10 Most Popular College Majors in USA

The USA has always been a top choice destination for study abroad students from around the world. With the number of international students in America being recorded as over 1 million for the first time in the 2015/2016 academic year, we look at what the most popular majors are for international students enrolling in the USA.

PLEASE NOTE: All country percentage figures listed below are based on the number of students studying that subject divided by the number of students from that country studying abroad in the USA.

10. Health Professionals

Number of international students: 33,947 (1.2% increase)

Courses like Medicine and Nursing have long been popular with international students studying abroad in the USA, allowing them to utilise the advanced facilities that many colleges have to offer their students. By percentage, Canada and Nigeria send the most students to study Health Professional courses in the USA, at 14.9% and 12.6% respectively.

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9. Mathematics

Number of international students: 33,969 (14.3% increase)

Last year saw a healthy growth in international students studying Mathematics in the USA. Mathematics graduates can go on to work in many different areas including accountancy, finance, statistics, engineering, computer science and beyond. 

8. Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Number of international students: 40,184 (2.3% increase)

Biological and Biomedical Sciences are popular majors for international students who want to work in the Biology field without being patient-facing. Majors of Biological/Biomedical Science students are most popular with students from Nepal (22.3%), Nigeria (13.1%), Iran (11.6%), Taiwan (11.1%) and Malaysia (10.9%). 

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7. Intensive English

Number of international students: 40,887 (17% decrease)

Last year saw a big reduction, just over 1/6th, in international students studying Intensive English courses in America. Perhaps students are looking at studying English in other locations, or maybe the availability of free language learning tools, such as the DuoLingo App, are reducing the numbers. However, the courses are still popular with international students from Kuwait (19.5%), Saudi Arabia (18.6%), Japan (15.4%) and Vietnam (9.8%).

6. Liberal Arts & Sciences

Number of international students: 50,360 (10% increase)

Liberal arts majors vary from college to college and cover anything from Psychology, History, Philosophy, Languages, Literature, Art History and more. The main benefit of studying a Liberal Arts degree is that you can tailor the course as you go, taking different modules in a number of subjects to give you a broad understanding of 'the arts'. If you're looking to develop your language skills, love literature and the arts and want a varied and engaging course, liberal arts may just be the course for you.

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5. Social Sciences

Number of international students: 52,568 (6.5% increase)

Like Liberal Arts, Social Sciences also covers a number of different subjects including Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Political Science and Sociology. Social Sciences are focused on looking at how society works from a scientific perspective. Social Sciences courses are popular with students from the UK (16%), Hong Kong (15.1%), Turkey (14.1%) Germany (12.8%) and South Korea (12.8%).

4. Visual & Applied Arts

Number of international students: 59,736 (5.2% increase)

Visual and Applied Arts include Music, Theatre, Media, Architecture & Design, Art & Film. Generally very hands-on and creative, Visual and Applied Arts will typically by assessed via a mix of exams and practical assessments, portfolios and project work. Courses in these subjects are very popular as they can help graduates get into satisfying careers in the arts, as well as a wide range of other jobs with the transferable skills that they offer. Studies in the Fine Arts & Applied Arts are popular with students from Taiwan (13.1%), South Korea (12.6%), Hong Kong (11.3%), Colombia (10.2%) and Mexico (9.5%).

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3. Computer Science

Number of international students: 107,682 (29.4% increase)

Last year saw a monumental growth in the area of Computer Science in the USA, the highest in any sector. Graduates working in IT have consistently high rates of pay, as well as lots of job opportunities, both in the USA and worldwide. Courses in Computer Science are particularly popular with students from India, Nepal, China, Iran & Turkey. 

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2. Business Administration 

Number of international students: 200,312 (1.5% increase)

Unsurprisingly Business Administration & Management is still one of the most popular majors amongst international students, although for the first time in recent history it has been knocked off the top position over the last academic year (2015/2016). The Master's of Business Administration (MBA) is seen by many as a requirement for a career in business and is particularly popular with international students, as well as the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). During the 2015/2016 academic year, over 80,000 Chinese students studied a degree in Business Administration in the USA. Other countries with a high percentage of their international students studying Business Administration in the US include Indonesia (31.1%), Vietnam (29.8%), Venezuela (28.6%), Germany (25.8%) and France (24.8%).

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1. Engineering

Number of international students: 201,145 (9% increase)

Engineering has consistently been the second most popular course for international students in the USA, but last year saw it soar to the top spot with a massive 9% year-on-year growth. Engineering is a very practical degree, and there is a wide range of Engineering jobs available for graduates including Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Top countries for international students studying Engineering are Iran (54.4%), Kuwait (50.4%), India (36%), Malaysia (28.9%) & Saudi Arabia (25.7%).

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Institute of International Education. (2016). "Fields of Study of Students from Selected Places of Origin, 2015/16." Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Retrieved from http://www.iie.org/opendoors

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