What are the Best Majors at Northwestern?

August 23, 2023
By AdmissionSight
View of Northeastern University.

What are the Best Majors at Northwestern?

With a reputation that precedes it, Northwestern is a dream destination for many aspiring scholars. But let’s cut to the chase: You’re not just here for the scenic lake views or the Wildcat spirit; you’re here to invest in your future. That investment starts with choosing the right major.

We’ll delve deep into the best majors at Northwestern, dissecting them from various angles to give you a panoramic view of your options. We’ll explore not just the famous and high-earning majors but also the hidden gems that could be your ticket to a fulfilling career.

This is more than just a list; it’s a comprehensive guide designed to navigate you through one of the most significant decisions of your life.

Why Is Choosing a Major So Crucial?

You might think that college is all about late-night study sessions, football games, and making lifelong friends. While all these are quintessential parts of the experience, let’s not forget the academic cornerstone: your major.

The major you choose is like the compass guiding your educational journey, pointing you toward the courses, professors, and extracurricular activities shaping your college years. It’s not just a field of study; it’s a declaration of your career aspirations, your interests, and, dare we say, a part of your identity.

The best majors at Northwestern offer a blend of rigorous academics, stellar faculty, and opportunities for research or internships, all designed to prepare you for the real world.

The impact of your major on your future career

Imagine stepping into the job market, your resume brimming with confidence. The name “Northwestern University” already adds a sheen of prestige, but the major listed under it can be the game-changer.

Female student smiling with her classmates.

Your major is more than a subject; it’s a brand that tells potential employers what skills you bring. Whether you’re a Computer Science whiz coding the next big app or a Journalism major with a knack for storytelling, your major can be your passport to specific industries, job roles, and even salary brackets.

Some of the best majors at Northwestern are pipelines to high-earning jobs right out of college, offering a diploma and a launchpad for your career.

How a major can shape your college experience

Your major doesn’t just dictate your class schedule; it influences the clubs you join, the people you network with, and even the study abroad programs you choose. Opting for a major like Theatre could have you spending hours in rehearsal rooms, while a major in Environmental Science might take you on field trips to study ecosystems up close.

Each major has its own culture, challenges, and rewards, creating a unique tapestry of experiences beyond the classroom. The best majors at Northwestern offer a holistic education that balances theory with practical experience, equipping you with the skills—and memories—that last a lifetime.

Which Majors Are Most Popular at Northwestern?

Regarding the best majors at Northwestern, popularity can be a telling indicator. After all, there’s a reason why specific fields of study attract more students than others. But what are these sought-after majors, and what makes them the go-to choices for so many Northwestern Wildcats? In the following few sections, we’ll pull back the curtain on the most popular majors at this esteemed institution.

American Studies

This major, including an honors track, adopts a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary method to explore American Studies. Leveraging faculty from the humanities and social sciences, students delve into American culture, diverse American experiences, and the viewpoints of individuals globally affected by Americans.

This curriculum offers an extensive exploration transcending traditional academic niches, with every senior undertaking an independent research endeavor.

Applied Mathematics

Those keen on applied mathematics, often eyeing sectors like finance, consulting, or business management, commonly complement their degree with the Kellogg Certificate for Undergraduates. There’s a plethora of specialized programs and certificates available for undergraduates.

Biological Sciences

Biology delves into the intricate web of living systems, ranging from the micro to the macro. As an ever-evolving field, biology consistently unearths groundbreaking findings— from understanding species interactions and human diseases to pioneering therapies.

Biology majors select a specialized area within this vast field, mastering their chosen domain while gaining broad insights to prepare for medical, research, biotech, and beyond roles.

Biomedical Engineering

With an ABET-accredited biomedical engineering program, Northwestern aspires to foster leaders, innovators, and lifelong learners. The curriculum instills fundamental pillars of biomedical engineering, coupled with elective courses offering a panoramic view of the domain or deeper specialization.

View of a woman using a microscope.

Students keen on delving deeper might emphasize areas like imaging and biophotonics, biomaterials and regenerative medicine, or biomechanics and rehabilitation.

Chemical Engineering

Distinctively merging science and engineering, the chemical engineering major rests on chemistry, biology, physics, and math pillars. This offers students insights into thermodynamics, transport processes, and chemical kinetics.

Graduates emerge ready for roles in the chemical and process sectors or advanced studies, boasting a robust foundation that prepares them to innovate, manage, and lead in technically demanding industrial settings.


Among the best majors offered at Northwestern, Economics deciphers the complex web of decisions individuals, families, and nations make to allocate scarce resources optimally. By examining these processes in diverse settings, evaluating outcomes, and probing potential economic structures, economists aim to uplift living standards and ensure equitable resource distribution.

Political Science

The Political Science Department at Northwestern provides a multifaceted perspective on politics. Courses span four cornerstone subfields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. While some students focus on specific subfields, many opt for a broader exploration of various topics.

Understanding that any individual’s “best” major depends on their interests, career goals, and strengths is essential. What’s crucial is to find a field of study that resonates with one’s passion and aligns with one’s aspirations.

As a diverse and multidisciplinary institution, Northwestern offers vast opportunities across areas, ensuring that many can find a suitable program that aligns with their interests.

How Do You Decide on Your Major?

Deciding among the plethora of majors at Northwestern or any other school is one of the most important choices an upcoming college student must make. According to one survey, 61% of college graduates would switch majors if they could return to school.

Female student holding her things while standing.

However, not everyone suffers from a case of buyer’s remorse when they receive their diploma. The following is a list of the most significant considerations to make when selecting a major, as well as advice on choosing the appropriate college once you have made your selection.

Assess Your Strengths

Begin by noting down your achievements and interests. Once done, ask close friends and family what they observe as your strengths or distinctive traits. Often, others can highlight strengths or passions we overlook or undervalue.

Don’t forget subjects that have intrigued you but you’ve never delved into deeply. Also, recall skills or hobbies you excelled in but haven’t pursued recently.

Explore Potential Career Paths

With a clear understanding of your interests and strengths, start researching careers that align with them. For example, if music captivates you, potential career paths could include becoming a music teacher, a club organizer, or working for a music-centric nonprofit.

Consider job-shadowing professionals in roles you’re curious about to gain insights into the day-to-day aspects of the job. If direct observation isn’t feasible, consider contacting individuals in those roles through platforms like LinkedIn and arrange for informational interviews.

Evaluate Potential Earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers extensive data on various careers. Navigate their platform to explore professions you’re keen on. This will give you an understanding of job availability and growth prospects in those sectors.

Once you’ve shortlisted appealing professions, utilize the platform to discern which jobs offer favorable growth and salaries aligning with your desired lifestyle. While future earnings shouldn’t be the sole determinant in choosing a career, it’s crucial to consider, especially when planning for further education or lifestyle aspirations.

Factor in your post-graduation life aspirations, too. If you dream of starting a family, residing in a metropolitan area, or frequent traveling, ensure your chosen career can support such endeavors.

Reflect on Your Commitment to Studies

All academic majors aren’t created equal in terms of effort and time. Reflect on the time and dedication you will invest in your academic pursuits.

Moreover, understand any additional educational requirements for your chosen field. If your career ambitions necessitate further qualifications like a master’s or a professional degree, factor that into your decision-making process for your undergraduate studies.

Lastly, it’s crucial to understand that while your major is vital to your academic and professional trajectory, it isn’t definitive. Many skills are transferable, and numerous professionals thrive in careers not directly linked to their undergraduate major. The key is to remain curious, adaptable, and proactive in seeking opportunities to learn and grow.

What are Your Chances of Getting Into Northwestern?

Admission to Northwestern University has historically been highly competitive, and this trend is predicted to intensify in the upcoming years. With its admission rate hitting a record low at 6.8%, only 3,239 students were selected from an overwhelming 47,633 applications for the class of 2025.

During the early decision phase, Northwestern garnered 4,411 applications and granted admission to 1,105 students. The earlier decision acceptance rate is around 25%, which is more significant than the general acceptance rate.

Female student writing while looking at his laptop.

This distinction in rates acts as a selective filter, ensuring that Northwestern’s student body is ready for the academic rigor of college. While academic excellence is paramount in the selection process, it’s not the sole criterion. Instead, Northwestern employs a holistic admissions approach, where various facets of a candidate’s profile are assessed.

The idea of “fit” holds significance for Northwestern. The university seeks students whose aspirations and abilities resonate with the institution’s offerings and ethos. In essence, Northwestern values academically proficient students who are passionately engaged, intellectually curious, and deeply committed to their educational journey.

Suppose you need help choosing among the best majors at Northwestern or help putting the finishing touches on your college applications at AdmissionSight. In that case, we have over ten years of experience guiding students through competitive admissions.

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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