actually is, let’s talk about how to choose from the list of college majors to find the best match for you. Don’t just look at the top college majors in each school and choose one of those. Keep in mind, there is no single list of the best college majors for everyone. You must make a list of college majors that are the best for you. Check out our college majors webinar for more tips on how to create your list of college majors. 

Selecting a major in college comes down to a combination of two factors: your interests and your desired career. You want to select a major that focuses on material you’re excited to learn about, but you also want to keep in mind what career paths you want your major to lead to. Ideally, your major in college will teach you the material you need to succeed in your desired career—these are the best college majors. 

We’ll return to the questions of “what is a college major?”’ and discuss how to choose a college major later in this article. We will also cover:

  • The best college majors
  • Narrowing down the list of college majors
  • The hardest college majors and the easiest college majors
  • The most popular college majors, and more.

Without further ado, let’s dive into college majors and discuss how to select the best college majors for you.

Understanding College Majors- What is a college major?

If you’re just starting to look at the list of college majors, you might ask yourself, “What is a major in college?” That’s a perfectly valid question; college majors can be confusing. You might’ve heard words like “minor” and “double major” as well, and we’ll cover those later. But first: what is a major in college? 

Your major in college is the field of study that you choose to focus on as an undergraduate. It will consume about 1/2 to 3/4 of your coursework, so it should be a topic you’re passionate about. So, don’t just Google “Top 10 Majors” and pick one of those. 

Most students will declare their major by the end of freshman or sophomore year, although the exact timeline varies by school. Once you have declared your major, you will have access to all of the resources in the corresponding department. You will also be given an academic advisor in your major’s department. Your academic advisor is there to guide you through your studies, as well as offer you advice on life beyond your time in undergrad. 

The best college majors supply you with the tools you need to succeed as a working professional after college. So, be sure to do your research after making a list of your top 10 college majors. You want to ensure that each school you apply to offers every topic on your potential list of college majors. And don’t just choose the hardest college majors or the easiest college majors. The best college majors will be topics you’re passionate about. 

Connecting college majors to career goals

As you look at any list of college majors, one of the best ways to start narrowing down your options is to think about your career goals. In many ways, the purpose of college majors is to give you the tools and experience you need to succeed in a related career path. The best college majors will set you up for success. For this reason, thinking about the careers you may want to pursue—or definitely don’t want to pursue—can be a smart way to think through the list of college majors.

Let’s say you’re thinking of a career in programming, technology, or at a startup. A common corresponding major might be computer science, one of the most popular college majors. Courses in this major might include the foundations of computing, technology ethics, app design, or other coursework that will prepare you for a career in technology or programming. So, if those careers seem interesting to you, plan your college major list accordingly. Remember, the best college majors for you may not be the same as your friend’s list of college majors. Keep that in mind as you research. 

Similarly, a major in English might prepare you for a role as a teacher or an author, and it will involve writing and reading-heavy classes. And don’t be influenced by what you perceive to be the hardest majors or the easiest college majors, or even the most popular college majors. The top college majors for other people will be different from the top college majors that fit your goals. So, focus on finding the best college majors for you.

If all of this talk about careers is making you nervous, know that college majors are not as limiting as you might think. Not every career is directly related to your college major. For example, many psychology majors might become consultants and many political science majors might become lawyers. If you’re wondering how to choose a college major, thinking about your future career is just one way to refine your list of college majors. 

Your major can also prepare you for future careers in subtle ways, opening doors via the connections you make and the skills you learn. Psych majors learn how to converse with people in a way that readies them for consulting. Political science majors learn about the policies that inform law. And don’t listen to any college major stereotype that you may hear about as you research. The question “What should I major in?” is about what you think, not what other people think. Although it may be tempting to just select all the easiest college majors, you have to choose the best college majors for your future.

While your career goals should without a doubt inform your major (and vice versa), you absolutely don’t have to worry about pigeon-holing yourself early on with your major in college. There is always room for flexibility both within college majors and within the workforce. Moreover, the best college majors should give you a well-rounded education so that you can pursue any role within your desired field.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the idea of careers and majors, you can read through a list of college majors and their corresponding careers. Use this tool to see how more majors relate to potential careers or read about the top college majors with the highest earning potential.

College Majors: Fields of study and common college majors

If you’re like most college students, you might know generally what field you are interested in. Still, you may have trouble narrowing down your list of college majors to one option. Selecting a category of fields first—and then later selecting from the college major list—can be a great way to start your search for the best college majors. Let’s take a look at some of the field categories and the best college majors within each one.

Humanities Majors

Engineering Majors

Medicine Majors Arts Majors

Business Majors

  • Anthropology
  • English
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Bioengineering
  • Aeronautics
  • Chemical engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Athletic training
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Marine science
  • Architectural design
  • Art history
  • Dance
  • Digital arts
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Management
  • Economics
  • Finance

The list of college majors above is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a sense of the fields of study available to you. You can start narrowing down your college major list by figuring out which category you are most interested in. Then, look at the best college majors within that category.

As you continue your search for the best college majors, you might read about different college major stereotypes associated either with specific majors or with the broader categories listed above. As an example, one of the common college major stereotypes is that humanities majors, such as English, struggle in the job market. In reality, many employers value humanities majors for their creativity and ability to think outside the box. 

Another of the college major stereotypes is that business majors, such as management or entrepreneurship, are too generic and don’t offer enough depth as a field of study. For certain career paths, this may be true. However, for careers in finance, business often offers the flexibility employers desire in this industry.

As you can see, there are tons of college major stereotypes. But rather than listening to the stereotypes, we recommend forming your own opinion about the major that best suits your interests. More often than not, college major stereotypes don’t hold up. So, choose the best college majors for you, no matter what the stereotypes may be. 

Hardest college majors

If you’re wondering about the hardest college majors, there are a couple of types to look at: 

  1. A list of college majors that are the hardest college majors to get admitted to
  2. A list of college majors that are the hardest majors in terms of coursework

One strategy for gaining acceptance to top colleges is to strategically pick from the school’s list of college majors. Your chosen major should reflect the rest of your candidate profile. You can watch CollegeAdvisor’s college majors webinar on how to select your major for college applications. 

You may think choosing one of the hardest majors won’t matter. To be fair, the impact your chosen major has on your application will vary by school. Still, don’t select one of the hardest college majors to get accepted for unless that’s really what you’re passionate about. 

Some of the most popular college majors can be overenrolled, meaning admissions officers simply see too many applications. This can vary at each school, so it’s important to look at an individual school’s most popular college majors. In general, the top 10 majors that are considered the hardest majors to gain acceptance are listed below:

  1. Computer science
  2. Business
  3. Engineering
  4. Biology
  5. Chemistry
  6. Nursing
  7. Psychology
  8. Economics
  9. Communication studies
  10. Environmental science

You will need to look at your schools’ top college majors to get a sense for the hardest college majors there. Ultimately, you should still apply to colleges with the major that most suits you, regardless of whether it is one of the hardest college majors. If you are between two majors, though, having a sense of the hardest majors can guide your decision.

What are the hardest majors in terms of actual coursework? This will depend a lot on where your strengths lie. If writing is painstaking for you, an English major might be one of the hardest college majors. If you prefer to avoid math, engineering might similarly be one of the hardest majors for you. 

Different institutions also have different requirements for each major, which means each college has a slightly different hardest college majors list. Familiarizing yourself with your school’s list of college majors and corresponding requirements will help you get a sense for the workload. This will help you understand which are the hardest college majors. 

We recommend creating a tentative plan of classes for your four years. See how this plan might vary depending on your intended major. Majors that provide less flexibility might be considered some of the hardest college majors. Regardless, having a plan will let you know what you’re getting yourself into, regardless of whether you’ve selected one of the hardest majors. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether your major at college is considered one of the hardest majors or the easiest college major. All that matters is that you choose the best major in college for you. 

Easiest college majors

We’ve covered some of the hardest college majors, but what are some of the easiest college majors? The easiest college majors are usually the ones with the lightest requirements, providing students with the most flexibility in their studies. While this can vary based on the school you attend, the following are often considered the top 10 college majors for enabling flexibility and minimizing workload:

  1. Psychology
  2. Criminal justice
  3. English
  4. Education
  5. Religious studies
  6. Communications
  7. History
  8. Creative writing
  9. Anthropology
  10. Linguistics

As you can see, there is some overlap between the hardest college majors to be admitted to and the easiest college majors academically. This is because the easiest college majors are often amongst the most popular college majors and can be a common choice among applicants. So, the easiest college majors may not be the way to go as you create your college major list. 

However, don’t let the reputation of easiest college majors deter you. The “easier majors” can still be among the best college majors. The easiest college majors provide flexibility, allowing more time to minor or even double major. There are many valid reasons to pursue one of the easiest college majors, so don’t make yourself avoid the easiest college majors choices simply because of reputation. All that matters is that you create a list of the top 10 majors for you, not whether they are the easiest or hardest majors. 

What is a college minor?

Having trouble choosing among the best college majors? One of the great opportunities available to you as an undergraduate is the college minor. We’ve discussed the question of what is a major in college, but what is a college minor, and how does it differ from a major in college? 

A college minor is a secondary field of study in college. It generally comes with far fewer requirements than a full major, allowing for more flexibility. Students usually select an interest that they want to pursue at a deeper level, although without the more intense commitment of a college major. Oftentimes, a minor will relate to a student’s personal or professional goals. 

College minors are entirely optional. They are simply a way to further the scope of your education. If you find yourself torn between multiple options on the list of college majors, you may want to minor in one option while majoring in another.

What is a double major?

If you’re looking for a more extensive engagement with multiple fields than a minor would allow, you may be interested in a double major. While double majors are not offered at every school, they are an increasingly popular way for students to challenge themselves and diversify their education. Some of the hardest college majors to complete are double majors, simply because you are focusing on two areas of study rather than one. 

Double majors can come in two forms. Some schools will offer combined programs in which a student graduates with two degrees while only technically pursuing one program (ex. Computer Science + English). Other schools will simply allow students to declare more than one major. 

Double majors, in either form, will often require multiple theses or capstone projects, which are the senior-year projects in which  college majors culminate at many schools. This, of course, means far more academic work on the part of the student. Keep this additional commitment in mind while planning out your four year schedule.

Are double majors worth it? Double majors can open a lot of doors professionally. Students who double major graduate with a more interdisciplinary background, allowing them to suit more roles. Employers like to see students who have depth in multiple subjects; they are more versatile employees. However, before you dive back into the list of college majors to pick your double major, keep in mind the heavy workload associated with selecting multiple majors. Depending on the majors you select, this may or may not be feasible for you.  

Next, we’ll discuss how to choose a college major and review the most popular college majors at various schools. 

How do I choose a college major?

Choosing one (or two) majors from the long list of college majors offered at most schools can be an intimidating task. Many of the best college majors include courses that are not even offered on high school campuses. This makes choosing a major in college all the more difficult. So, let’s break down how to choose a college major that’s right for you. 

Now, let’s break down how to narrow your list of college majors. First, we’ll discuss how to choose the best college majors for you. Then, we’ll talk about how your major affects your experience in college and beyond.

The first step in how to choose a college major is to think about your own career goals and interests. When choosing a major in college, you should ensure your major prepares you to enter your chosen career path. 

So, do some research. Talk to current professionals about the best college majors to prepare you for your future career. The most popular college majors can prepare you for many career paths. Sometimes, the hardest majors can also lead to the most opportunities. For example, a college English major can help you enter the fields of teaching, publishing, journalism, business, and more. 

However, the best college majors are not just about preparing you for a career. You should also consider what you will enjoy studying. After all, your major will make up most of the classes that you take. Even the hardest majors can feel easier when you enjoy the subject matter. On the other hand, the easiest college majors may be tedious if you do not enjoy the coursework.

It may be tempting to avoid the hardest majors or choose the most popular college majors at your school. However, it is much better to follow your own interests and passions. As you browse the list of college majors offered by your school, think about the clubs, activities, and classes you enjoyed in high school. Then, look for your own personal top college majors based on the experiences you enjoyed:

  • If you participated in a sustainability club or led community service trips to clean up local waterways, your top college majors may include Biology or Environmental Sciences.
  • If you participated in Model UN or were a member of your high school student government, your top college majors might be International Studies or Political Science.
  • If you were a high school athlete or enjoy working out, your top college majors may include Exercise Science or Nutrition.

The best college majors are the ones that you will enjoy. Also, keep in mind that many of the most popular college majors are different from high school subjects. So, look beyond your current curriculum to determine your top college majors. Sometimes, college majors give you the opportunity to expand on a single high school class or unit that you enjoyed. For example, if you enjoyed high school history, but your favorite class was about China, your college might offer an Asian Studies major that could interest you. 

Subjects on the list of college majors may be related to classes you had in high school. They may also give you the chance to study something you haven’t experienced before. Also, it’s okay to be undecided. If you haven’t chosen a college major, check out this college majors webinar about how to apply as an undecided major in college and how to make the decision when you’re ready.

Some colleges may ask you to declare your intended major in college on your application, while others may ask you to rank your top college majors. At smaller liberal arts colleges, your answer to this question has little to no bearing on your admissions decision. These schools offer more flexibility, especially for undecided majors. At larger universities, however, the best college majors are often highly competitive. So, you may need to apply to a specific school or program within your university, especially if your program is one of the hardest majors at the school.

Some programs, especially those in STEM fields, contain the hardest college majors and are more competitive than others. Some colleges may require you to apply to a specific college, such as Arts and Sciences, Public Policy, Music, or Nursing, rather than a specific major. While this does limit your choices somewhat, you can still pursue your own best college majors depending on your chosen college.  

What is the most useful major in college?

When thinking about how to choose a college major, no major is inherently more or less useful than another. The best college majors help you accomplish your goals and build skills that will be helpful in your career. So, the most popular college majors are not necessarily the most useful nor the best college majors for you. Your list of college majors should be unique to you and reflect what you want to study.

Some colleges offer courses designed to help you prepare for certain careers, such as pre-law or pre-med tracks. The courses in these tracks align with some of the hardest majors on the list of college majors, like the pre-med track with a Biology major. However, as long as you complete the courses for the track, you can choose any major from the list of college majors your school offers. Even in these situations, a major in a scientific field is not more useful than any other major. In fact, college majors in writing-heavy disciplines can help medical students become stronger, more well-rounded communicators. 

So, no matter which of the college majors you choose, there are many careers you can pursue. The best college majors for you to choose are not necessarily the easiest college majors or the hardest college majors out there. It all depends on what your interests and career goals are. 

That being said, there are college majors that help set you up for certain careers. So, seeing the most popular college majors in various fields can help you make that decision for yourself. This website from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a list of college majors along with the career fields entered into by students who had some of the most popular college majors. 

Websites like these can help debunk college major stereotypes. Many students might believe, for example, that Philosophy and Religious Studies majors only go on to become academics or members of the clergy, making it one of the hardest majors to be employed with. However, the statistics show that students with these majors will hold jobs in legal fields, management, education, community service, and many others. Even if a major is not one of the most popular college majors, you can still find meaningful employment in a wide variety of industries.

Even within STEM fields, traditionally some of the hardest college majors, there is a lot more variety than many students may think. Certainly, nursing and pre-med programs are some of the most popular college majors for STEM students. However, they are not the only options. While many Biology majors, for example, may become doctors or other medical professionals, others will become public health officials, research and development workers, or science teachers. Other STEM fields like Computer Science and Engineering are the best majors for entering a variety of industries, including banking, business, and tech. 

What should I major in?

We can provide you with advice, and your school will provide you with a list of college majors to choose from. Still, the question of “what should I major in” is one that only you can answer. In the end, you know yourself and your goals better than anyone else. So, you’re the best person to pick from the list of college majors your school offers. 

You should also pick your major for the right reasons, not because it is one of the most popular college majors at your school or because someone else thought you would like it. You should also not pick your major based on what you heard the easiest college majors or hardest college majors are. Your interests and passions should inform your choice of the best college majors for you.

The list of college majors offered at most top schools is extensive. So, think carefully about what your goals are before narrowing down the best college majors for you. While you can change your mind about your major in college, this could mean taking extra classes or switching to a different school within your university. Such a choice should not be made lightly, especially when switching into one of the hardest majors at your school.

Your career aspirations should also inform how to choose a college major, but keep in mind that there are many pathways to the same career. If you want to be in a profession like marketing, you may want to pursue an MBA. You can do so with undergraduate majors ranging from Communications to Economics to Anthropology. Many students pursuing top college majors will eventually seek a graduate degree. So, ensure you take the required courses for your program, whether they are part of your major requirements or not.

Some students have a list of college majors so long that they cannot narrow it down to just one subject. That is where double majors and minors come in. In order to complete a double major or a minor, you must complete all the courses for both majors (or the major and minor). This can be hard to do if the two fields are not related, but if you want the benefits and flexibility that this track provides, it can be worth it. Just be aware that you may not be able to take as many electives or classes outside of your list of college majors if you decide to pursue that path. 

Popular college majors

The most popular college majors do vary widely from school to school. Still, there are also national trends regarding what the best college majors or most popular college majors are.  These top college majors can all help you in your future career. Some of these top 10 college majors, like Computer Science, are more recent additions to the list of college majors at most schools. Others, like Economics and English, have been on the list of college majors for centuries.

Although many of these top 10 majors fall within STEM fields, others are more humanities based. So, even if science and mathematics are not your strong suits, you can still have a successful major. These top 10 college majors can prepare you for a wide variety of career fields. Just remember that it’s ok for the major you choose not to be on this list of top 10 college majors as long as it will help you accomplish your goals.

Top 10 college majors

This list of top 10 college majors comes from the Princeton Review. They do not base the list on which are the easiest college majors or hardest college majors. Rather, they look at the most popular college majors that are in demand right now around the country. Here is their top 10 majors list:

  1. Computer Science
  2. Communications
  3. Government/Political Science
  4. Business
  5. Economics
  6. English Language and Literature
  7. Psychology
  8. Nursing
  9. Chemical Engineering
  10. Biology

Popular college majors at top schools

Now, let’s look at some of the best schools in the country and see what each of their top 10 majors are. Remember that even if a major is not listed in the top 10 majors, you should still pursue it if it matches your interests and goals. These top 10 college majors lists will help you see what your peers are studying at these schools. They can also give you more information to help with how to choose a college major. 

1. UCLA majors: According to US News, the top UCLA majors are:

    1. Social Sciences
    2. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
    3. Psychology
    4. Mathematics and Statistics
    5. Engineering

2. USC majors: According to US News, the top USC majors are:

    1. Business and Management
    2. Marketing
    3. Social Sciences
    4. Visual and Performing Arts
    5. Communication and Journalism

3. MIT majors: According to US News, the top MIT majors are:

    1. Computer Science
    2. Mechanical Engineering
    3. Mathematics
    4. Physics
    5. Aerospace Engineering

4. NYU majors: According to US News, the top NYU majors are:

    1. Visual and Performing Arts
    2. Social Sciences
    3. Business and Management
    4. Liberal Arts and Sciences and Humanities
    5. Health Professions 

5. Harvard majors: According to US News, the top Harvard Majors are:

    1. Social Sciences
    2. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
    3. Mathematics 
    4. Computer and Information Sciences
    5. History

6. UC Berkeley majors: According to US News, the top UC Berkeley majors are:

    1. Social Sciences
    2. Computer and Information Sciences
    3. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
    4. Engineering
    5. Mathematics and Statistics

7. Stanford majors: According to the Stanford website, the top Stanford majors are:

    1. Computer and Information Services
    2. Interdisciplinary Studies
    3. Engineering
    4. Human Biology
    5. Management Science

8. Boston College majors: According to US News, the top Boston College majors are:

      1. Finance
      2. Economics 
      3. Biology and Biological Sciences
      4. Speech Communication and Rhetoric
      5. Political Science and Government 

9. Cornell majors: According to US News, the top Cornell majors are:

    1. Engineering
    2. Business and Management
    3. Computer and Information Sciences
    4. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
    5. Agricultural and Animal Sciences

10. Yale majors: According to US News, the top Yale majors are:

    1. Social Sciences
    2. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
    3. Mathematics and Statistics
    4. Computer and Information Sciences
    5. History

Understanding college majors–Final Thoughts

Choosing your major from the list of college majors is one of the most important decisions you will make in college. Your major or majors will be listed on your diploma and show potential employers the training and skills you have. Also, your major represents your academic passion—the subject that interests you and inspires your curiosity.

The question of how to choose a college major is a decision that everyone needs to make for themselves. Parents, teachers, and friends mean well when they tell you that they know the best college majors for you or the best college majors for making money. However, in the end, you are the one who will actually complete this major in college. Don’t base your decision on college major stereotypes or only consider the most popular college majors. 

Here are some final tips for how to choose the best college majors for you:

  • Do your research: If there are subjects on your list of college majors that you aren’t familiar with but think you might enjoy, look up more about them! You can attend an informational college majors webinar, look up some of the most popular college majors online, or even talk to current professors at your school about their classes. It is okay to change your mind about college majors if you figure out that you do not like them as much as you thought you would.
  • Use your first year to explore: Many schools have you make a possible list of college majors on your application. However, you do not need to stay with that major when you are on campus. If your school allows it, use your first year to explore classes in a variety of college majors. That way, you can get a sense of what your top college majors are. Start your research early. The further you get into a major, the harder it is to change if you don’t like it.
  • Check the requirements: All of the best college majors have certain required classes. While you may not love every class your major requires you to take, it is important that you enjoy at least the vast majority of them. You may think you’re choosing one of the easiest college majors after breezing through the first required class. However, finding out later that you hate the advanced classes will not help you in the long run. So, take a look at the requirements and make sure they are both doable and enjoyable for you.

Whatever your goals are after college, the best college majors will help you achieve them. Whether you want to specialize in one field or be more well rounded, your choice of college majors will support your goals throughout college and beyond.

In addition to the school specific guides above, we’ve got an entire page dedicated to major selection with specific guidelines for pre-med and pre-law students. You can also find more resources for how to choose a college major here or by registering for an appointment with one of our trained Admissions Experts. We are here to help narrow down that list of college majors and find the best college majors for you!