Cam Turner decided fairly early in high school that he wanted to study sociology and psychology.
The University of Michigan student didn’t get pressure from friends or family to study more popular topics like business, but he knows of many who did.
Student Loan Hero is a company that helps student loan borrowers manage their debt. It used data from the National Center for Education Statistics in a recent study that found business degrees have been the most popular choice for Michigan college students, as well as the rest of the country, for the last 10 years.
Other fields, such as health and engineering, have seen significant increases between 2008-09 and 2018-19, while other majors like humanities, social sciences and education saw significant decreases, the study shows.
According to 2018-19 data from NCES, UM-Ann Arbor awarded 1,136 bachelor’s degrees in engineering, followed by 858 bachelor’s degrees in computer and information sciences, 779 bachelor’s degrees in social sciences, 654 bachelor’s degrees in business and 620 bachelor’s degrees in biological and biomedical sciences.
At UM, some students might feel pressure to pursue a degree in engineering, business or pre-med due to pressures from family and their connection with the school, Turner said.
“I did explore business just because I would be working with organizations in the future, but I didn’t want the traditional form of business education,” Turner said. “I know some friends who had to go into (business) or pre-med here because they were heavily influenced by their parents or relative who did those same things during their time as an undergrad.”
The number of business majors in Michigan remained steady from 2008-09 and 2018-19. One reason is that there are always students coming up with new business ideas and a place to test them, researchers said.
Even though Turner is not a business major, he has dabbled in the field with some of his classmates to create a business plan for their entrepreneurial creativity class that would bring a Waffle House restaurant to Ann Arbor.
Business degrees were the most popular degree awarded at Michigan State University in 2018-19, followed by degrees in biomedical sciences and communication and journalism. Biological and biomedical sciences degrees were fifth-most popular in the country in 2018-19, and the study suggests that an increased focus in STEM education among young students could be responsible.
In Michigan, degrees awarded in engineering and computer science have seen large increases. Between 2009 and 2019, bachelor’s degrees in computer science have increased by 112%, and engineering has steadily increased by about 31%, data shows.
Students likely see those jobs as more likely to lead to careers of the future, according to Andrew Pentis, a senior writer at Student Loan Hero.
“To study technology, after all, is to study the future,” Pentis said. “For students who want to ensure their education leads to a stable career with consistent growth in the field, studying tech is a no-brainer.”
Majors that have seen significant decreases in the last decade include education, humanities and social sciences and history, data shows. Between 2008-09 and 2013-14, education degrees decreased from 4,248 to 3,307, and decreased even further by 2018-19 to 2,093, data shows.
At UM in 2018-19, there were just 59 bachelor’s degrees awarded to education majors – the third-lowest number of degrees awarded at the university that year, NCES data shows.
Researchers suggest that students are more likely to major in subject matters that will be relevant to what they will teach without wanting to take on the cost of a major specifically related to education.