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Field of Bachelor's Degree in the United States: 2009

Report Number ACS-18
Julie Siebens and Camille L. Ryan

This report provides information on fields of bachelor’s degrees in the United States using data from the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS).1 It includes estimates of fields of bachelor’s degree by demographic characteristics including age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, nativity, and educational attainment. This report also looks at geographic and earnings differences across fields of degree.

The ACS provided data on field of bachelor’s degree for the first time in 2009. Respondents who held a bachelor’s degree or above were asked to write in the specific field(s) of any bachelor’s degrees earned (Figure 1). The U.S. Census Bureau coded these responses into 188 majors.2 These 188 majors were then collapsed into two overlapping sets of fields: one broad set containing five distinct fields and one detailed set with fifteen distinct fields. The broad set of fields includes: science and engineering; science- and engineering-related; business; education; and arts, humanities, and other. The detailed set of fields retains three of the five broad sets of fields: science- and engineering-related, business, and education. The detailed set of fields also breaks down the two broad fields of science and engineering and arts, humanities, and other into smaller fields. The organization of the detailed fields of degree relative to the broad fields of degree can be seen in the chart titled “Organization of Field of Degree Groups.” This chart also includes examples of common majors within these fields. A full list of the 188 individual majors and their grouping into fields can be found in Appendix A.3

1 “Field of bachelor’s degree” refers to the specialized area of study in which a bachelor’s degree was awarded. It does not refer to the type of bachelor’s degree, such as bachelor’s of science or bachelor’s of arts.
2 Many respondents listed more than one major. Each of these majors was coded, but this report only uses the first listed major.
3 This classification scheme of majors into detailed fields was intended to be similar to the classification of majors used by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These classifications are not identical and care should be exercised when comparing data tabulations from the ACS, NCES, and NSF.


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