What are Americans studying?
November 2nd, 2011
11:59 PM ET

What are Americans studying?

By John Cookson, CNN

More people are attending college in the United States than ever before. There were 18 million undergraduate students in 2009, and more than 1.6 million Bachelor's degrees were awarded that year. But are college students studying the subjects that will lead to good jobs and keep America competitive in the world economy?

Below are the top-seven subjects by percent of all Bachelor's degrees awarded in the 2008/2009 school year, collected by the Department of Education. If science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors are the path to well-paid jobs and an innovation-led economy, the numbers are concerning.

There are, for example, more students studying visual and performing arts than engineering. There are more parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies majors than physical science majors. And there were fewer computer and information science majors in 2008-2009 (37,994) than there were in 1984-85 (38,878).

How do these degrees compare with what students from other countries study when they come to the U.S.? Also below is the Institute of International Education's list of the subjects studied by foreign students in America, each ranked by its percent of all the fields studied.

Read over the two lists and tell us below if you think U.S. students are on the right track.

This Sunday at 8pm ET, Fareed Zakaria will explore what the U.S. education system needs to do to compete in today's world in a special edition of CNN GPS called "Restoring the America Dream: Fixing Education."

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Topics: Education

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soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Student WI

    The way our current K-12 education system is set up right now is merely pumping out tech oriented, self-centered individuals who value the acquisition of the next 'thing' that they think is going to bring them happiness. A "Liberal Arts" education was originally designed to liberate one's mind from the dogmatic traditions that only contribute to the problem of a seeminlgy morally degraded society. The Arts and Humanities teach students how to be human, by presenting different aspects of humanity from an empathetic perspective. The world is full of button pushers and number crunchers. In my opinion our education system should be focusing on producing democratic citizens above all else. Wouldn't it be nice to see an America where voters and policy makers could empathize with an opposing view?

    November 30, 2011 at 10:33 am | Reply
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  4. Claudius II

    Have several science degrees, including a Master's in Chemical Engineering, worked for 3 yrs under a guy who won the Nobel in Chemistry and own a company which does predictions and mathematical modeling for nuclear, chemical, and mfg industries.

    My compensation averages about 40-50K /year although some years it's in the 20K range. Basically there are so many inexpensive foreign science grads in the sciences/engineering that there is no need to pay a salary higher than 35K /year for any science degree, any amount of experience. However that's the way large companies like it as it reduces overhead.

    In summary chosing a career in science/ engineering is like spending many years, and having exceptional ability, to become a contract fruit picker for a Californian orchard.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:30 am | Reply
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