What’s your major? The first question many are asked about their college experience may hold a surprising connection to their first name.
We’ve put together a series of visuals showing the top six name results of the 37 most popular college majors using a few different constraints. Those constraints are, in order:
The most common name by major
The most disproportionately common name by major (meaning those names which appear in certain majors excessively more than in others)
The most disproportionately common male names by major
The most disproportionately common female names by major
No assumptions as to any person’s place of birth or citizenship can be made with this information based on the names alone. However, the specific names that appear, and the way that certain names tended to congregate with other names of similar language roots within majors, is interesting to see in these visualizations.
The results of the baseline most common names by major were relatively unsurprising, and in nearly every major tended to also be among the most common names in America.
There were the usual Roberts, Davids, Johns, Jessicas, and Jennifers, among several others. A few of these congregated around certain majors, typically along gender lines; for example, Registered Nursing majors had overwhelmingly traditionally-female names, while Accounting majors tended toward traditionally male names.
However, we found that many of these different majors cycled through the same two dozen or so names, all of which tended to be Anglo-European in origin.
In fact, for 19 of the 37 majors listed in our data, the names John, David, James, Michael, and Robert all appeared within the six most common names, while the sixth tended to be either Jennifer, Jessica, Matthew, or Christopher (depending on the major).
It was only once we started looking at the most disproportionately common names in each major that things really began to get interesting.
The Disproportionally of Names by Major: Or, Too Many Zachs
Here are some snapshots of the more noteworthy (and, in some cases, bizarre) examples of what we found, sorted by major:
The most disproportionately common names here are all female, including the Anglo-European “Jen” and “Jenn,” the Eastern European “Ewelina,” “Patrycja,” and “Yuliya,” and the Italian “Fiorella.”
Under the specifically male names we have some surprisingly different name origins, with the Anglo-European “Nate,” “Brit,” and “Zach,” the Chinese names “Chong” and “Wei,” and the Yoruba name “Babatunde.”
The most disproportionately common male names for this major include some of the shortest on this list. Two abbreviated names are found in this section, “PJ” and “JP,” both curiously enough using the same two letters. The other names–“Yuan,” “Yi,” “Moe,” and, of course, “Zach”–are all four letter long or less.
Overwhelmingly Anglo-European nab all the top spots here, including “Deb,” “Sydnie,” “Art,” and yet another “Zach.”
Under female names, we have the Arabic “Zahra” and “Aminata,” the Eastern European “Irina” and “Svetlana,” and rounding out the numbers are the irreplaceable “Jen” and “Jenn”.
“Mirza” is back again here under the most common male names, along with the Anglo-European “Nate” and “Alistair,” the Eastern European “Igor,” and the one and only “Zach.”
Communication and Media Studies
Yep, “Zach” is here too.
Health and Physical Education
Not one, not two, but three of the six most disproportionately common names for either gender are diminutives of the Anglo-European “Zachary,” including “Zac,” “Zach,” and “Zak.”
How We Figured This Out
First, we calculated the most common names in each major based purely on raw count of names for a major in our database of over 7 million resumes.
Then, using Social Security Name data from 1952 to 2000 (the current working age population), we created a baseline expectation for how common a name is. We then compared that baseline to the prevalence of names for that major.
For example, the name “Bob” might make up 2% of names nationwide, but only 10% of names in Math-related majors. Therefore, Bob would be disproportionately common in Math.
Using this metric, we decided which names were the most disproportionately common names in each major.
Lastly, we repeated the previous step two more times, but isolated the names along traditional gender lines to create our two separate lists for most disproportionately common male and female names.
Did you find this article interesting?
If you’re still in school and having trouble settling on one particular major – for instance, say, if your name is some variation of “Zack” – take a look at our career search engine to see what jobs might be right for you, and what majors can help get you there.
If you’re a recent college grad having trouble finding a job, see what kind of careers your major qualifies you for, and what some of the most common first jobs are for people who graduated with that same major. You might find something you haven’t thought of yet.