Attracting International Students
Jul 10 2017 0

What Degree Fields Do US International Students Come To Study?

International students come from all over the world to study in US universities and institutions. With international recruiting efforts becoming increasingly more important, it is vital that recruiters and international student services know what degree fields are attracting international students.



Engineering is the most popular degree field for international students with over 216,000 majoring in it. That is 10% more than the previous year. The majority just study Engineering as a whole, but about 13,000 study Engineering Technologies/Technicians and approximately 2,000 study Transportation and Materials moving.


Business & Management

Business & Management sees the second most interest from international students with just over 200,000 students deciding to study it. However, with only a 2% increase from the previous year, this degree field did not see the huge increase that Engineering did.


Math & Computer Science

This field of study saw the most growth between the 2014/15 and the 2015/16 school year. The number of international students coming to study Math & Computer Science went up 25% to over 140,000 students. The majority, over 107,000, are in the Computer and Information Sciences.


Social Sciences

There are over 81,000 international students studying Social Sciences, which is a 7% increase from the year prior. Social Science as a whole has the vast majority with about 53,000 students, with Psychology trailing behind with only a little over 14,000. Area, Ethnic, Cultural and Gender Studies are the least popular, only attracting about 2,600.


Physical and Life Sciences

The two areas of study that dominate the Physical and Life Sciences is Biological and Biomedical Sciences and Physical Sciences. There are about 75,000 students studying Physical and Life Sciences. About 40,000 are studying Biological and Biomedical Sciences, while about 34,000 are studying the Physical Sciences.


Fine & Applied Arts

Surprisingly, Fine & Applied Arts is the next popular field of study with almost 60,000 international students coming to the US to obtain this degree. The majority, approximately 45,000, are specializing in Visual & Performing Arts, while the other 14,000 are studying architecture.


Intensive English

This degree field, while still boasting over 40,000 international students, seems to be losing its popularity. Most of the fields of study saw an increase between 2014/15 to 2015/16 school year, Intensive English saw a 17% drop.


Health Professions

The US has almost 34,000 international students studying one of the Health Professions fields. Out of that number only 301 are in Residency Programs.


Communications & Journalism

This is another field of study that saw a decent increase, 5%, between the 2014/15 to the 2015/16 school year. This bring the number of international students studying a Communications and Journalism field to 21,000.



The Education field saw a 10% increase from 2014/15 to 2015/16, bring the total number of international students in that field to approximately 20,000.



Humanities has several different areas of study: Foreign Languages, Literature and Linguistics; English Language and Literature/Letters; Theology and Religious Vocations; and Philosophy and Religious Studies. There are over 17,000 international students studying humanities. While the majority are studying either Foreign Languages, Literature and Linguistics or English Language, Literature/Letters, these areas of study saw a drop in numbers, -1.2% and -5.4% respectively. Theology and Religious Vocations saw an increase of 17.6% and Philosophy and Religious Studies had an increase of 3%.


Legal Studies and Law Enforcement

There are over 15,000 students studying Legal Studies and Law Enforcement, which is a 9% increase from the year prior. The majority study Legal Professions and Studies, almost 13,000.



There was not much of a change in the enrollment for international students in the Agriculture field of study. The number still is just over 12,000 students. What did change was the area of study these students entered into. Agriculture itself had a -2.8% drop, but Natural Resources and Conservation saw an increase of 6.7%



There are many other degree fields out there, if the student actually declared one. Liberal Arts and Sciences/ General Studies & Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies have the largest number with approximately 50,000 and 18,000 respectively. Others include Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Studies and Family & Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences.


By better understanding what fields are attracting international students, universities can improve their recruitment efforts to match those interests. This is important if universities want to improve their international student population.


By Ashleigh Cue

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