State of the Education Market: Trends and Insights in Key Undergraduate Disciplines

Last updated on: March 20, 2023

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From the COVID-19 pandemic and the rush to adopt online learning, to a nationwide economic shutdown and declining enrollment, higher education has recently experienced changeable and complex conditions.

But we’re here to help. Based on the latest IPEDS completions data from the 2020-21 academic year, here’s a snapshot of some of the key US graduation trends at both the associate and bachelor’s levels.

Click the image below to view the full infographic.

State of the Education Market 2023 Infographic

Bachelor’s Level Trends

19% of all 2021 bachelor’s degrees

Business has been the largest bachelor’s vertical since 2004.
The sheer size of this market remains unmatched.

Largest programs by number of graduates in 2021:
Business Administration: 147,123
Accounting: 49,080
Finance and Financial Mathematics: 47,074
Marketing: 43,894
Business/Commerce, General: 24,850

Has the Marketing Degree peaked? It averaged 5% year-over-year growth from 2014-2019 but only 1% growth from 2020 to 2021.

Most online programs in 2021:
Organizational Leadership: 60%
Business Administration: 43%
Human Resources Management: 41%
Business/Commerce, General: 35%
Logistics/Supply Chain Management: 30%

Fastest-growing programs from 2016-2021:
Management Science
Real Estate
Organizational Leadership
Construction Management
Supply Chain Management

Fastest-declining programs from 2016-2021:
Hotel/Motel Administration/Management
Fashion Merchandising
Organizational Behavior Studies
Hospitality Administration/Management

13% of all 2021 bachelor’s degrees

The number of schools with health graduates has stayed steady since 2015. However, continued graduate growth means the median number of health grads per institution has increased by 11%.

Largest programs by number of graduates in 2021:
Registered Nursing: 157,596
Health Services/Allied Health: 15,069
Health Care Administration/Management: 14,169
Public Health: 10,164
Communication Sciences and Disorders: 5,220

Keep an eye on Public Health! It’s among the largest, most online, and fastest-growing health programs.

Most online programs in 2021:
Health Care Administration/ Management: 53%
Registered Nursing: 47%
Health Services/Allied Health: 21%
Public Health: 18%
Health and Wellness: 17%

Fastest-growing programs from 2016-2021:
Public Health
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Health and Wellness
Health Services/Allied Health

Fastest-declining programs from 2016-2021:
Athletic Training/Trainer
Hospital and Health Care Facilities Administration/Management
Speech-Language Pathology/Pathologist
Pre-Medicine/Pre-Medical Studies

Social Sciences
7% of all 2021 bachelor’s degrees

Growth here has been flat, and the five largest programs accounted for 83% of all social sciences grads in 2021. Learners in this vertical tend to be traditional-aged and enrolled in on-campus studies. Only 8% of programs are offered online.

Largest programs by number of graduates in 2021:
Political Science and Government: 42,513
Economics and Econometrics: 38,240
Sociology: 29,506
Criminology: 9,710
International Relations and Affairs: 8,848

Most online programs in 2021:
Criminology: 24%
Social Sciences: 18%
Sociology: 11%
Political Science and Government: 6%
Economics and Econometrics: 5%

Fastest-growing programs from 2016-2021:
Political Science
Economics and Econometrics

Fastest-declining programs from 2016-2021:
International Relations
Social Sciences

Largest additional bachelor’s programs:

  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Computer Science, General
  • Speech Communication and Rhetoric
  • Criminal Justice/Safety Studies
  • English Language and Literature
  • Elementary Education and Teaching
  • Exercise Science and Kinesiology
  • Computer and Information Sciences
  • Liberal Arts/Liberal Studies

Associate-Level Trends

The three largest verticals accounted for two-thirds of all associate graduates in 2021:
Liberal Arts: 38%
Health: 18%
Business: 10%

Largest programs by number of graduates in 2021:
Liberal Arts: 262,326
General Studies: 100,454
Registered Nursing: 84,448
Business Administration: 59,941
Biological and Physical Sciences: 25,627

Most online programs in 2021:
Business Administration: 48%
General Studies: 47%
Business, General: 45%
Liberal Arts: 44%

Despite being one of the largest programs, only 6% of Registered Nursing programs were offered online. Why? The field’s necessary practical training happens at the associate level.

Fastest-growing programs for 2016-2021:
Economics and Econometrics
Health Services/Allied Health
Computer Science

Fastest-declining programs from 2016-2021:
Baking and Pastry Arts
Culinary Arts/Chef Training
Medical/Clinical Assistant
Pharmacy Technician/Assistant
Health Information/Medical Records Technology

Want more insights?
Dive deeper into key trends. Download the full report today: State of the Education Market 2023: Trends
and Insights in Key Undergraduate Discipline.

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