What are the Best Majors at Caltech?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Caltech building with a fountain near the facade.

What are the Best Majors at Caltech?

What are the best majors at Caltech? The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), nestled in Pasadena, California, about 18 kilometers from downtown Los Angeles, is globally renowned for its pioneering contributions to science and engineering. Alongside its array of top-tier facilities like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Caltech Seismological Laboratory, and the International Observatory Network, Caltech consistently produces groundbreaking research.

As one of the few elite technical institutions in the U.S. with a strong emphasis on technical arts and applied sciences, Caltech maintains an exceptionally selective admissions process, ensuring only the crème de la crème of students earn a spot.

Young male student using a laptop for class.

The basic curriculum at Caltech is the same for all students, regardless of the concentration or option they choose. Caltech’s faculty conceived the core curriculum with one overarching goal in mind: to improve your scientific abilities. While all programs at Caltech are renowned for their depth and quality, several have garnered particularly widespread acclaim. The following are some of the most popular majors at Caltech:

Computer Science

Diving into Computer Science at Caltech offers students a robust grounding in the mathematical and computational foundations of the field. Beyond introducing current research in numerous Computer Science areas, the program prepares learners for the extensive application of computational methodologies. As one of the leading majors at Caltech, the institute’s approach emphasizes:

  1. Recognizing information and computation as core components across diverse systems;
  2. Addressing pressing, transformative challenges with tangible real-world implications;
  3. Constructing foundational theories;
  4. Bridging gaps between traditionally isolated academic disciplines.

Advanced modules are organized into specific “tracks,” allowing students to explore areas such as Computational Implementation, Systematic Design, Machine Learning, and Interdisciplinary Research, among others. A minor in computer science is also available for interested students.

Engineering and Applied Sciences (EAS)

Caltech’s EAS program champions design and synthesis, equipping students for professional practice in an era of fast-evolving interdisciplinary technology. With the EAS track, students can explore a myriad of scientific and tech-based areas, from material science to brain systems. Additionally, students are empowered to tailor their academic journey, ensuring it possesses the rigor and depth akin to predefined specializations. The EAS track’s ethos revolves around fostering leadership, creativity, and continuous professional evolution.

History and Philosophy of Science (HPS)

Caltech’s HPS program delves into the historical progression of physical and biological sciences, interweaving philosophical insights. HPS history modules uncover the roots of theoretical practices, the societal backdrop of scientific evolutions, and significant breakthroughs spanning from ancient times. Meanwhile, HPS philosophy courses tackle foundational debates, from the ethics of scientific conduct to the relationship between humans and technology. An HPS minor is also on offer.


Caltech’s Mathematics track seeks to immerse students in the crux of modern mathematics while paving the way for specialized or related advanced studies. Beyond foundational principles, students encounter complex topics ranging from algebra to combinatorics. Advanced students have opportunities to specialize and collaborate with faculty on research projects, ensuring a holistic grasp of the subject, from theorem-proofing to computational applications.


Caltech’s Biology program builds atop a strong mathematical and physical science base, presenting an intricate understanding of biological sciences. Structured to lead into postgraduate biological studies or medical school seamlessly, this track lays the foundation for myriad biological branches. A minor in Biology is also an accessible option for students.


Ranking among the top majors offered at Caltech, the Physics track demystifies the tenets of contemporary physics, preparing students for further studies and foundational research careers. This curriculum not only provides a launchpad for in-depth physics explorations at the postgraduate level but also equips students with a versatile foundation applicable across various scientific disciplines. Those keen on deep-diving into physics can opt for accelerated courses, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of core principles.

These are just a few highlights, but it’s essential to remember that Caltech’s strength lies not just in individual programs but in its collaborative environment, interdisciplinary approach, and commitment to solving real-world problems. Each student’s experience at Caltech is deeply personal, and the “best” major often aligns with individual passions, curiosities, and long-term aspirations.

How Do You Decide on Your Major?

Deciding on a major, be it at Caltech or any other institution, ranks as one of the pivotal decisions for high school or college students. Interestingly, a survey reveals that 61% of college graduates wish for a redo on their major choice.

Group of students talking while looking at a laptop on a table.

Still, not all harbor regrets upon graduation. Below are crucial factors to weigh when determining a major, complemented by guidelines to choose the right institution post-decision.

Reflect on Your Aptitudes

Begin by enumerating your achievements and interests. Once done, seek feedback from trusted friends and family. Often, an external perspective highlights qualities and talents we may overlook.

Don’t shy away from subjects that have intrigued you but were never pursued in-depth. Also, reconsider skills you’ve abandoned or haven’t engaged with recently.

Explore Potential Career Paths

With an inventory of your passions, explore corresponding professions. For instance, a music aficionado might consider roles like a music teacher, event organizer, or a position in a music-centric non-profit.

To gain insights, it’s beneficial to shadow professionals in these roles. Observing their daily routines can provide a firsthand feel of the job. If shadowing isn’t feasible, consider connecting with professionals online to engage in informative conversations.

Project Future Income

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a comprehensive overview of various careers. By visiting their platform, you can gauge the job prospects within your areas of interest.

Identify appealing jobs and use the platform to discern which have growth potential and offer salaries aligning with your desired lifestyle. While salary shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor, it’s a crucial component. This perspective can guide how much you should invest in tertiary education.

Envision your post-college life as well. If aspirations include starting a family, living in an urban locale, or extensive travel, you’d need a vocation that financially supports those goals.

Assess Your Commitment to Study

All majors aren’t created equally. The rigor varies across disciplines. Contemplate the time and energy you’re willing to allocate for academic pursuits and your commitment level as a scholar.

Students using a computer in a room.

Also, research if your chosen field mandates additional advanced degrees post-graduation. Before settling on an undergraduate major, it’s imperative to ascertain whether subsequent higher degrees are necessary to attain your professional aspirations.

What are Your Chances of Getting Into Caltech?

Caltech received a staggering 13,026 applications for its freshman class of 2021-22, with only 510 making the cut. The year prior, the institution saw 8,007 applicants vying for spots in the Class of 2024, of which 536 were admitted, translating to an overall acceptance rate of 6.7%.

Two students using a gadget while lounging in the grass.

While data for the recent admissions remains confidential, it’s known that a mere 432 students were granted admission. This could suggest an acceptance rate nearing 3% for the incoming class of 2022-2023. Typically, Caltech applicants possess SAT scores within the 1530-1580 range. Moreover, Caltech clinched the ninth spot among National Universities in the 2022 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.

For those aiming to join Caltech’s esteemed ranks, be prepared for a challenging admissions process. Although ambition and hard work can drive students to aim for Caltech, gaining admission requires more than merely outperforming the typical GPA or SAT scores associated with the institution.

To enhance your chances of joining Caltech:

  1. Ready your application materials ahead of both the Early Action and regular application timelines.
  2. Prime yourself for standardized tests, strive for an exemplary GPA, and articulate thoughtful responses to Caltech’s essay questions.
  3. If Caltech tops your list of preferred institutions, think about submitting your application by the Early Action deadline.

If you have more questions about choosing among the best majors at Caltech or if you need help putting the finishing touches on your college applications,  at AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.




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