Graduation is more than just dressing up and tossing your cap in the air in victorious bliss—it's a milestone accomplishment that marks the end of a structured era. When you walk across the stage in your cap and gown, you are simultaneously walking into a new chapter of your life.
It's estimated that between 20 to 50% of students enter college undecided on a field of study, and another 75% report changing their major at least once.1 For new college students, choosing one major out of dozens of program options can seem like a daunting task. While the answer may come quickly to some students who have dreamed of what they wanted to be since they were little, others may struggle when faced with this decision.
We at Grand Canyon University (GCU) encourage every student to embark on a journey to their desired career path based on their academic passions. If you're struggling to narrow down your specific major, read on and study which college degrees are most popular among Americans by state.
In addition to the educational programs offered by GCU we, along with our partner Grand Canyon Education, collected data from the Niche and My Degree Guide’s database of college degrees offered in the U.S. and compiled a list of 53 college majors. From accounting to biochemistry to sociology, our team searched each study in the “education” category of Google Trends to determine the search frequency in each state between May 2021 and May 2022.
The Most Popular College Degree in Every U.S. State
A good education is a golden ticket to a better future for many Americans. College may be loaded with long sleepless nights in the library cramming for finals or writing that dreaded term paper, but each major can lead to a job that makes getting up in the morning a little easier.
Educational attainment across the country varies significantly by state. Between 2011 and 2021, the percentage of adults over 25 who have earned a bachelor's degree or professional degree has increased from 30.4% to 37.9%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent data.2 Majors like foreign language, film, performing arts, nutrition and computer science have Americans the most curious—and can you blame them?
One college degree that's all over our results is foreign language, notably most popular in Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wyoming. As the United States is often referred to as a melting pot, bilingualism here has risen steadily for years.3 Although English is unquestionably the country's dominant language, Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the U.S.4 Places like Colorado and Nevada have a significant Hispanic population.5
The Spanish were the first Europeans to settle in what is now Nevada and Colorado. According to Colorado History, 20% of Colorado residents are Hispanic, and that percentage increases in Denver (where one in three residents are Hispanic) and the San Luis Valley (where half the population is Hispanic).6 Given our nation’s history with Hispanic cultures, it’s no surprise that foreign language would land at the top of the most popular list.
Film studies were the most popular college degree search in five states. Famously known for the star-studded Los Angeles, it's hardly a shock that film studies dominated the search engines in California. Growing up in the center of movie magic can spark a genuine interest in a movie production career.
However, as the film industry expands into outlying states like Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota, Hollywood is becoming both place and a state of mind for prospective students. From the rolling mountains to quaint towns to brisk weather, each state's beauty draws movie producers to take in the glorious landscapes. For instance, the feel-good comedy, Napoleon Dynamite, was filmed in Preston and Franklin, Idaho.7
In today's media-centric world, Georgia, Maine, Ohio and Pennsylvania’s fingers are dancing across the keyboard to inquire about the performing arts—and for a good reason! These four artsy states have everything an art lover needs. The thriving music industry of Atlanta has produced a laundry list of award-winning talents, making it a jam-packed musical option.8
Ohio and Pennsylvania, home to some of the most notable art museums, allow students to revel in classic works.9 At the same time, Maine's rocky shores and picturesque forests have inspired countless American artists for 200 years.10
Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana and Tennessee are looking to cook up a healthy diet for their search engines with nutrition as the most searched college degree. Professionals in this field are imperative to our society, as more than 80% of Americans’ diets are low in vegetables, fruits and dairy.11 And Louisiana (45%), Alabama (44.9%), Tennessee (38.9%) and Delaware (35.4%) are some of the top-ranking states to eat one or fewer servings a day, making the demand for dietitians crucial.12
Although Silicon Valley is widely known as the epicenter for global technology companies, there are plenty of opportunities to move out of California. States on the East Coast, such as Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania are among the top 10 best states for IT jobs, drawing the attention of recent graduates with IT degrees.13
We’re living in the digital age where many aspects of our lives are driven by technology, making it one of the most popular college degrees to earn in the world. Computer scientists solve complex real-world problems from theorizing to designing and applying knowledge to programs.
The Most Popular College Degree Overall
To further understand what college students are studying, we wanted to see the most popular college degrees overall. With 55 billion people speaking languages other than English, foreign language degrees are more important than ever so it’s no surprise this was the most popular degree overall.14
It might not be surprising to learn that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors are prevalent among U.S. students. For example, job growth for computer and IT jobs is on track to grow by an estimated 11% from 2019-2029.15 According to our calculations, both computer science and mathematics are in the top 10 most searched college degrees.
A degree in Anthropology was another paramount search, especially in New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment’s stunning desert landscape, overflowing with monumental ruins to explore, is an archaeological hot spot.16 Through anthropology, students are teleported to the past, where they can view human events from myriad perspectives to learn what makes us human.
Like archaeological sites, buildings have stories to tell, too. Architecture is the most popular degree searched in two of the oldest states in the U.S., Connecticut and Rhode Island, as the discipline draws inspiration from the past. Architects develop the concepts for structures. Their designs eventually become homes, office buildings and more.17 Other college degree programs that showed the most public interest were exercise science and forestry.
In simple words, the decision to choose a college major is major! In addition to gaining abundant knowledge to standout in a highly competitive job market, a college education will help you discover interests and motivation to become the best version of yourself.
Find your purpose at GCU! Whether you major in business or nursing, our goal is to better the educational experience for students by offering degree programs from nine distinct colleges. GCU offers over 295 programs, including over 130 degree programs, over 125 emphases and over 35 certificate programs.18 For help deciding your major, click Request Info on this page.
1 The Mentor - An Academic Journal, The Developmental Disconnect in Choosing a Major: Why Institutions Should Prohibit Choice Until Second Year in June 2022
2 United States Census Bureau, Census Bureau Releases New Educational Attainment Data in June 2022
3 Psychology Today, The Amazing Rise of Bilingualism in the United States in June 2022
4 Babbel, What are the Most Spoken Languages in the U.S. in June 2022
5 Would Population Review, Hispanic Population by 2022 in June 2022
6 History Colorado, Colorado/Latino History Overview in June 2022
7 Location Hub, 12 Movies You May Not Have Known Were Filmed in Idaho in June 2022
8 Georgia USA, Music Industry in Georgia in June 2022
9 Culture Trip, 10 American States Every Art Lover Should Visit in June 2022
10 Visit Maine, Arts & Culture in Maine in June 2022
11 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Make Every Bite Count in June 2022
12 Consumer Protect, The States with the Worst Eating and Exercise Habits in June 2022
13 Ebn, Top 10 states for tech jobs in June 2022
14 Go Over Seas, Why Foreign Language Learning Is Still Important in June 2022
15 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, the data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Technology Occupations, retrieved in June 2022.
16 Only Your State, 10 Unbelievable Ruins in New Mexico in June 2022
17 Infoplease, Oldest States in June 2022
18 As of December 31, 2021
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.