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30 college majors that didn’t exist 50 years ago

  • 30 college majors that didn’t exist 50 years ago

    In 1970, a full 21% of college students chose education as a major, according to NPR (based on data from the Digest Of Educational Statistics). By 2011, that number had plummeted to just 6%. Many of today’s teachers find their way into the classroom through alternative paths outside the traditional route of an education degree. Today’s biggest major is business, always a popular course of study, with 1 in 5 modern students graduating with business-related degrees, including majors like marketing, real estate, operations, and accounting. One of the biggest businesses in modern America, however, is health care, which now accounts for at least 1 in 10 college degrees.

    Other majors have remained steady over the decades, with subjects like psychology, architecture, biology, and economics attracting roughly the same percentage of students today as they did at the end of the 1960s. Some students, however, are pursuing degrees and choosing majors that weren’t even a concept 50 years ago in 1969, which happened to be one of the most consequential years in American history. The Beatles made their last public performance that year; the Manson family murders terrified a nation; the first remotely connected computers formed ARPANET, the precursor to the modern internet; nearly half a million young people flocked to Woodstock; and the first human beings in the history of the world set foot on the moon.

    Since then, the United States and its system of higher education have changed dramatically, giving modern students opportunities for entirely new educational pursuits that hadn’t even been conceived in 1969. Using a variety of sources, Stacker compiled a list of 30 college majors that didn’t exist 50 years ago. Some of them deal with new technology, others reflect changes in social norms regarding dynamics like race, gender, and sexuality. Other new majors reflect shifts in science, medicine, engineering, and agriculture. Here’s a look at 30 college majors that students 50 years ago never could have pursued.

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  • Data science

    In 1962, a visionary mathematician named John W. Tukey predicted that electronic computing would one day turn data analysis into an empirical science. He was right—and way ahead of his time. Over the last two decades, data has become a personal currency that people use to pay for “free” services like Facebook and mobile apps, and data science is now a popular career and college major.

  • Online journalism

    Colleges certainly offered journalism majors in the 1960s—as evidenced by the arrival in the ’70s of the first rock star celebrity journalists like Hunter S. Thompson, Gloria Steinem, and the Washington Post’s famous Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein duo—but there was no such thing as an online journalism major or even online journalism. Eleven years later in 1980, however, the Columbus Dispatch became the first “online” newspaper when it beamed its scoops to the dial-up CompuServe service, and online journalism was born, although it wouldn’t go mainstream for another 15 years.

  • Video game design

    Two things happened in 1972 that launched what would become a global video game culture: The Magnavox Odyssey console and the game Pong both made their debuts that year. There was no such thing as a video game design major back then, but that would soon change. Today, talented and educated game designers are hot commodities in the multibillion-dollar gaming industry.

  • Nanotechnolgoy

    The word “nanotechnology” didn’t even exist until 1974, when Japanese scientist Norio Taniguchi coined the term in a paper on production technology. Today, emerging scientists flock to the major to study devices and structures that are so tiny, they’re measured in nanometers. For reference, a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide.

  • LGBTQ+ studies

    Today’s LGBTQ+ studies majors focus on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues, and how they’ve impacted and influenced culture, history, politics, art, and society. In 1969, however, you would have likely had to study psychological deviancy if you were curious about the LGBTQ+ community—the American Psychological Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1973 and a “disturbance” until 1987.

  • Cybersecurity

    Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. The budding cybersleuths who study it learn about subject matter like cryptography, network engineering, and computer forensics. In 1969, however, there was no concept of a computer network being vulnerable to attack—the first computer virus, called “Creeper,” was discovered on March 16, 1971.

  • Biotechnology

    The field of industrial biotechnology emerged and rapidly grew in the mid-1970s, so the learners of 50 years ago would have missed it as a college major, but just barely. Usually offered as a bachelor of science degree at the undergraduate level, biotech offers students the opportunity to parlay their degrees into careers in everything from medicine and science to agriculture and brewing.

  • Cannabis

    As the country seems to edge closer to full marijuana legalization, colleges and universities are offering majors relating to cannabis, even though it’s still banned at the federal level. Popular concentrations include cannabis cultivation, botany, law, chemistry, and marketing. In 1969, however, pot was heavily regulated under the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, and would soon become the linchpin in the War on Drugs.

  • The Beatles

    In 2009, a Canadian woman became the first graduate of a Liverpool Hope University master of arts program called The Beatles, Popular Music and Society. The newly minted M.A. studied not only the iconic band’s music, but its impact on culture, history, politics, race, and society in general. In 1969, the Beatles were still an active band—the Fab Four recorded “Abbey Road” that very year.

  • Social media management

    Social media can technically be traced back to 1969 and the development of CompuServe, an early processing and time-sharing service—but you certainly couldn’t major in social media 50 years ago. That all changed in 2012 when Newberry College in Newberry, S.C., developed one of the first social media undergraduate majors. Today, social media majors study everything from complex business marketing and advertising to political science and polling.