Don't Let Your Kids Study These Majors


Want to help your kid start off college on the right foot? Consider advising against some of these majors.

By Danielle Blundell

Is your kid's senior year right around the corner? Well, now's the time to sit down and craft a short list of desirable majors to take into consideration for college. Why so early, you might ask? Because all college disciplines aren't created equal, and it can be hard for students to carefully consider majors during one of the biggest transitional periods in their lives.

"It can be difficult for some students because we're naturally inclined to resist change and ambiguity," says David Reynaldo, the California-based founder and owner of College Zoom, a college admissions consulting and major matching business. "But the key with majors is to find something that you're good at with skills that have market value."

And the truth is, there are certain majors that are lacking in the market value department, according to a report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce titled "Hard Times: Not all College Degrees Are Created Equal." So keep reading to first find out which majors you should caution your young one against, and which majors you can green light with confidence.

Proceed With Caution

Unemployment rates for recent college graduates* of the following majors are anywhere from 10 to almost 14 percent, which means you could expect to see a lot of your kid around the house after they graduate. Why? Because without a job, they'll likely still be living with you.

Major #1: Architecture

Did your son or daughter gravitate toward Legos as a kid and find skyscrapers endlessly fascinating? Sure, toying with building blocks and forts may have been fun, but nailing down steady work as an architect these days is no cake walk for a recent grad.

According to the Georgetown report, the unemployment rate for recent architecture graduates is about 13.9 percent. Essentially, the report blames this figure on the collapse of the construction industry during the recession.

Reynaldo agrees. "Companies just aren't building in tough financial times," he says. So in terms of architecture jobs, the current low demand may mean fewer jobs.

Major #2: Fine Arts

Imagine your son creating magnificent pieces of art that are featured in well-known galleries. It's a nice fantasy - right up until your newly-minted college graduate realizes how broke he is because he isn't selling work, exhibiting in a gallery, or getting commissions.

The sad truth, is that this isn't 15th-century Renaissance Italy when artists were paid by kings and queens to create artwork. In fact, according to the Georgetown report, there's a 12.6 percent rate of unemployment amongst recent graduates who majored in fine arts.

Here's why: In these tough economic times, there just aren't a lot of people buying expensive pieces of art, Reynaldo says. So it can be tough to be a self-sustained, financially-stable artist.

All things considered, your kid is probably better off relegating this field of study to a hobby.

Major #3: Philosophy and Religious Studies

I think, therefore I am. Too bad Descartes' famous little ditty doesn't carry as much weight when it comes to snagging a job with a degree in philosophy or religious studies. Get ready to sweat if your son or daughter chooses one of these heady courses of study.

Why? It turns out recent grads in philosophy and religious studies face a 10.8 percent unemployment rate, says the Georgetown report.

And unless you plan on continuing on to grad school and working as a philosophy professor, Reynaldo says that the problem with philosophy is that the principles behind it - questioning existence, thinking about knowledge - are perceived as "useless" in the workforce.

"The question becomes how do I articulate the value of all the deep thinking I do to an employer." Not exactly an easy question to tackle. The same limitations are true of majoring in religious studies, he says.

Major #4: Anthropology and Archaeology

Indiana Jones may have looked cool on the big screen, but going into the fields of anthropology or archaeology won't be a blockbuster hit for your kid in the job department. The reality, according to the Georgetown report, is that recent anthropology and archaeology graduates report a 10.5 percent unemployment rate.

Why is this number so high? It all goes back to the same problem of having skills that are perceived as valuable in the working world - assuming you're not trying to get a job as an anthropologist or archaeologist. While you'll likely pick up skills during your course of study that could be applied to other jobs outside of these majors, good luck getting that across in a job application or interview when you say you studied anthropology, says Reynaldo.

"Again, like other liberal arts majors, you're being taught how to think but it's just not perceived that way by employers," says Reynaldo. "So these majors often end up getting shafted."

Major #5: Film, Video, and Photographic Arts

Do you have a budding Spielberg or Ansel Adams on your hands? While filmmaking and photography can be great artistic outlets, they might not be the best choices for your son or daughter's college major.

Recent graduates with these types of degrees experience about a 12.9 percent unemployment rate, says the Georgetown report.

Reynaldo likens this figure to the fact that while film and photography have the skill of story creation at their core, they might not be the most lucrative fields for monetizing those storytelling skills.

And if you're not using those storytelling skills, you need to make money somehow. But it can be difficult, according to Reynaldo, to convince employers that those skills translate into a practical approach to an office job or otherwise because your field of study is often pigeonholed as artistic and outside the "real" world.

Full Speed Ahead

So we've told you about some majors that you should be wary of for your young one. But then which college majors are on the other end of the spectrum? With one of the following majors, you can start turning Junior's bedroom into that rec room you always wanted - because there's a much better chance he won't still be living at home when he graduates.

Major #1: Accounting

Number crunching might not sound like the most exciting field, but trust us when we say accounting is one logical equation for post-grad employment opportunities. The unemployment rate of recent college graduates is much smaller than the above majors' figures, at 6.8 percent as reported by the Georgetown study.

Reynaldo attributes this lower-than-average rate to a few things about accounting. First, he says, "It's super easy to illustrate to employers that you have practical knowledge and relevant skills because they know what you've studied."

Plus, Reynaldo says there can be "high turnover" in some of these jobs because of the way some accounting firms work. "Workers may move on and want to go to smaller, boutique agencies, leaving jobs open," he says.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

What are some things your kid will probably study in an accounting program? Tax laws, balance sheets, and general accepted principles of accounting, to name a few - according to the College Board, a nonprofit organization that promotes higher education.

Potential Careers**:

Major #2: Elementary Education

Guess what? The years your kid spent in school could be a primer for pursuing a career as an elementary school teacher. Think about it - there will always be impressionable young minds that need shaping. And if you look at the Georgetown report's figures, this statement seems to be accurate: the unemployment rate for recent elementary education grads is only 4.8 percent.

"There's a huge need in education," says Reynaldo. "Schools need bodies to fill in spaces," whether it's teachers retiring or new teachers needed to accommodate growing school systems.

Click to Find the Right Elementary Education Program.

And if your son or daughter decided to major in elementary education, you can expect they will learn practical things they could later apply to the classroom - like instructional technology, or the basics of designing inspiring lessons, according to the College Board.

Potential Careers**:

Major #3: Finance

"Show me the money!" That could be your kid's work battle cry - and his or her reality - if finance is the chosen major. And, at only 6.6 percent unemployment for recent graduates of this field, according to the Georgetown Report, that's something to shout about.

Moreover, says Reynaldo, the knowledge your student will likely gain about budgeting, investing in stocks and bonds, and mastering interest rates are tangible concepts immediately applicable in the business workplace. With business or finance, students learn processes like analyzing and interpreting financial statements, Reynaldo says. "It's obvious to employers what skills you bring to the table," he says.

Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Just what skills might your child be able to bring to the table with a major in finance? Well, according to the College Board, finance majors often learn how to create and manage a budget, make sound investments, and to plan for the future of an organization's financial health. Sound like pretty important skills, right?

Potential Career**:

Major #4: Business Administration and Management

For a business to be successful, it needs a real mastermind at its helm controlling and directing its activities. Well, if little Johnny or Mary majors in business administration and management, then that job could be a possibility on the horizon - since the Georgetown report says that recent undergraduates in this field experience an 8.1 percent unemployment rate.

In many ways, the success of an organization depends on the savvy of the people in these kinds of roles, and it's really an indispensable role.

"The number one thing most people don't realize is that we're all in business in some way, shape or form for ourselves," says Reynaldo. "That makes business administration and management a really smart subject to study."

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

So what might someone studying this "smart subject" actually learn in school? Majors of business administration and management learn how to solve a business' problems and organize an organization's activities, says the College Board. Those definitely sound like skills any business would need.

Potential Careers**:

Major #5: Health Care Administration

Health care is definitely on the hot list of in-demand fields. And if you think the blood and guts of medicine aren't for your kid's weak stomach, then health care administration may be a match made in heaven. Although the Georgetown report doesn't provide figures for recent graduates, an unemployment rate of only 2.9 percent for experienced graduates suggests this field has staying power.

So why is health care administration a good major to choose? It's all about the demand. Reynaldo attributes the boom in health care jobs and low unemployment to the constant demand baby boomers have begun to put on our health care system as they get older. "With the aging population, we're going to need health specialists and health care workers in increasing numbers," says Reynaldo.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

And according to the College Board, because your kid could pick up the skills they would need to manage a health care facility - including financial management, human resources, and policy making.

Potential Career**:

* The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report titled "Hard Times: Not all College Degrees Are Created Equal" defines a recent college graduate as a bachelor's degree holder aged 22 to 26 years old. All unemployment figures refer to recent college graduates unless otherwise noted.

** All potential careers listed from the 2012-2013 U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Department of Labor cites the associated degrees as common, required, preferred, or one of a number of degrees acceptable as preparation for the potential career. In some instances, candidates might require further schooling, professional certifications, or experience, before being qualified to pursue the career.

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