Popularity of majors at various levels of university admissions selectivity

<p>Here are popular majors at graduation for four year state universities and one private university of various levels of admissions selectivity in a region of California. Major groups are those listed in the common data sets (rounded to the nearest percent).</p>

<p>California State University, East Bay:
29% business
13% health professions
9% social sciences
6% home economics
5% (several major groups) psychology, general studies, biological/life sciences, protective services, visual and performing arts
4% (several major groups) parks and recreation, communications/journalism</p>

<p>San Jose State University:
29% business
8% (several major groups) health professions, visual and performing arts, engineering
7% social sciences
6% psychology
5% (several major groups) communications/journalism, English
4% protective services</p>

<p>University of California, Santa Cruz:
16% social sciences
12% biological/life sciences
7% natural resources and environmental science
6% English
5% communications/journalism
3% (several major groups) foreign language and literature, physical sciences, public administration and social services</p>

<p>University of California, Berkeley:
20% social sciences
12% biological/life sciences
11% engineering
6% English
5% interdisciplinary studies
4% (several major groups) natural resources and environmental science, area and ethnic studies, foreign language and literature, psychology, visual and performing arts, business
3% (several major groups) communications/journalism, math/statistics, physical sciences, history</p>

<p>Stanford University:
21% social sciences
16% interdisciplinary studies
15% engineering
7% biological/life sciences
5% (several major groups) computer science, physical sciences
4% (several major groups) psychology, engineering technologies, English
3% (several major groups) math/statistics, history, foreign language and literature, area and ethnic studies, communications/journalism</p>

<p>The pattern is that the less selective universities tend to have a higher proportion of students in obviously preprofessional majors (other than engineering), and fewer in the liberal arts (humanities, social studies, math, and science) and engineering.</p>

<p>Social sciences (presumably including economics and sociology, but not psychology and history) are very popular in general; psychology and history are are also fairly popular. Biological/life sciences are also popular. Math/statistics, physical sciences, English, and foreign language and literature are less popular. Most of these trend upward with increasing selectivity.</p>

<p>Communications/journalism appears to have the same level of popularity at all levels of selectivity.</p>

<p>Are these apparent patterns similar to those found in four year universities in other areas of the US?</p>

<p>No data, but I wouldn't see any reason why not. In general, less selective universities tend to offer more preprofessional / "job training" types of majors.</p>

<p>It has always been my impression that as a general trend, the less selective the school, the more 'practical' the majors become.</p>

<p>What did you mean social science not including psychology? I've always seen it as the predominant major within social science, and more popular than sociology. And many would argue econ is not a social science. I have never considered history a social science.</p>

What did you mean social science not including psychology?


It looks like in the data they separate out psychology, and lump all the other social stydies together. Probably for precisely the reason that psych is the most popular.</p>

<p>Depending on the institution, history can be lumped in with the social sciences or not.</p>

<p>Where do these numbers come from? The Stanford figures are especially odd, because it historically has extremely strong psychology and English departments, and both of those tend to be popular majors at elite universities. Do your numbers mean that they got 4% of the students each, or that the two of them and "engineering technologies" shared 4%? (The chart really only makes sense if it is 4% apiece.)</p>

<p>In "job-training", do we consider pre-professional programs like pre-med?</p>

<p>It seems logical that less selective schools would focus more on educational tracks that lead to jobs. It's also not a stretch to guess why. The lower income kids also often go to less selective schools. Yes, the most selective schools have the best aid, but just look at the percentage of kids at those schools that are Pell eligible. It's not high.</p>

<p>The less affluent, often first generation, students also have family pressure to get a job after so much has been spent/borrowed for college. The 18-22 year old kid has no idea what kind of job one gets as a history major (other than teacher) and so gravitates to something will a more obvious job at the end. My kids' high school is currently about 60% free/reduced lunch kids. At grad time, when the paper puslishes the senior supplement and lists schools/intended majors for the graduating class, the list is full of engineering/pre-law/pre-anything medical hopefuls. Why? Good jobs. </p>

<p>You know, I don't see education on your lists. Do the California state schools not train teachers?</p>

<p>On further examination, I am not certain exactly what this tells us.</p>

<p>English is 5% at San Jose State, 6% at both UCSC and Berkeley, and 4% at Stanford. Selected others: Chicago - 5.7%, Yale - 7.1%, Harvard - 4.6%, Cornell - 1.5%, Duke - 5.1%, Wake Forest - 5.8%.</p>

<p>I have to say: I don't see much of a pattern. Adding to the confusion, some of these colleges offer communications and/or journalism (fields to which possible English majors may be attracted, as well as other people), and some don't. So for this one flagship non-professional, non-practical, but important-in-a-general way major, selectivity of the institution doesn't seem to be that important, at least once you pass the threshold of being selective at all.</p>

<p>Quote: You know, I don't see education on your lists. Do the California state schools not train teachers? </p>

<p>In California, education is not an undergraduate degree. Students major in a subject, then go to graduate school to take education courses and do student teaching, which takes an additional year or year and a half. If the student has planned well in advance and has AP credits, they might end up finishing sooner, but they still don't major in education. For elementary school teachers, their major might be "liberal studies" but still that wouldn't be enough for the credential--they do the graduate studies just like the single-subject (secondary) teachers. On top of that, there are multiple time-consuming state tests (some that are like giant reports) that are required before the teaching certification can be obtained. Still, the course requirements for the teaching certification will not give you a masters degree, that would require additional coursework. Often, it will take two years for a student to get the masters with certification. Some masters programs are designed to confer both the masters degree and the teaching credential. To my knowledge, there is no such thing as an education undergraduate major.</p>

The pattern is that the less selective universities tend to have a higher proportion of students in obviously preprofessional majors...


<p>Well yeah in California, and that is by design. The California Master Plan, approved back in the '60's, gave the sole responsibility for 'vocational' majors to the Cal States. Until recently, when UCI is growing its undergrad biz program, only Cal and Riverside even offered undergrad business. (I'm guessing that Haas was grandfathered in when the Master Plan was approved and that the program at Riverside was a plug to get kids to even consider that campus.) UC undergraduate campuses aren't allowed to offer nursing. UC's don't offer other 'vocational' majors, such as kinesiology.</p>

<p>Thus, any California resident with interest in such vocational programs would naturally look to Cal State, even if they were a top student.</p>

<p>While you may be correct in your point, ucb, using California data is not supportive since it is an outlier by definition.</p>

<p>Psychology is widely popular across the country, particularly with girls. (Just sayin' for anyone with a HS senior girl that her app will be one of thousands and be hard to stand out.)</p>

<p>JHS: ipeds is a great source for graduates by major, and thus assessing Dept size. Stanford, for example, had 53 English majors last year (or '11?), out of ~1600 total grads. In contrast, Human Biology -- the standard premed major at Stanford, had 160 grads, and that is after running the premed gauntlet, and not washing out; Engineering had 260 grads. S is definitely a preprofessional campus.</p>



<p>Common data set, section J.</p>

<p>Yes, where there are several groups listed under 4%, that means each is 4%.</p>



<p>UC Davis has an Exercise Biology major.</p>

<p>UC Berkeley had a Physical Education department and major until its biology reorganization of 1997, when Physical Education became part of Integrative Biology.</p>

<p>So what? You found one major in existence across nine undergrad campuses which provide an education to hundreds of thousands of students. And I'm sure if you canvassed the campuses, you could find a few students at each that have designed their own, independent, vocational major, and found a faculty member to approve it.</p>

<p>Regardless, UC data is meaningless to make your point. The State Master Plan designated the Cal State (and junior college) system to provide vocational education. The fact that a few outliers may exist only serves to weaken your data. By definition, a typical UC campus HAS to be more liberal artsy than a Cal State. </p>

<p>It is not a "pattern", but a design of the college system in California.</p>

<p>OK, I'm straight on where the numbers come from. I took mine from NCES' College Navigator, except for Chicago which I took directly from its registrar's reports (but only used first majors, not seconds, so that it was comparable to the CDS data).</p>

<p>Anyway, back to substance. Look at the prototypical set of impractical majors, visual and performing arts. (Of course, some of them can be "pre-professional" types of major, but rarely at these institutions, and not at these prices I think.) There are actually quite a lot of them at CSU-EB (5%) and SJSU (8%)(!!), and UCSC (9.7%, notwithstanding that this isn't reflected in ucbalumnus' post). They are significant at Berkeley (4%, on a huge base). Looking at the rest of the world (or some of it), they are more or less the same, around 2.5%, at Stanford, Chicago, Duke, Wake Forest, and Cornell, a little bit more than that at Harvard (3.2%), and 5.7% at Yale. </p>

<p>What do you get from that? Some schools are artier than others, but it certainly doesn't increase with selectivity, nor is it constant across selectivity bands. Some schools are just artier than others. Dog bites man.</p>



<p>Visual and performing arts are pre-professional* (although they are also often considered part of the liberal arts), even though relatively few artists, performers, and musicians become very financially successful. Note that this category includes majors, subareas, or courses like animation, digital media art, art for teaching, music for education, photography, digital video, game design, acting, directing, etc..</p>

<p>*Pre-professional does not necessarily mean that the job and career prospects in the intended profession are good.</p>

<p>I know what visual arts majors are, and I know what pre-professional is, which is why I said visual arts majors could be pre-professional in nature. So what? They are still distributed really unevenly among these schools, and it isn't based on anything obvious.</p>

Do the California state schools not train teachers?


<p>That is one heck of a loaded question! :)</p>

<p>UCSC has a top film program doesn't it? That might account for high numbers in the arts.</p>

<p>Steven Spielberg graduated from Cal State Long Beach. I think when you get to the level of the truly elite in the entertainment Industry they have natural skills and characteristics that make them pretty much unique. Unique individuals could probably come from any school and rise to the top. In this industry things are different than say Engineering where you could say with a pretty certain amount of confidence that on average this year's graduating class in Engineering at MIT will, over their careers, be awarded more patents than the Engineering graduates at Fresno State University, even if it is possible, though unlikely, that the engineer that is awarded the most patents will be a Fresno State graduate.</p>

<p>ROTFL, xiggi. </p>

<p>Excellent retort.</p>