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Ranked: Most Popular U.S. Undergraduate Degrees (2011–2021)

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A bar chart showing the number of  undergraduate degrees awarded in many university departments in 2020–2021 and the % change since 2010–2011.

Ranked: Most Popular U.S. Undergraduate Degrees (2011–2021)

In an era of soaring tuition fees and mounting student debt, choosing which undergraduate degree to pursue has become a crucial decision for any aspiring college student. And it always helps to see which way the winds are blowing.

This visualization by Kashish Rastogi, based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), examines the changing landscape of undergraduate degrees awarded between the 2010–2011 and 2020–2021 academic years.

Undergraduate Degrees Growing in Popularity

The NCES classifies all four-year bachelor degrees into 38 fields of study. Of these fields, 21 saw an increase in graduates in 2020–2021 compared to 2010–2011.

While only those with more than 30,000 graduates have been shown in the graphic (to prevent overrepresentation of large changes in small pools of graduates), the full list is available below.

RankField of Study2010–20112020–2021% Change
1Business363,919390,781+7%
2Health Professions143,463268,018+87%
3Biomedical Sciences89,984131,499+46%
4Psychology100,906126,944+26%
5Engineering76,356126,037+65%
6Computer Sciences43,066104,874+144%
7Communication83,23190,775+9%
8Security & Law
Enforcement
47,60058,009+22%
9Interdisciplinary
Studies
42,47354,584+29%
10Leisure &
Fitness Studies
35,93454,294+51%
11Public Administration26,79934,817+30%
12Physical Sciences24,33828,706+18%
13Mathematics 17,18227,092+58%
14Agriculture Sciences15,85121,418+35%
15Natural Resources
& Conservation
12,77920,507+61%
16Engineering
Technologies
16,18718,562+15%
17Transportation4,9415,993+21%
18Legal4,4294,589+4%
19Military Technologies641,524+2,281%
20Science Technologies367532+45%
21Library Science96119+24%
Note: Field of study names have been edited slightly from their NCES labels for better readability.

Let’s take a look at the areas of study that were most popular, as well as some of the fastest growing fields:

Computer and Information Sciences

Bachelor’s degrees in this discipline have grown by 144% since 2010–2011, with over 100,000 graduates in 2020–2021. The allure of the tech sector’s explosive growth likely contributed to its popularity among students.

Health Professions

Undergraduate degrees in health professions saw an 87% increase, attracting nearly 260,000 graduates in 2020–2021. This field accounted for 13% of the total graduating class, reflecting the growing appeal of the healthcare sector.

Engineering

There were 50,000 more engineering graduates in the U.S. in 2021, up 65% from 2011. With a median income over $100,000 per year, engineering graduates can usually rely on good wages as well as versatility in future careers, capable of finding jobs in tech, design, and communication fields, and of course, becoming future entrepreneurs.

Biomedical Sciences

University graduates in this field, which focuses on the integration of the study of biology with health and medicine, grew by 46%. A subset of this category—epidemiology—has been in the limelight recently thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business

While this category recorded a modest 7% growth in graduates, its popularity has been indisputable in the last decade, representing the largest proportion of the graduating class in both 2011 and 2021.

Fields with Declining University Graduates (2011‒2021)

Meanwhile, 17 areas of study experienced declines in the number of completed university degrees. We explore some of the notable ones below:

RankField of Study2010–20112020–2021% Change
1Social Sciences142,161137,908-3%
2Visual &
Performing Arts
93,93990,022-4%
3Education104,00889,398-14%
4Liberal Arts46,71741,909-10%
5English52,75435,762-32%
6History35,00822,919-35%
7Human Sciences22,43822,319-1%
8Foreign Languages21,70515,518-29%
9Philosophy
& Religion
12,83011,988-7%
10Architecture9,8319,296-5%
11Ethnic, Cultural
& Gender Studies
8,9557,374-18%
12Theology9,0736,737-26%
13Communications Tech4,8584,557-6%
14Personal &
Culinary Services
1,214594-51%
15Construction Trades328221-33%
16Mechanic & Repair226221-2%
17Precision Production4328-35%
English

Popular in the 1970s, the English undergraduate degree has gone through peaks (80s and 90s) and troughs (2000s and 10s) of popularity in the last 50 years. Between 2010–2011 and 2020–2021, the number of students with an English degree has fallen by a third.

The state of English’s woes are even making its way to pop culture, like in Netflix’s The Chair, which follows the head of a struggling English department at a major university.

Education

The existing teacher shortage in the United States does not seem to be getting fixed by a burgeoning supply of new grads. In fact, the number of university graduates in Education fell 14% between 2011 and 2021. With concerns around stagnant wages, burnout, and little to no support for supplies, many teachers are seeing an already demanding job becoming harder.

Liberal Arts

In the classic era, the liberal arts covered seven fields of study: rhetoric, grammar, logic, astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music. Now, liberal art degrees include several other subjects: history, political science, and even philosophy—but students are meant to primarily walk away with critical thinking skills.

The modern world rewards specialization however, and a wider-scope liberal arts degree is seeing fewer takers, with a 10% drop in graduating students.

Where Does This Data Come From?

Source: The National Center for Education’s statistics from their Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System surveys. Numbers for both 2010–2011 and 2020–2021 academic years can be found from their summary tables by changing the award level code (bachelor degrees) and the year on the left-hand toolbar.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Who Owns the Most Vehicles per Capita, by Country?

Here are the highest vehicles per capita by country as a growing global middle class is fueling car ownership rates around the world.

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This bar graph shows the number of vehicles per 1,000 people around the world.

Who Owns the Most Vehicles per Capita, by Country?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In 2020, there were 289 million vehicles in use in America, or about 18% of the global total.

With one of the largest car ownership rates worldwide, the number of U.S. cars on the road have more than doubled since the 1960s. But how does ownership compare to other countries, and who is seeing the fastest growth rates amid a rising global middle class?

This graphic shows vehicles per capita by country, based on data from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA).

Highest Car Ownership Rates Worldwide

Below, we rank countries based on the number of registered vehicles in use per 1,000 people, including both passenger cars and commercial vehicles as of 2020:

CountryNumber of Vehicles in Use
per 1000 Inhabitants
Average Annual Growth Rate
2015-2020
🇳🇿 New Zealand8693%
🇺🇸 U.S.8602%
🇵🇱 Poland7614%
🇮🇹 Italy7561%
🇦🇺 Australia7372%
🇨🇦 Canada7073%
🇫🇷 France7041%
🇨🇿 Czechia6583%
🇵🇹 Portugal6402%
🇳🇴 Norway6351%
🇦🇹 Austria6322%
🇬🇧 UK6322%
🇩🇪 Germany6272%
🇪🇸 Spain6272%
🇬🇷 Greece6171%
🇯🇵 Japan6120%
🇨🇭 Switzerland6041%
🇧🇪 Belgium5901%
🇳🇱 Netherlands5882%
🇫🇮 Finland5771%
🇸🇪 Sweden5441%
🇩🇰 Denmark5402%
🇮🇪 Ireland5403%
🇲🇾 Malaysia5356%
🇸🇰 Slovakia5133%
🇱🇾 Libya4904%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria485-1%
🇭🇷 Croatia4743%
🇸🇾 Syria4727%
🇭🇺 Hungary4634%
🇰🇷 South Korea4582%
🇷🇴 Romania4387%
🇮🇱 Israel4044%
🇷🇺 Russia3892%
🇧🇾 Belarus3871%
🇲🇽 Mexico3584%
🇹🇼 Taiwan3441%
🇦🇪 UAE3438%
🇷🇸 Serbia3304%
🇦🇷 Argentina3110%
🇹🇭 Thailand2775%
🇨🇱 Chile2461%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan226-1%
🇨🇳 China22314%
🇹🇷 Türkiye2204%
🇧🇷 Brazil2141%
🇺🇦 Ukraine192-1%
🇮🇷 Iran1832%
🇿🇦 South Africa1761%
🇪🇨 Ecuador1523%
🇻🇪 Venezuela149-1%
🇩🇿 Algeria1443%
🇲🇦 Morocco1124%
🇨🇴 Colombia1111%
🇮🇶 Iraq1114%
🇵🇪 Peru884%
🇮🇩 Indonesia785%
🇪🇬 Egypt644%
🇳🇬 Nigeria565%
🇻🇳 Vietnam5017%
🇵🇭 Philippines383%
🇮🇳 India3310%
🇵🇰 Pakistan207%

Clinching top spot is New Zealand, a country known for its love of cars.

With nearly nine cars on the road to every 10 people, this figure is notably high considering that children make up about 20% of the population. The majority of cars are imported second hand from Japan thanks to a wave of deregulation in the 1980s along with the country being a major producer of right-hand drive cars.

The U.S. falls close behind, with a clear preference for trucks and SUVs. In fact, the Ford F-1 Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for 42 consecutive years.

In Europe, Poland has the highest number of vehicles per person, but one of the lowest share of electric vehicles (EVs). While EVs make up nearly 16% of all cars in top-ranking country Norway, they comprise 0.1% in Poland. On average, EVs account for 0.8% of passenger cars in the European Union.

Driven by an expanding middle class, Vietnam has seen the fastest growth in ownership. Between 2015 and 2020, the motorization rate grew by an astonishing 17% each year. Additionally, China witnessed 14% growth while India’s vehicles per 1,000 people increased 10% annually over the period.

The Top EV Markets, by Country

As EV sales gain momentum, here are the biggest markets worldwide, based on the number of all-EV cars in use as of 2022:

CountryEstimated Number of EVs in Use
2022
🇨🇳 China11,000,000
🇺🇸 U.S.2,100,000
🇩🇪 Germany1,000,000
🇫🇷 France620,000
🇳🇴 Norway590,000
🇬🇧 UK550,000
🇳🇱 Netherlands340,000
🇰🇷 South Korea300,000
🇨🇦 Canada250,000
🇯🇵 Japan210,000

Source: IEA Global EV Outlook 2023

China is home to over half of the world’s EVs.

Its foothold on the global EV market can be explained by its close proximity to the raw materials used in EV batteries. In fact, China produces roughly 70% of the world’s rare earth metals and has more battery production capacity than all other countries combined.

Adding to this, China developed key government policies that specifically tackled operational hurdles, such as battery constraints, leading to innovation in core technologies. In 2023, EVs made up 31% of all car sales in China, boosted by government incentives and strong consumer demand.

Norway is another leader in the EV market, whose government began introducing EV policies as early as 1990. By 2025, the country aims to phase out internal combustion engine vehicle sales completely. About 80% of all vehicles sales in Norway were EVs in 2022, the highest in the world.

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