Worst College Majors for Career-Oriented Students

By Staff

Regardless of your major, simply earning an undergraduate degree can improve your employment prospects and as well as the ultimate size of your paycheck. Those who don’t complete any education beyond high school earn 40% less than individuals with a bachelor’s degree; high school graduates are also more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

Affordable Colleges and Universities of 2013

But the difference in earning potential from one college degree to another can be tens of thousands of dollars per year — or hundreds of thousands over a lifetime. In fact, grads with certain majors sometimes fare worse in the labor force than workers who stopped studying after high school. In light of the time and money you put into earning a college degree, it may be good to know whether your course of study is a career-killer. Fortunately, Kiplinger’s analyzed the jobless rates and salaries for graduates with the 100 most popular majors to come up with our list of the worst values in college degrees. We’ll share a handful of them with you here.

The list was compiled using data from Payscale.com, as well as from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Graduates in the field listed below — both recent grads and those who have moved farther into their careers — face a brutal combination of low compensation and high unemployment. Payscale and Kiplinger’s also developed a snarky-but-funny algorithm to determine the likelihood that a recent graduate would end up working in retail, rather than in their field of study. According to the survey, a ratio of 1.0 is the norm across all majors; a ratio of 2.0 means a graduate of with the listed degree is twice as likely to work in retail as the average college grad.

Many of today’s anthropology grads are studying a culture they didn’t expect: the intergenerational American household, as seen from their parents’ couch. New anthropology majors face stifling unemployment, forcing nearly a third to take low-paying office or sales jobs. More dramatically, recent grads stand to make a mere $28,000 per year – less than the median pay for someone with only a high school diploma. If foreign cultures are your thing, a major in international relations promises both a higher salary and lower unemployment rate. (Recent grad employment rate: 10.5% – Median salary for recent grads: $28,000 – Likelihood of working retail: 2.1 times average )

Fine Arts At least your art degree will get you farther than a B.A. in Anthropology.

The employment situation for recent art-school grads is anything but aesthetic. Slow job growth and an abundance of fine-arts majors means unemployment is high – the second highest on our list. When fine-arts majors do find jobs, they generally don’t pay well. Even experienced artists can expect to make 20% less than their college classmates. While few people have ever gone into art for the money, the East Village isn’t as cheap as it used to be. (Unemployment rate for recent grads: 12.6% – Median salary for recent grads: $30,000 – Likelihood of working retail: 1.8 times average).