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4 Most Popular College Majors

College students consider a number of factors when choosing their majors. They assess their interests and skills, and match them to potential careers. Degree programs vary not only in the subject matter of the course work, but also in cost and the number of years required to graduate.

If the potential for earnings was the only consideration, everyone would major in engineering. There would probably be more medical students if the process did not require so much money and time. Equalizing all salaries would quickly solve the teacher shortage.

At last report, 42 percent of students chose one of 10 majors, according to the Business Insider. These degree programs concern business, health care, education, and a few other fields. Here is a look at the most popular college majors, and the top-ranked schools offering them.

1. Business

Eight percent of college students in the United States were majoring in business management and administration, when the Business Insider conducted its most recent survey. Degree programs in general business and accounting each attracted about 5 percent of students, placing them second and third on the list. Another business program, marketing and marketing research, ranked seventh with 3 percent of students.

Business majors take classes in subjects like accounting, marketing, finance, economics, statistics, budgeting and business planning, and employee management. The careers they seek require good math skills, as well as strong interpersonal communication.

According to Bloomberg Business Week, the best place in the United States to get a business degree is the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Others in the top five, in order, are the Harvard Business School, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

2. Nursing

The fourth most-popular degree program is nursing, with about 4 percent of all students. Nursing requires a wide range of skills, from the technical to the personal. Nurses must deal with highly stressful, traumatic situations. They are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat injuries and illnesses, while working under the supervision of doctors.

In their freshman year in college, majors in this field take classes in the sciences and liberal arts. As sophomores, they begin clinical rotations to gain training and practical experience. Later, nurses may specialize in oncology, neurology, pediatrics, or obstetrics.

According to rankings compiled by U.S. News and World Report, three schools are tied for the distinction of having the best nursing program. They are St. Johns University in Baltimore, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and the University of Washington in Seattle. Next on the list are the University of California at San Francisco and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

3. Psychology

Psychology degree programs also attract about 4 percent of students. Classes cover complex subjects related to the workings of the human brain. Students learn about intelligence, perceptions, emotions, personalities, and learning abilities. They diagnose and treat mental disorders, and help patients cope with emotional challenges.

Getting a degree in psychology is just the beginning of the educational requirements to work in this field. A graduate degree from a medical school, as well as training and certification, also are required.

The Social Psychology Network reported that Stanford University has the best undergraduate program, based on a Princeton University report. Others in the top five are Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

4. Education

Elementary education majors make up about 4 percent of students, while about 3 percent pursue degrees in general education. While not among the higher-paying professions, teaching provides opportunities for other rewards. Inspiring children to learn can be highly gratifying.

Students majoring in education take mostly general-education courses, with some class work focusing on the grade levels they expect to teach. While in school,  education majors frequently serve as student teachers to gain training and experience.

Michigan State University has the top degree programs in education, according to Campus Explorer. It ranked Pennsylvania State University second, Ohio University third, Vanderbilt University fourth, and the University of Georgia fifth.

These are the most popular college majors, and some of the institutions renowned for their degree programs in those fields. Pursuing these studies can lead to rewarding careers in a variety of disciplines.

Considering choices other students make can be instructive. However, it isrecommended that students focus on their individual needs and interests. Making money is not the only objective. Finding something that you can imagine yourself doing, in a full-time career, should be the main goal.

Tips for Choosing a Major

Attending a college or university entails a significant financial investment and several years of your life. You want to make the most of the experience. Selecting the major that is right for you can lead to a successful and satisfying career. There is a wide array of options, with some universities offering hundreds of degree programs. Here are some tips for choosing a major.

1. Set Priorities

You are in college to learn, earn a degree, and qualify for a good-paying job. In selecting a program, you need to balance your financial ambitions with your interests. If money was the only factor, everyone would be an engineering major. If the salaries of all occupations were equal, there would probably be more teachers and artists.

You need to make enough money to pay off your student loans and enjoy a financially secure life. Research the average salaries that graduates of certain degree programs earn, and the rates of job growth in various fields.

Understand that some professions require more than a four-year degree. To become a doctor, for instance, you have to attend an additional four years of medical school and complete a residency. The fact that this takes a lot of money, as well as time, is a serious consideration.

Remember that, after you graduate, you are likely to be working 40 hours a week or more. If the job is not something you enjoy doing, you are not going to be happy, no matter how much it pays.

2. Identify Interests

Do some self-analysis to identify the subject areas that most interest you. Assess your academic strengths and weaknesses. Consider the subjects that you liked, and those you hated, in high school.

Think about the activities you enjoy doing, and the topics that fascinate you. Identify jobs that would allow you to make a living while doing or studying those things. Imagine what you would like to do every day, if money was not a factor. As much as possible and practical, pursue your passions.

3. Research Programs

Compile a list of potential degree programs. Read the university’s course catalog to learn about the courses, subject matter, and requirements involved with each of the majors you are considering. Take a look at the textbooks and the sorts of assignments you would be expected to complete.

Take advantage of resources like professors, advisors, and fellow students. Ask them about courses and programs. High school and college counselors also are excellent sources of information and advice.

Speak with professionals who have careers in fields you are considering. Find out about the joys and drawbacks of their jobs. Picture yourself doing what they do, and try to determine whether it looks like something that would make you happy as well as financially secure.

4. Take Your Time

Relax and realize that you do not have to make a decision right away. College freshmen face enough of a challenge in adjusting to their new lives, dealing with academic and social pressures. You don’t have to decide upon a major until your sophomore or junior year.

Until then, start completing general-education course requirements. In addition, take math and science classes, because many majors require them. Select electives that you find interesting. If a course intrigues you, there’s a good chance it will be relevant to the major that you eventually choose (or to a job that you get someday).

5. Change Your Mind

Selecting a degree program does not set in stone what you are going to be doing the rest of your life. Few students end up graduating in the field they initially chose. Nearly everyone changes majors at least once.

You may find that the work is too difficult, or that the subject matter does not spark your interest to the extent that you expected. It’s possible that you will discover another subject area that seems more promising. This is called learning and growing, so do not resist it. Don’t feel trapped in your major; you can always change your mind.

Your options do not end upon graduation. People frequently change careers. at some point in their lives, because their passions change or the demand for their services decreases. This is why it is important to take some college classes that you find interesting, even if they don’t apply to your major. They may teach you information you can use later in life.

Choosing a major that leads to a career is one of the most significant actions you will ever take. Though the advice of parents and others can be helpful, it is a personal decision. You need to take a hard look at your interests, abilities, and financial goals. Then you can pick the degree program that is right for you.