Choosing a college major is a crucial decision that sets the path for a student’s career. While it’s possible to change careers later on, a college major provides foundational knowledge that will still affect one’s career choices. The decision can be stressful for students who haven’t yet chosen a major, and the process doesn’t end once college begins. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 30% of students change their majors within three years of enrolling in college.
The report delves further into the data, showing that majors in S.T.E.M. fields had a 35% rate of students switching to a different major. Math had the highest number of students switching majors, with many citing difficulty as the reason. While some majors may be perceived as challenging, there are also majors that are considered easy. This article will explore some of the easiest college majors and the factors that make them less demanding than others.
The factors that make a college major easy can be subjective. For some, a college major can be easy because the subject interests them or they have a natural aptitude for the major. On the other hand, there are technical elements that can help a student determine if a college major is less challenging. One of these elements is the grade point average or the G.P.A. Generally, the higher the G.P.A., the easier a major is thought to be. For example, the G.P.A. for humanities majors such as arts, religion, history, and foreign language is higher than 3.0. Meanwhile, the general G.P.A. for S.T.E.M. majors—which are often seen as more difficult—like chemistry, math, psychology are below 3.0.
Another factor that makes a college major easier for students is the amount of time they spend in class preparations and in other class-related activities. A study conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement states that full-time college students typically spend 15 hours a week in class. A comparison between humanities and S.T.E.M. majors reveals that the former spends fewer hours studying outside class (14.07 hours) compared to the latter, which takes 16.5 per week. Humanities majors also pulled fewer all-nighters, were less stressed, and slept longer compared to those studying S.T.E.M. programs (N.S.S.E., 2014).
Furthermore, a recent study by Rosenzweig et al. titled “College students’ reasons for leaving biomedical fields: Disenchantment with biomedicine or attraction to other fields?” reveals that S.T.E.M. students, specifically biomedical students, are more likely to shift to other fields because of feeling disenchanted halfway through their chosen biomedical program. Published in the Journal of Educational Psychology in 2021, the study states: “Among the 192 students who left biomedical fields, 62.5% described leaving only in terms of feeling disenchanted, whereas 37.4% expressed that they left at least in part due to feeling attracted towards non-biomedical fields. Most students who left biomedical fields expressed changing plans for reasons related to interest; this was especially prevalent among students who reported leaving due to attraction towards non-biomedical fields” (Rosenzweig et al., 2021, p. 1).
In the next section, we listed down 17 college majors from five different disciplines. These majors are deemed the easiest based on average G.P.A., credit hours, time spent on studying, as well as the coursework involved to complete a four-year degree.
This major is ideal for students who have a passion for English literature, studying the language structure, and exploring the history and culture relevant to the language. English as a college major involves a lot of reading and analyzing stories, essays, poetry, and other text, all of which aim to hone students’ proficiency in the English language and their creativity, analytical thinking, and research skills. Furthermore, math and other science subjects do not play a significant factor in studying this major, thus making it a lot easier for students who are not fond of these subjects.
On average, English majors on bachelor level spend a minimum of 30 hours of classroom studies. Depending on the institution, English programs allow students to incorporate their personal interests in their studies, especially when it comes to the literary genre they are interested in. Moreover, a bachelor’s degree in English has several concentrations for students to choose from. Some of the popular English major concentrations are creative writing, secondary education, Renaissance studies, linguistics, and more.
The number of undergraduate English majors who completed their four-year program has been on a slight decline since 2011, with the latest record showing 39,335 graduates in 2019 (N.C.E.S., 2020). Graduates of this major can pursue careers in linguistics, education, media, and sales. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates of this major earn a median annual wage of $51,000.
Average G.P.A.: 3.33
As an interdisciplinary major, arts’ level of “easiness” depends on a variety of subjective factors—two of them are a student’s personal interest and talent. While creating visual arts is an integral part of this major, it also incorporates other subjects that explore the philosophy, history, and psychology behind artistic creations. This major may require at least 36 hours of studying for online lectures and face-to-face classes for art majors who chose concentrations that require attending actual art sessions.
The number of arts major graduates has reached 89,730 for 2018-19, which shows an increase from the previous year. Graduates of this major can pursue a career in graphic design, art teachers, or establish themselves as craft and fine artists. As of 2020, the median annual pay for graphic designers is $50,710. Meanwhile, crafts and fine artists can earn $49,960 per year on average.
Average G.P.A.: 3.19
Music degree programs vary across specializations. Students who want to pursue music as a college major can choose to specialize in applied music, composition, music performance, music business, and more. Among the courses typically included in music degree programs are music theory, humanities, and music history. Throughout the duration of the program, students are also required to achieve a level of proficiency in playing the piano or keyboard.
In 2019, a total of 29,968 music degrees had been awarded across the United States. Although the number of graduates has slightly declined from the previous year, the number of people in the workforce has increased by 2.6%, bringing the number up to 2.2 million individuals working in music and arts fields. Music majors can work as professional musicians whose median annual wage falls by nearly $45,133 (Salary.com, n.d.). Music majors who have a bachelor’s degree can also work as kindergarten and elementary school teachers and receive an average of $43,573 a year.
Average G.P.A.: 3.30
This major explores the theoretical, historical, and artistic aspects of written literature, such as poetry and prose. Students pursuing a creative writing degree are taught not only to develop their writing techniques but also to gain a deeper understanding of the sociopolitical and cultural significance of various literary genres. The coursework of this major typically includes the study of classical and contemporary literature, English language, creative writing across genres, and the form and theory of prose and poetry. Depending on the institution, creative writing majors can spend an average of 45 hours of online or classroom studies to complete the program.
The number of creative writing graduates is on a smaller scale, with only 6,714 degrees awarded in 2019 (Data USA, n.d.). In terms of career opportunities, creative writing majors can become professional writers or authors and earn an average of $69,510 annually.
Average G.P.A.: 3.25
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Business administration is a catch-all business major that delves into the fundamentals of business mechanics. Instead of focusing on one specialization, such as accounting and finance, a business administration major offers a broader knowledge of the different aspects of business operation and management. Although this major involves courses that involve crunching numbers, such as math, accounting, and economics, it is not as intense compared to the majors that focus on these subjects. On average, bachelor of business administration majors spend 42 hours studying for both the core courses and electives.
Business is one of the majors that produce the most number of graduates. In 2019, 390,564 received their business degrees from different universities across the United States. Career opportunities for business administration majors are vast and varied. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in business administration can become procurement officers and earn a base salary of $76,000 a year. They can also take the position of purchasing manager and receive more than $123,323 annually.
Average G.P.A.: 3.6
This major prepares students to take on the global stage by teaching them about the different economic systems, legal aspects, and the social and political factors involved in operating businesses in different countries. While program structure may vary across institutions, the coursework typically involves subjects under qualitative and quantitative areas, such as business statistics, human resources, accounting, and business ethics. Linguistics is also incorporated in the coursework and, depending on the institution, the students can decide which foreign language to study.
According to N.C.E.S., a four-year international business program takes 52 weeks to complete. Although this major is not on top of the most popular majors in the business category, there have been more than 9,000 students who graduated with this degree in 2019. Graduates of this major can take on international business careers such as stockbrokers and earn a median salary of $62,793 annually. They can also become foreign exchange traders and receive approximately $48,633 per year.
Average G.P.A.: 3.15
For students who are more interested in the strategic aspects of creating and promoting a brand, product or service, and business in general, marketing is the major to pursue. A marketing degree prepares students for examining consumer behavior and market trends to effectively develop strategies based on marketing principles, statistical analysis, and applied marketing theories. The coursework for this major typically includes fundamental subjects, such as marketing principles, behavioral marketing, macroeconomics, principles of finance, and others. And depending on the level of dedication, students can spend 62 to 120 hours studying the coursework.
In 2019, a total of 49,088 marketing students graduated ready to take on various roles in the business sector. Bachelor’s degree holders who majored in marketing can earn $62,464 per year as market research analysts. Marketing can be considered as one of the easiest college majors that pay well. Graduates of this major can take on managerial positions in public relations, advertising, retail, and other industries where they can earn between $144,000 to more than $200,000 per year.
Average G.P.A.: 3.2
This major nurtures students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills and how to apply them in the organizational setting. By pursuing a degree in human resources, students will explore various organizational behavior theories, as well as topics related to employee relations. Moreover, students are introduced to the ethical and legal aspects of workforce management, especially in recruitment, compensation and benefits, and other areas of employee management.
Typically, the curriculum for this major includes core courses in statistics, psychology, employment law, and HR technology. Furthermore, electives such as gender studies, sociology, economics, and other related subject areas are studied as well. Depending on the institution, students may have to spend more than 18 hours on core course lectures alone.
In terms of career outlook, the field of human resources is considered one of the highest-paying college majors. HR generalists and specialists can make as much as $54,000 and $68,000 per year, respectively. HR managers, on the other hand, earn a median income of $114,426 annually.
Average G.P.A.: 3.5
Students who pursue this major are prepared for organizational roles that are more people or employee-focused. Unlike business administration and management which revolves around the study of business processes, organizational leadership focuses on the individual and social aspects of a business or an organization.
To become effective organizational leaders, students pursuing this major are taught the different techniques and strategies involved in helping the employees adapt to the changes and resolve conflicts within an organization. The curriculum for this major includes courses in social science, social psychology, conflict management, and industrial and organizational psychology. And in order to complete a four-year program, students are typically expected to spend 120 hours of studies online or in class.
The number of students taking organizational leadership as their college major has been growing by 9.87%, with more than 12,591 graduates receiving a degree in 2019. Graduates who majored in organizational leadership are prepared to work across different industries, such as business consulting, finance, sales, manufacturing, healthcare, and even government agencies. As one of the easiest high-paying college majors, organizational leadership graduates can take on managerial roles, such as management analysts, who can earn an annual median pay of $93,000. They can also take up an online master’s degree in organizational leadership to become training and development managers with annual median pay of $129,303.
Average G.P.A.: 3.0
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers
This major is designed for students who are interested in pursuing a writing and research-focused career in the media industry. Journalism majors study the techniques involved in gathering and disseminating information, such as finding the right sources, interviewing, and creating and editing their content. Aside from writing and research, students also learn about media laws and ethical practices, which involve studying certain topics such as copyright laws, libel, and defamation. In order to complete a four-year journalism program, students have to spend 40 to 45 hours studying the core coursework.
Graduates of communications majors, including journalism, have grown to 92,528 in 2019. These graduates can work as professional journalists in newspapers and earn a median pay of $45,754 per year. Journalism majors can also work as editors and receive an annual median pay of $76,400.
Average G.P.A.: 3.3
This major is designed for students who want to pursue a career in television and radio reporting. Unlike print journalism, broadcasting is a more comprehensive major as this involves not only studying writing and newsgathering techniques but also learning about the technical aspects of media production, including sound production and lighting techniques. Broadcast journalism majors, however, also study the laws, regulations, and ethics that govern the journalism industry. Students who major in journalism are typically required to spend 120 hours studying both the core coursework and electives.
Upon graduating, broadcast journalism majors can start working as broadcast announcers with annual median pay of $35,750. They can also become producers and earn $61,133 per year.
Average G.P.A.: 3.3
This branch of communications studies prepares students on how to effectively create and disseminate information that establishes the image of a brand or an organization. Students pursuing this major learn about communication techniques and strategies and how they can apply this knowledge in writing press releases, social media posts, and other types of content as well as how to properly and effectively deliver information in actual interviews. Some of the coursework covered in this major are public relations strategy and research, media laws and ethics, and public relations writing. Similar to other four-year programs, public relations may require students to complete 120 hours of coursework.
In 2019, students who graduated with a degree in public relations, advertising, and applied communication reached 20,156. The available careers for public relations graduates include public relations specialists, a profession that offers an income of $52,000 to more than $68,000 a year. They can also become fundraising managers and receive an annual median pay of up to $106,463.
Average G.P.A.: 3.3
This social science major revolves around the study of human behavior and relationships and how these affect different aspects of society and vice versa. Students planning to take this major can look forward to honing their critical thinking and analysis skills as they study human interactions in different settings such as individuals, in groups, and in communities. Moreover, students are also taught how to conduct research studies that aim to identify and address social conflicts, including race and gender-based issues. Some of the courses students can expect to take cover the subjects of social movements, political sociology, race and ethnicity, and social systems.
Sociology majors typically spend approximately 14 hours a week on studies. These study hours cover both reading and assigned writing activities. When it comes to the number of graduates, a total of 37,611 students graduated with a degree in sociology in 2019. The career options for sociology majors are also varied. They can be social workers with a $56,523 per year median pay. They can also work as training and development specialists and earn $67,620 per year.
Average G.P.A.: 3.24
This college major (should not be confused with a theology degree) is ideal for students interested in exploring the nature of different religious systems, such as their core beliefs and traditions. Students learn how to approach religious subjects from a scholarly standpoint by studying their anthropological, historical, psychological, philosophical, and sociological aspects. This major, even at the undergraduate level, revolves around lectures and research studies during which the students are taught valuable skills, such as critical thinking, analysis, and writing.
Religious studies is not a popular major, with less than 10,000 graduates in 2019. The career options for graduates of this major, however, are plenty. Graduates who majored in religious studies can become clergy in a religious organization, healthcare facility, or social advocacy group. This position offers an annual median pay of between $31,000 to $75,000 depending on the industry. Another option is to become a community service manager and earn $74,000 a year.
Average G.P.A.: 3.22
Majoring in history means delving into the study and interpretation of relevant past events based on recorded evidence and theories. Students who plan to take this college major are likely to take courses that cover a broad range of historical subjects. Typical coursework of a history major includes topics that discuss American history, European history, history of pre-colonial Africa, Latin American history, as well as ancient civilizations. Students taking up this major also learn about historical research methods, historical writing or historiography, as well as the policies that govern the preservation of historical records. Depending on the core courses and electives as well as a student’s level of dedication, a history major spends at least 16 hours a week studying for their classes.
According to N.C.E.S., there were 160,628 graduates in 2019 who majored in social sciences, history majors included. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that history majors are more likely to pursue a career in the academic field, such as teaching in high school, where they can earn $42,104 a year. History majors can also work as museum curators with annual median pay of more than $63,880.
Average G.P.A.: 3.19
Also known as E.C.E., this major focuses on preparing students to work with children from pre-kindergarten to elementary school levels. By taking up E.C.E., students will gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of childhood learning and development as well as its academic requirements. Among the courses, E.C.E. majors may take are Early Childhood Literacy, Curriculum Development, and Guidance and Discipline.
In 2019, nearly 84,000 graduates were education majors. Normally, graduates who majored in education will pursue a career in the academic field. And for graduates who chose to specialize in Early Childhood Education, can become preschool teachers with a median pay of $42,523 per year. Another career option is to work as a school counselor and earn more than $60,510 a year.
Average G.P.A.: 3.10
This major prepares students to help learners of all ages improve their reading, comprehension, and writing skills through coaching and various literacy training methods. Some of the courses typically included in the coursework of this major’s four-year program cover the areas of reading and writing instruction, content area literacy, and diagnosis of reading difficulties and how to address them. And just like other students taking an education major, reading and literacy majors spend 15 hours a week preparing for classes.
Graduates of this major can work as literacy specialists and earn approximately $72,141 per year. And with enough experience and further education, they can become school administrators and earn $65,000 to more than $80,000 per year.
Average G.P.A.: 3.10
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Based on the number of graduates, the average G.P.A. that needs to be maintained, as well as the amount of time the students will have to dedicate to studying, humanities, education, and communication majors are among the easiest online college majors or on-campus majors to pursue. Bear in mind, however, that the easy route when it comes to choosing a college major should not be solely based on the above-mentioned categories. The more important factors to consider are your areas of interest, the skills you already have that you want to develop, as well as the career you plan to pursue once you graduate. And if you are still considering which career path is right for you, you can read our article where you can find helpful tips and advice on how to set up your career goals.