Outline of academic disciplines

Collage of images representing different academic disciplines

An academic discipline or field of study is a branch of knowledge, taught and researched as part of higher education. A scholar's discipline is commonly defined by the university faculties and learned societies to which they belong and the academic journals in which they publish research.

Disciplines vary between well-established ones that exist in almost all universities and have well-defined rosters of journals and conferences, and nascent ones supported by only a few universities and publications. A discipline may have branches, and these are often called sub-disciplines.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to academic disciplines. In each case an entry at the highest level of the hierarchy (e.g., Humanities) is a group of broadly similar disciplines; an entry at the next highest level (e.g., Music) is a discipline having some degree of autonomy and being the basic identity felt by its scholars; and lower levels of the hierarchy are sub-disciplines not normally having any role in the structure of the university's governance.


Performing arts

Visual arts


Languages and literature




Social science





Political science



Social work

Natural science



Earth science

Space science


Formal science

Computer science

Also a branch of electrical engineering


Pure mathematics

Applied mathematics

Applied science


Architecture and design




Engineering and technology

Chemical Engineering

Civil Engineering

Educational Technology

Electrical Engineering

Materials Science and Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Systems science

Environmental studies and forestry

Family and consumer science

Human physical performance and recreation

Journalism, media studies and communication


Library and museum studies

Medicine and health

Military sciences

Public administration

Public policy

Social work


See also


  • Abbott, Andrew (2001). Chaos of Disciplines. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-00101-2.
  • Oleson, Alexandra; Voss, John (1979). The Organization of knowledge in modern America, 1860-1920. ISBN 0-8018-2108-8.
  • US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP). National Center for Education Statistics.

External links

Media files used on this page

Academic disciplines (collage).jpg
Author/Creator: Collective, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Collage of images representing different academic disciplines: orchestra (music); detail of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (painting); a sculpture of Socrates in the Louvre Museum (philosophy); funerary mask of Tutankhamun (history/archaeology); a supply and demand diagram, illustrating the effects of an increase in demand (economics); one of Pavlov's dogs (psychology); judges of the International Court of Justice (jurisprudence); surgeons at work (medicine); assembly of a steam turbine rotor produced by Siemens (engineering); computer programming (computer science); eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (volcanology); Escherichia coli (biology); 3D structure of caffeine (chemistry); simulated data modeled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (physics); The Crab Nebula (astronomy); Riemann sphere (mathematics).
Humanités Numériques.JPG
Author/Creator: Calvinius, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Illustration of the epistemologic changes of the 'digital humanities': archives organized with network visualization and analysis. League of Nations Archives (UN Geneva).