Most Popular Majors in California
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California is a popular state for college students and career seekers because of the weather, beaches, entertainment industry, and economy. Most importantly, the state is home to many of the best universities in the country, including community colleges.
One in every four community college students in the nation attends a California community college. The best community colleges in California prepare graduates for transfer to a university or employment in entry-level positions.
Whether attending a four-year university, a community college, or an online school, students in California can choose from a wide variety of majors. Some of the most popular college majors in the state include psychology, economics, computer science, and communications.
Take your time choosing the right major based on your goals and interests. Switching majors can cost time and money, so make the decision carefully.
What to Consider When Choosing a Major
Abilities and Goals
Having a career goal and knowing what you're good at can make it easier to choose a major. Learn more about popular majors in California. Also, consider consulting an academic counselor who can help you learn about the options. Many colleges even allow students to create their own majors to focus on niche topics.
BestColleges surveyed 2,663 Americans, and 60% of respondents said that cost is one of the most important factors when choosing a college. To determine the actual cost of college, consider not only tuition and financial aid, but also fees for books, supplies, and other amenities. Some majors may lead to more lucrative careers than others. For most students, the cost of a program versus return on investment is more important than a school's prestige.
Some majors require more coursework, additional exams, and higher expectations. It's essential to investigate course requirements before declaring a major to understand how rigorous your workload will be each week. For example, architecture and chemical engineering typically require more time each week than majors like criminal justice and public relations.
Income Potential and Employment Opportunities
College majors and minors offer students an opportunity to explore various career paths. Still, it's a good idea to consider earning potential before choosing a field of study. STEM careers are usually higher-paying than positions in human services, education, or the arts, for example. However, pursuing a career you're passionate about may outweigh the desire for a larger salary.
10 Most Popular Majors in California
Computer and Information Sciences | Engineering | Physical Sciences | Mathematics and Statistics | Biological and Biomedical Sciences | Business, Management and Marketing | Multi-Interdisciplinary Studies | Social Sciences | Communication and Journalism | Psychology
The most popular majors in California offer many career possibilities for graduates. Learners can also specialize within their major to further home in on the career path they want to pursue. Some of the most popular college majors are multi-interdisciplinary, allowing students to learn skills in more than one area.
Computer and Information Sciences
Computer science is a vast field that focuses on digital processes and data. Students studying information technology studies, specifically, use various technologies to retrieve, store, and send information. When it comes to popular majors in California, computer and information sciences rank at the top.
In fact, according to Data USA, the University of Southern California awarded the most degrees in computer science in the nation in 2019. High pay and a positive employment outlook make computer and information science careers very popular.
Computer and Information Sciences Career Paths
- Computer Network Architects utilize expertise in both computer hardware and software.
- Computer Programmers write programs and test code in computer languages like Java.
- Computer and Information Systems Managers plan and direct organizational computer-related activities, as well as supervise, hire, and train staff.
- Information Security Analysts plan and implement security procedures for networks and systems.
- Database Administrators and Architects design and administer databases to ensure organizational data is secure and operating efficiently.
Engineering is one of California's most popular majors. Engineering programs can contain many specializations, including robotics, environmental engineering, and forensic engineering. Engineers design and create structures, machinery, and devices. They use mathematics, science, and technology to determine how things work and keep them running.
Transfer students account for almost half of the total enrollment in engineering programs at University of California campuses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects engineering occupations to grow 6% between 2020 and 2030. The roughly 146,000 new jobs created in the field over the next 10 years will include positions for professionals specializing in infrastructure, robotics, and renewable energy.
Engineering Career Paths
- Computer Hardware Engineers design, develop, research, and test computer systems and components.
- Civil Engineering Technologists and Technicians design, plan, and build infrastructure and development projects.
- Agricultural Engineers solve power supply problems, improve machine efficiency, and address environmental issues.
- Electrical and Electronics Engineers design, test, develop, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment.
- Industrial Engineers create efficient systems integrating machines, materials, labor, information to increase efficiency.
The physical sciences are some of the most popular fields of study in California because they enable graduates to pursue a wide variety of career options. Graduates with bachelor's degrees in the physical sciences often continue their education to become doctors, pharmacists, or dentists.
Earning a bachelor's degree in a physical sciences discipline can prepare students for careers in fields like geoscience and forensic science technology. Data USA found that the University of California, Berkeley, awarded the most degrees in the physical sciences in the country in 2019.
Physical Sciences Career Paths
- Environmental Scientists and Specialists analyze environmental problems, develop solutions, and make recommendations.
- Biology Technicians conduct scientific tests and analyses using traditional laboratory instruments and advanced technology.
- Chemists and Materials Scientists study substances to develop new and improved products.
- Forensic Science Technicians typically have bachelor's degrees in chemistry, biology, or forensic science.
- Geoscientists study the Earth's structures and processes to learn about the planet's history, present, and future.
Mathematics and Statistics
The BLS projects math occupations will grow by 28% between 2020 and 2030, adding about 67,200 jobs. In addition to a promising job outlook, positions in mathematics-related fields are often well paying. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for math occupations was $93,170 in May 2020.
Careers for mathematics majors typically involve using math, statistics, and financial theories to assess risk or solve complex problems.
Data USA reports that UC Berkeley awarded the most degrees in math and statistics in the nation in 2019. Successful math majors have strong communication, problem-solving, and mathematical skills.
Mathematics and Statistics Career Paths
- Mathematicians and Statisticians solve problems by analyzing data and applying computational techniques.
- Actuaries use mathematics and statistics to assess risk and develop policies to minimize the cost of that risk.
- Financial Analysts assess investment performance and guide clients in spending money to make a profit.
- Operations Research Analysts use mathematical and analytical methods to solve problems and make informed decisions.
- Budget Analysts help organizations by preparing budget reports, planning their finances, and monitoring organizational spending.
Biological and Biomedical Sciences
The biological and biomedical sciences are the foundation for all healthcare professions, making it one of the most popular fields of study. A bachelor of biological and biomedical sciences (BBS) allows students to apply their knowledge in various professional areas, including research, education, and medical practice. The degree combines science courses with medical courses, such as pharmacology and immunology.
In 2018, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, tied for first place as the best schools for biological science.
Biological and Biomedical Sciences Career Paths
- Forensic Science Technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting evidence at crime scenes and performing laboratory analysis.
- Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians work in laboratories collecting and testing body fluids, tissue, and other substances.
- Medical Scientists conduct research using clinical trials and investigative methods to improve human health.
- Chemists and Material Scientists work in basic research or applied research to discover and develop new and improved drugs.
- Biochemists and Biophysicists study biological processes, including disease, heredity, cell development, and growth.
Business, Management, and Marketing
Some of the most popular majors in California are business, management, and marketing. These majors allow graduates to pursue a wide variety of career paths after college, including in hospitality and human resources. Courses in business management include strategic planning, financial analysis, and organizational effectiveness, skills that can be applied to many industries.
Marketing graduates can begin careers in advertising, promotions, and social media marketing. According to Data USA, California International Business University had the highest percentage of degrees awarded in business in 2019.
Business, Management, and Marketing Career Paths
- Financial Managers develop plans and direct investment activities to meet an organization's financial goals.
- Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers plan campaigns that engage an audience and drive interest in products or services.
- Sales Managers set sales goals for a team, analyze data, and develop training programs.
- Human Resources Managers oversee hiring processes and serve as links between management and employees.
- Market Research Analysts help companies understand their audience and sales potential through market research.
Multidisciplinary and Interdisciplinary Studies
Interdisciplinary studies is a popular major because it allows students the freedom to design a program that fits their goals. Students in interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary programs can often choose from any fields of study offered by their college or university. With help and guidance from a faculty advisor, they customize the curricula to suit their interests and goals.
In California, the highest concentration of interdisciplinary studies majors attend school in Los Angeles and San Diego. However, according to Data USA, Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco County had the highest percentage of degrees awarded in multidisciplinary studies in 2019.
Multidisciplinary and Interdisciplinary Studies Career Paths
- High School Teachers sometimes teach multiple subjects and benefit from diverse educational backgrounds.
- Emergency Management Directors create plans and procedures to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.
- Industrial Production Managers coordinate and direct daily operations of manufacturing plants to create various goods.
- Sales Engineers use extensive knowledge of scientific processes to sell products or services.
- Administrative Services and Facilities Managers maintain facilities and supervise recordkeeping, mail distribution, and support services.
The social sciences are some of the most popular college majors for students who want to make a positive difference in people's lives. A bachelor's degree program in social work, for example, can prepare graduates for careers as case workers or mental health assistants. Social sciences also include majors like sociology, economics, and cultural studies.
The University of California, Los Angeles, and UC Berkeley awarded the most degrees in social sciences in the nation in 2019, according to Data USA.
Social Sciences Career Paths
- Sociologists examine cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes where people interact and work together.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors provide treatment for alcohol and substance misuse and mental health conditions.
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists provide social services to assist in the rehabilitation for law offenders on parole.
- Social Workers help families find housing, access childcare, and apply for benefits. They may also work as therapists.
- Political Scientists research and analyze governments, policies, and political trends.
Communications and Journalism
Communications and journalism are popular, closely related majors. A communication degree typically prepares graduates for careers in public relations, marketing, or media. Journalism graduates may pursue careers as TV reporters, newspaper journalists, or public relations managers.
Data USA reports that the locations with the highest concentrations of communications and media studies degree recipients are New York and Los Angeles. However, California State University, Fullerton, awarded the most degrees in communication and media studies in the country in 2019.
Communication and Journalism Career Paths
- News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists work for media outlets reporting current events and newsworthy information.
- Public Relations Specialists shape public perception of clients' work with media releases and social media campaigns.
- Editors read content, revise drafts, correct grammatical errors, and verify factual information.
- Announcers present commentary, interview guests, and sometimes act as event hosts.
- Technical Writers prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, white papers, and other documents to communicate complex technical information.
A psychology degree program can prepare graduates for various careers in various industries, including business, education, or counseling. Psychology is a multidisciplinary field that spans the natural and social sciences, making it one of the most popular majors.
San Diego and Los Angeles have the highest concentration of psychology degree recipients. Meridian University in Sonoma County and the Wright Institute in Alameda County had the highest percentage of degrees awarded in psychology in 2019.
Psychology Career Paths
- Psychiatric Technicians and Aides provide therapeutic care and monitor patients with mental health conditions or developmental disabilities.
- Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording human interactions.
- Rehabilitation Counselors help people manage the personal, social, or psychological effects of disabilities, addiction, and mental health conditions.
- Marriage and Family Therapists use various techniques to help couples and families navigate challenges and improve their relationships.
- School and Career Counselors and Advisors help students develop academic and social skills, explore occupations, or choose paths of study.
Frequently Asked Questions About Popular Majors in California
What majors is California known for?
According to Data USA, USC awarded the most degrees in computer science in the country in 2019. California colleges are known for their programs in engineering and the physical sciences, as well. Other popular majors, including communications, journalism, business management, and marketing, offer high pay and excellent employment potential.
Popular paths of study in California offer many career possibilities for graduates. For example, UC Berkeley awards the most degrees in the physical sciences in the country. Choosing this course of study can open up career opportunities in environmental science and forensic science, as well as other fields. Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies are also popular options, which allow learners to customize their education.
What is the most popular major in California?
Students from all disciplines study at community colleges and four-year universities in California. But some of the most popular majors are psychology, computer science, and mathematics. According to Data USA, Cal State Fullerton leads the nation in communications and media studies degrees.
Additionally, UCLA awarded more degrees in the social sciences than any other college in the country in 2019. Regardless of students' passions or abilities, they're likely to find popular programs in California that align with their career goals.
How many majors does California State University have?
The majors offered at California State University schools depend on the campus. California State University, Los Angeles, offers 55 majors, including business, engineering, nursing, and education. California State University, Chico, offers more than 340 undergraduate majors and minors, graduate degrees, and professional certifications, including agriculture, liberal studies, and history.
Journalism, mathematics, and mechanical engineering are also popular majors in California that students can pursue at a Cal State school. Cal State universities are known for being relatively affordable and offering strong support for transfer students.
What major is UCLA known for?
In 2021, the life sciences and social sciences at UCLA saw the highest enrollment numbers. The school is particularly known for its biology, political science, and psychology programs. Graduates from these departments can pursue careers as lab technicians, counselors, or teachers. Some learners may choose to continue their education in graduate or professional school.
Cultural and gender studies, math and statistics, and social sciences are some of the most specialized majors at UCLA.
In 2021, UCLA tuition was $13,225 for in-state students. Non-resident learners pay an additional fee of $28,992.