Gauging the top 10 desired degrees depends on how you measure the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred within certain fields. But no matter how you categorise college degrees, there are some recurring themes and (recent) historical constants. Business degrees remain among the most sought-after degrees, a continuing trend for the past couple of decades. Other degrees that round out the list change places from year to year, but remain among the top 10.
Business administration degrees are stepping stones for individuals looking to obtain a management position in the business world. Assumption of leadership roles—managers, officers, executives and CEOs—often begins with a business degree. Starting salaries will vary greatly depending on the nature of the business and the title or position, but financial controllers and operations managers enjoy both good beginning salaries and long-term pay potential. Business degrees are the most conferred degrees for both men and women.
Social science degrees can include a general “social science” moniker or any number of sub-specialities such as political science, psychology, public administration and history. Among these degree offerings, degrees in psychology, political science and general social sciences were the most awarded in the 2008 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Social science and history degrees awarded in the United States in 2008 totalled more than 167,000, minus psychology degrees, which numbered nearly 93,000. Psychology majors, more than any other undergraduate degree recipients, tend to move away from their field once they graduate. Although the majority of psychology graduates practice within the mental health field, many others move into (mostly) unrelated fields such as sales, marketing and human resources, where their people skills can be used in a nonclinical setting. Social science degrees accounted for 11 per cent of all degrees awarded on 2008.
Biology medical sciences
Although an undergraduate degree in biology or another science sometimes is the first step in pursuing a medical degree, many other recipients of such degrees seek non-physician positions within the health care field or in high-tech research, such as genetics and biotechnology. Many companies also employ biologists and other scientists as product researchers.
While education and teaching positions have been on a general downward trend for the past half-century (there were more than 175,00 education degrees awarded in 1970, as opposed to barely 100,000 in 2008), it’s still a popular and much-needed profession. The 2008 average beginning salary for elementary teachers—$29,414—is the lowest among popular majors and among the lowest of any profession.
Communication degrees are wide-ranging, including print journalism, broadcast journalism, public relations, marketing and advertising. Much of a communication major’s undergraduate curriculum consists of a lot of the same coursework of another top 10 major entrant, English degrees.
Rounding out the list are visual and performing arts; engineering; liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities; English language and literature/letters; computer information services.
Health care-related degrees, when taken as a single field, also would rank among the top 10 degrees awarded, but the field encompasses such diverse specialities as nursing, health care management, food and nutrition, clinical laboratory services, fitness and training, emergency medicine and public health. Engineering degrees also vary widely, including electrical, mechanical, biological, civil, petroleum, aeronautical, marine, chemical and environmental engineering degrees.
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