College Degrees That Could Leave You Unemployed

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Degrees Not To Pursue

Want to give yourself the best shot at getting hired after graduation? Learn which majors to pursue this fall - and which ones to avoid.

By Anne Wynter

From folklore to discrete mathematics, it seems colleges today offer majors in almost everything. But unless you like the thought of perpetually crashing on friends' couches after earning your degree, you should consider whether your major would be a help or a hindrance to your post-graduation job search.

So to help you make a more informed decision, we compiled a list of majors that have yielded low and high unemployment rates for recent graduates*, according to the 2013 study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce titled "Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings."

While employment potential is important, a student should ultimately select a field of study that truly interests him or her, says Eddie LaMeire, a college admissions consultant and a former college admissions counselor. Of course, even if the student is dead-set on becoming a writer, for example, "maybe [they'll] pick up a minor in marketing after seeing the stats," he points out.

Want to know which fields could give you the best chance at gainful employment after graduating? Keep reading to learn more about some of the worst and some of the best.

Think Twice About These Majors:

Information Systems

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 14.7%**

Information systems may sound like an area of focus that would impress your friends and gain your parents' approval. But with the highest unemployment rate in the Georgetown study, these graduates may also have a difficult time finding employment.

Why You Should Think Twice: Unfortunately, this field of study has a somewhat ambiguous focus, notes LaMeire. He points out that companies who want an IT person can seek out a graduate with a degree in computer science. And if companies are looking for a candidate with business knowledge, they can choose someone who majored in business or management science, he adds.

Because an information systems degree doesn't quite fall into either category, LaMeire explains that it's difficult to find a good professional fit for this area of expertise.

Pursue These Majors with Confidence:

Computer Science

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 8.7%

If you spend more time thinking about the inner workings of your laptop than about what's actually on your screen, computer science could be a great area of focus for you. And according to the Georgetown study, this field has a relatively low unemployment rate, making it a strong choice for future job opportunities.

Why Pursue It: "Hardware and software companies occupy a pretty healthy share of the Fortune 500 [list]," says LaMeire. If that weren't enough, he also points out that nearly every industry depends upon computer scientists in order to function, resulting in a good number of job prospects.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Potential Careers***:

Political Science and Government

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 11.1%

You might be able to call out the differences between an oligarchy, a plutocracy, and an ergatocracy. But while majoring in political science and government could leave you intellectually stimulated, it could also leave you jobless.

Why You Should Think Twice: "The lion's share of the degree will focus on theory rather than practice," says LaMeire. To clarify, he points to the differences between this field of study and a degree in public administration, for example.

"While public administration degrees would [teach students] how to create a public budget, [political science] programs would analyze the rationale behind the budget," he says. And unfortunately, this ability to analyze isn't nearly as marketable as a professional skill.

Business and Management Administration

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 7.8%

Think you're a natural-born leader who has what it takes to guide a department - or a whole company - to success? Well, if you earn a degree in business administration or business management, the odds could be in your favor of landing a job upon graduation.

Why Pursue It: LaMeire chalks up the low figure to the extremely practical nature of this area of study. He notes that many programs require students to attain real world experience in order to earn the degree.

He also says that these programs typically teach quantitative skills, which are highly practical and produce graduates that are better candidates for employment.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Potential Careers:

Economics

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 10.4%

Are you curious about what caused the recession and which strategies could prevent another one? Before you jump into this major, consider that you may end up analyzing your own personal financial crisis, as it could be challenging to find a job.

Why You Should Think Twice: Economics is yet another field that falls victim to the theoretical versus practical application, says LaMeire.

"If you have an interest in the movement of money and want a job, [it's] better to pursue the mathematics- and practice-heavy business degree."

Finance

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 5.9%

Do you find yourself scrutinizing other people's financial decisions and giving unsolicited advice? For the sake of your friendships, you may want to keep your suggestions to yourself and instead turn your focus toward a finance degree. And with a low unemployment rate for recent grads, studying finance could really pay off.

Why Pursue It: "Financial markets are complicated, and investment banking specifically is quite a specialized field," says LaMeire. Many companies need graduates who have that specialized knowledge and can understand those concepts.

He adds that most finance majors will be required to gain practical experience over the course of their degree program, making them even more attractive candidates to prospective employers.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Potential Careers:

Sociology

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 9.9%

Sure, it's fascinating to investigate the dynamics of human interactions and the nuances of social structures. At the same time though, it can be hard to find a direct link between this major and today's jobs.

Why You Should Think Twice: LaMeire admits that sociology is an interesting field of study. But he points out that it's largely driven by theory, rather than practical applications that are more attractive and useful for employers.

Elementary Education

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 5%

Do you get all warm and fuzzy at the thought of shaping young minds? Have you always been good at explaining basic concepts? An elementary education major may be a great fit that also earns a solid A+ in employment outlook.

Why Pursue It: While LaMeire points out that this employment rate may vary greatly from region to region, he notes that the overall promising rates are due to increasing enrollment figures in elementary schools.

Next step: Click to Find the Right K-12 Program.

Potential Careers:

* The Georgetown study defines "recent college graduates" as bachelor's degree holders between the ages of 22 and 26.

** Unemployment rates listed for recent college graduates are according to the 2013 Georgetown University study "Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings."

*** 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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