TheBestSchools’ Degrees Guide
Updated May 23, 2022
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In 2020, nearly 20 million students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. These students declare majors in diverse fields, and a growing number of them choose an online learning format. But what is the best fit for you?
Choosing an educational path takes time. Instead of changing majors multiple times, invest energy ahead of time in researching college majors, universities that specialize in different subjects, and options within each degree level. Narrowing your focus to a discipline — like healthcare, business, computer science, social science, or art and design — helps you find the right fit.
Selecting a major is only the first step — not the final one. After declaring a major and earning a bachelor's degree, some careers require additional study. For example, many careers in healthcare, psychology, social work, and education require a master's degree. Learning more about degree levels and career paths while you are an undergraduate helps you plan ahead.
Students need an up-to-date resource on news that impacts prospective and current students. That's why TheBestSchools offers a variety of tools and resources for college students.
Selecting a Major
When it comes to selecting a major, students need all the information they can get. Resources about the most common majors and career paths for each can help degree-seekers narrow their options.
In addition to researching majors, students should consider their circumstances. What fields interest you? What kinds of careers would you like to pursue? What are your strengths? Answering these questions can help students narrow their choices and pick a major.
Health Professions Degrees
With 2.4 million new jobs projected between 2019-2029, the healthcare field will grow more than any other occupational field.
Earning a degree in healthcare prepares graduates for careers working with diverse patient populations. Nursing degrees, for example, train students for high-paying careers. An RN degree or an RN-to-BSN degree leads to entry-level roles. An MSN degree opens the door to advanced practice roles.
In addition to nursing, students interested in healthcare can earn pharmacy degrees, allied health degrees, and kinesiology degrees. Universities also offer specialized training for substance abuse counseling careers and roles in healthcare administration.
Substance Abuse Counseling
Social Sciences Degrees
The social sciences investigate social institutions and human communities. This includes fields like political science, sociology, and women and gender's studies. Degree-seekers in these fields explore political institutions, human behavior, and culture. For example, a sociology degree or an economics degree emphasizes qualitative and quantitative data analysis.
In addition to these social science majors, students can earn a criminal justice or law degree to examine the criminal justice system and prepare for careers in law enforcement or criminal defense.
Business Management and Administration Degrees
Business management and administration professionals learn how to manage complex projects and make strategic decisions. Within the business field, students usually specialize. For example, a business degree can lead to opportunities in project management, entrepreneurship, and organizational leadership. Business majors can also specialize in human resources, logistics, and international business.
Meanwhile, an accounting degree or a finance degree leads to careers like accountant, financial specialist, or personal financial planner. Degree-seekers can earn degrees in public administration to take on leadership positions in public and nonprofit organizations.
What Is a Business Degree?
What Can You Do with an Accounting Degree?
What Can I Do With a Human Resources Degree?
What Can You Do With a Public Administration Degree?
Computer Science and Information Technology Degrees
Computer science and information technology careers pay a median salary of more than double the national average. They also report high projected job growth.
Within these growing fields, students earn degrees in varied majors, including computer science and information technology. These majors emphasize technical and problem-solving skills. Students often add business training to their course of study, too.
Specialized majors like cybersecurity, database management, network architecture, and information security offer focused training for technical careers. For instance, a cybersecurity degree leads to opportunities as an information security analyst.
Graduate-level training prepares professionals for leadership and decision-making roles.
Art and Design Degrees
The art and design field draws on creative skills to create visually engaging fine art and design pieces.
Within an art and design program, students can specialize in fine arts, like drawing and illustration, or in design fields, like graphic design and web design. Many programs offer specialized training in game design — a growing field with exciting career opportunities.
Art and design majors increasingly need technical skills to advance in their careers. Artists and designers rely on software programs to create 3-D models, graphic art, and video games. These programs blend creativity with technical training.
What Can You Do With an Art and Design Degree?
What Can You Do With a Degree in Video Game Design?
Marketing, Communication, and Journalism Degrees
The fields of marketing, communication, and journalism analyze data and communicate information to people.
A marketing degree strengthens research skills and leads to roles like market research analyst or marketing manager. With a communications degree, graduates can pursue careers in public relations, corporate communications, and writing. A journalism degree emphasizes writing, research, and journalism ethics.
Graduates in these fields develop strong communication abilities. As a result, they may work in many industries. Learn more about available career paths with a marketing, communication, or journalism degree at the links below.
Science degrees investigate the natural world using observation, experiments, and mathematics. Within the sciences, students can pursue degrees in several major fields. A biology degree, for instance, investigates the living world and diverse ecosystems. Common subfields include microbiology, biochemistry, and biomedicine.
A chemistry degree examines the smallest particles and their interactions, while a physics degree investigates motion and force. Other science majors include genetics, zoology, ecology, planetary science, and Earth science. Graduate programs offer even more specialized options.
After earning a science degree, graduates can pursue STEM careers or move into related fields, like medicine.
What Can You Do With a Chemistry Degree?
What Is a Physics Degree?
What Can You Do With a Biology Degree?
Psychology, Counseling, and Social Work Degrees
Psychology, counseling, and social work degrees build strong critical thinking, interpersonal, and analytical abilities.
During a psychology degree, for example, students learn about human development, social behavior, and abnormal psychology. A counseling degree emphasizes therapeutic treatment, assessment, and diagnosis. Meanwhile, social work degrees train students in the social welfare system, client advocacy, and clinical social work practice.
Careers in psychology, counseling, and social work often require a graduate degree. Students can study at the undergraduate level and decide whether to pursue a career in psychology, counseling, or social work. Pursuing those careers often requires a master's degree.
Language and Literature Degrees
Language and literature degrees build fluency in foreign languages and strengthen literary analysis and writing skills.
During an English degree, for example, majors analyze rhetorical approaches, critically assess literature, and build strong research and writing abilities. English majors can pursue a variety of career paths after graduation, including roles in education, public relations, writing, and editing.
Many employers look for strong language skills, which students can gain through a Spanish degree or a different language degree. Many colleges offer multiple language degrees. Romance languages like French are popular options, as are German, Russian, Arabic, and Mandarin Chinese. Language degrees can lead to opportunities as translators and interpreters.
What Can You Do with an English Degree?
What Is a Spanish Degree?
Theology and Religious Studies Degrees
Theology and religious studies majors investigate religious systems and personal faith in an academic setting. During a religious studies degree, learners compare religious systems and study how they evolve over time. The major also emphasizes the intersections between religion and culture.
A theology degree builds pastoral and ministry skills. Many theology programs incorporate counseling courses, training in biblical ministry, and missionary coursework. With a theology degree at the undergraduate or graduate level, people pursue careers in the church or in nonprofit and social services organizations.
Math and Engineering Degrees
Many math and engineering careers report high demand. A math or engineering major also strengthens analytical and logic-based skills. During a math major, for example, students study calculus, statistics, and math theory. They can also pursue training in math education to become a math teacher.
An engineering degree leads to many high-paying careers, including electrical engineer, civil engineer, and mechanical engineer. Engineering programs often emphasize materials science, engineering theory, and the best practices for designing and testing new products.
Graduate-level training in math or engineering prepares graduates for careers as mathematicians, statisticians, data scientists, and engineering managers.
What Is a Math Degree?
What Can You Do With an Engineering Degree?
Education, Fine Arts, and the Humanities
Students in education, the fine arts, and the humanities develop strong critical thinking, communication, and creative skills.
An education degree emphasizes teaching skills. Students specialize in areas like early childhood education, elementary education, or secondary education. At the graduate level, education programs train principals and other school administrators.
The fine arts and humanities include fields like creative writing, English, philosophy, and graphic art. In related fields, like library science, learners build problem-solving and information management skills.
Like other arts majors, a music degree blends theory and practice to strengthen creative abilities.
Choosing a Degree Level
When choosing an education path, ask yourself: Do you need an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree to enter your preferred profession? Or will a certificate program prepare you for the workforce?
When choosing a degree level, prospective students should understand the difference between an associate degree and a bachelor's degree. At the graduate level, both master's programs and doctoral programs offer advanced coursework in a specialized field.
Bootcamps, Trade Schools, and Other Career Paths
College is not the only route to a fulfilling, lucrative career. Many students choose alternative pathways like trade school, vocational training, or coding bootcamps. These programs offer career-ready training that blends lectures with practical experience.
Vocational programs offer degrees in areas like automotive technology, hospitality management, the culinary arts, and fire science. Learners can also study to become paralegals and allied health professionals through vocational training. Trade schools offer training in-demand fields like aviation technology or military science, which help service members advance to leadership roles.
Rather than limiting your search to traditional colleges and universities, consider career paths that require a 1-2 year vocational certificate or degree.
Pursuing an Online Degree
A growing number of colleges and universities offer online degrees. But what do you need to know before enrolling in an online college?
Know what to look for when researching online programs. There are many advantages to online education — including a flexible schedule. Check out our online education checklist to make sure you are prepared for the first day of class. Build up your online college tools to hit the ground running on your way to a degree.
The Best Online Colleges and Universities of 2021
What to Look for in an Online College
Advantages of a Dedicated Online Program
Online Education Checklist
Synchronous Learning vs. Asynchronous Learning
Essential Tools for Online College Students
Paying for Your Education
Paying for college stresses out many students. Before applying to schools, consider your college finances and your budget. Then, research college scholarships and student loans. Getting educated about college costs can help students make informed decisions and limit their debt after graduation.
If you are considering online college, learn more about financial aid at online schools. The following resources can help you understand your options and secure financial aid for your degree.
Recent Publications on Degrees and Majors
College offers students an opportunity to explore and grow while expanding their intellectual horizons. In between general education requirements and final exams, students can benefit from an outside perspective on degrees and majors.
Our recent blog posts have examined topics like the role of the humanities and journalism in our modern era, unexpected majors to help you land a tech job, and celebrities who earned surprising degrees. For more recent news on majors, bookmark TheBestSchools' Magazine.
Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing a Degree
What Is the College Major With the Highest Employment Rate?
Business, healthcare, and education all report high employment rates for graduates. Undergrads should always research projected job growth in different fields when choosing a major.
What College Major Pays the Most?
Computer science, engineering, statistics, and nursing all rank among the college majors that pay the highest salaries, according to Glassdoor data.
What College Major Is Right for Me?
Every student must find the right major for their personal interests, strengths, and career goals. Taking a variety of courses and researching career paths can help undecided students choose their majors.
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