Edition 2021

Foto omschrijving: Erasmus Medical Centre staff demonstrating an operating theatre during a career fair

What are the most popular majors?

In secondary vocational education (MBO), most students graduate in the field of care and welfare. Almost 30 percent of the graduates at level 2 or higher in 2020 obtained a diploma in this field. In the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes (HBO and WO), over 20 percent graduated in business studies and administration.

What are the most popular majors?#1 Mbo 2-4 Care and welfare 40,563#2 Mbo 2-4Economics andadministration15,286#3 Mbo 2-4 Technology and process industry12,362
#1 WO-master Business and administration10,046#3 Hbo-bachelorHealthcare8,962#2 Hbo-bachelorEducation9,703#1 Hbo-bachelorBusiness and administration15,525#2 WO-masterSocial andbehavioural sciences8,293#3 WO-masterLaw5,049

In the 2019/’20 academic year, altogether 255 thousand students obtained an MBO diploma (level 2 or higher), a Bachelor’s degree in higher professional education or a Master’s degree from university (WO). Over half of the graduates obtained an MBO diploma; slightly over one-quarter obtained an HBO Bachelor’s, while 18 percent obtained a WO Master’s.

In secondary vocational education, the shares of male and female graduates were approximately equal. This was slightly more skewed in higher education, with 56 percent female graduates in the 2019/’20 academic year.

Diplomas in care and welfare for over a quarter of MBO graduates

More than 141 thousand students obtained an MBO diploma at level 2, 3 or 4. The largest group graduated in the field of care and welfare (40,563 graduates or 29 percent). Almost 9 out of 10 were female; they entered occupations such as nurse or carer, for instance.

The second most popular vocational major was economics and administration, with 15,286 graduates receiving a diploma in this area. Here, the male-female ratio was more or less equal. In technology and process engineering, 12,362 students graduated; virtually all were males (97 percent).

MBO graduates levels 2-4, 2019/'20 academic year* (%)
Afstudeerrichting Female Male
Top 5 majors . .
Total MBO 2-4 51 49
Care and welfare 85 15
Economics and administration 54 46
Technology and
process engineering
3 97
Trade and
53 47
Security and sports 32 68
*provisional figures

Business studies and administration most widely chosen in HBO

Over 67 thousand students obtained a Bachelor’s degree in higher professional education (HBO). Of all the HBO graduates, 15,525 obtained a degree in business studies and administration (23 percent). Male graduates were in the majority at 6 out of 10.

More than 14 percent of the HBO graduates (9,703 students) obtained qualifications in teaching and education science/pedagogy. Almost three-quarters of these graduates were female.

Nine thousand HBO graduates (8,962 students or 13 percent) received a diploma in health care; 8 out of 10 graduates were female.

HBO Bachelor graduates, 2019/’20 academic year* (%)
Afstudeerrichting Female Male
Top 5 majors . .
Total HBO 56 44
Business studies and
41 59
Education science,
teacher training, pedagogy
73 27
Health care 82 18
Welfare 82 18
Social work 65 35
*provisional figures

More than 46 thousand university (WO) graduates received a Master’s degree. As is the case in HBO, business studies and administration is the most frequently chosen discipline. Slightly over 10 thousand students (10,046, i.e. 22 percent) graduated in this field of study. The male-female ratio in this group was less skewed than in HBO. 48 percent of the graduates were female.

The second most popular field of study in university education is social and behavioural sciences with 8,293 graduates (18 percent). These include psychology, sociology, cultural sciences, economics, econometrics, political science and social sciences. Women were overrepresented in social and behavioural sciences, nearly 7 out of 10 being female graduates.

Of all university graduates, 1 in 10 (5,049 students) received a Master’s degree in law. Here as well, the gender ratio was rather skewed with 64 percent female graduates.

WO Master graduates, 2019/’20 academic year* (%)
Studierichting Female Male
Top 5 majors . .
Total WO 56 44
Business studies and

48 52
Behavioural and
social sciences
66 34
Law 64 36
Health care 69 31
Engineering and
technical services
23 77
*provisional figures

The questions


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. figure is unknown, insufficiently reliable or confidential
* provisional figure
** revised provisional figure
(between two numbers) inclusive
0 (0.0) less than half of unit concerned
2016–2017 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/2017 average for the years 2016 up to and including 2017
2016/’17 crop year, financial year, school year etc., beginning in 2016 and ending in 2017
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Irene van Kuik


Janneke Hendriks

Richard Jollie

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Gaby de Vet

Taalcentrum VU

Final editor

Elma Wobma

We thank all CBS colleagues who have contributed to this edition of The Netherlands in numbers.