Thousands of graduate and undergraduate students at UC Santa Barbara will receive diplomas this year as many of them walk at commencement ceremonies this weekend.

Although data on students graduating this year is not available yet, numbers from UCSB’s Office of Budget and Planning show some of the most popular majors through the years.

During the 2016-17 school year, across 95 majors, 5328 UC Santa Barbara undergraduates received 5986 degrees.

The most popular major for students that year was a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, with 8.8 percent of graduating seniors graduating with the degree.

Diane Mackie, the chair of the psychology department at UCSB, said this is because psychological and brain sciences is a “fascinating discipline.”

“[We] have great teaching and mentoring faculty, we encourage research involvement, our focus is on understanding behavior, and lots of graduate schools and employers like our graduates,” she said in an email.

UCSB accepted its last group of students for the B.A. in psychology –– transfer students of the class of 2019 — last fall because UCSB discontinued the B.A.

Mackie said admissions data suggests the new psychological and brain sciences major may be more popular than the B.A. in psychology.

“Understanding behavior requires an appreciation of its biological underpinnings, and incorporating that more formally into the degree only makes the degree more appealing and useful,” she said in the email.

Other popular majors included communication with 6.7 percent, sociology with 8 percent, economics and accounting with 6 percent and global studies with 5.7 percent.

Biological sciences, 4.2 percent, and biopsychology, 3 percent, were the most popular Bachelors of Science degrees awarded.

Hover over the chart below to learn more about popular majors.


Majors with less than 1% of students are summed in the “other” category. To learn more about the popularity of these majors, you can download the data at the link at the end of the article. Data courtesy of UCSB’s Office of Budget and Planning. Hayley Tice / Daily Nexus


In 2015-16, the most recent available data, 6.84 percent of bachelor’s degrees earned by students in the United States were in psychology, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The most popular field nationally was business as 21.66 percent of graduating seniors across the U.S. received degrees in the field, according to the data.

UCSB does not have a business degree, but 11 percent of degrees conferred were in economics-related fields, including business economics, economics, economics-accounting, economics-mathematics and financial mathematics & statistics.

The number of B.A.s awarded outnumbered the number of B.S.s awarded by about 150 percent in 2016-17, according to the data.

Data courtesy of UCSB’s Office of Budget and Planning. Hayley Tice / Daily Nexus

Students received 4166 B.A. degrees and 1618 B.S. degrees during the 2016-17 school year.

UCSB awarded seven Bachelor of Music degrees and 18 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees.

The number of B.S. degrees has increased significantly since 1980-81, when the data set starts.

Only 288 B.S. degrees were awarded in 1980-81, while 1618 B.S. degrees were awarded in the 2016-17 school year.


Get the data!

You can download the data about the most popular majors at UCSB here.


[Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the number of B.S. degrees awarded in 2016-17 was 2765; 1618 degrees were awarded B.S. degrees were awarded that year.]


Hayley Tice
Hayley Tice serves as data editor for the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at or