Want A Job? Don't Bother With These Degrees


If you want your education to work for you, you may want to think twice before majoring in one of these fields…

By Jennifer Berry

It's been a rocky economic road lately - we know. And while furthering your education is a good way to make yourself more employable, you need to choose your major wisely.

Why? While college is certainly a way to gain knowledge and experience about topics that interest us, there's an ugly truth about what we leave with that is often overlooked. According to a 2012 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce called "Hard Times: Not All College Degrees are Created Equal," the risk of unemployment after college depends largely on your major.

"I can't emphasize to young people enough that picking the right degree that prepares them to do something is critical," says Susan Heathfield, management consultant and writer of the human resources site at About.com. "You don't have to leave what you love, you just have to think practically now - how can you work that degree into a job?"

And that might be a difficult question to answer if you're considering one of the following majors with high unemployment rates reported by recent college graduates in the Georgetown study.* Keep reading to learn which degrees to avoid as well as options you might want to consider.

Degrees With High Unemployment

Degree #1 - Fine Arts

Do you have a gift for artistic expression? By all means, follow your muse. Just seriously think about if you want to follow it into a fine arts degree program. According to the Georgetown study, employment rates for recent fine arts graduates are at a staggering 12.6 percent.

Part of the reason for this rate, Heathfield suggests, is cyclical: "When times are tough economically, people don't spend a lot of money or time on fine arts," she says. "Also, government funding has tanked in recent years, so fine arts are becoming more and more dependent on individual donations." And if donations to the arts are no longer tax deductible, she notes, it will be a huge blow to fine artists.

Degree #2 - Philosophy and Religious Studies

Do you find yourself drawn to life's big questions? Devoting your life to philosophy or religion is a noble aim - just make sure you go into it with realistic expectations, since it might be harder to find a job than you hope. According to the Georgetown report, 10.8 percent of recent philosophy and religious studies graduates are unemployed.

Heathfield attributes the high unemployment of religious studies graduates to recent statistics that suggest the practice of religion in the U.S. is going down. "Fewer and fewer churches need pastors," Heathfield notes. "And what do you do with a degree in philosophy if you don't teach in a college? They're very nice degrees, and people learn a lot in subjects they love - but they don't necessarily lead to jobs," she says.

Degree #3 - Film, Video, and Photographic Arts

Maybe you have an eye for capturing the beauty - or hard truth - of the world around us. But before you decide to embrace photography or film production as your life's work, you might want to consider some numbers. The Georgetown report notes that 12.9 percent of recent film, video, and photographic arts majors are unemployed. And the numbers are even worse for graduate degree holders - 13 percent face unemployment.

The changing role of print media could be partly to blame, according to Heathfield. "Traditionally, in the photographic arts, people made money in print publications," Heathfield says. But with the decline of print magazines, she says, the opportunities for photographers to make a living this way are declining. "But the online world is bringing new and different opportunities to people," she adds. "You have to have some talent, and you also have to be really up to speed on the technology, but there are some exciting new possibilities."

Degree #4 - Information Systems

You might be surprised to see this particular degree on our list of the most unemployable degrees. But according to the Georgetown study, 11.7 percent of information systems graduates are unemployed. But don't get discouraged yet - Heathfield has a slightly rosier outlook.

"I disagree with Georgetown on this one," Heathfield says. "Information systems people survey and purchase all computer equipment for a company. They also makes sure employees are up to speed, connected, and trained. I think they'll become more in demand as more employees start working from home."

Degrees With Low Unemployment:

Degree #1 - Nursing

We've told you about the degrees that have the highest rates of unemployment. But here's the bright side at the other end of the spectrum: degrees with the lowest rates of unemployment. And if your calling is to help people, you might want to consider earning your degree in nursing. According to the Georgetown report, the unemployment rate among recent nursing grads is only 4 percent.

As Heathfield notes, you can't outsource face-to-face health care. "It's very difficult to substitute a machine for bedside care," Heathfield says. "I really see hands-on jobs in health care booming - people who work with patients will be highly employable."

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Potential Career Path: Registered Nurse (RN)**
Median annual salary for RNs: $65,470
Projected job growth from 2010-2020: 26 percent, or 711,900 new jobs

Degree #2 - Elementary Education

Are you inspired to share your knowledge and help shape the next generation of citizens? Teaching is one field with a promising future, according to the Georgetown report, with an unemployment rate of only 4.8 percent for recent elementary education grads.

Heathfield acknowledges that this is a challenging field, especially for people living in larger cities. But, she says, "If you're willing to go where the jobs are - there are jobs."

Click to Find the Right Elementary Education Program.

Potential Career Path: Elementary School Teacher**
Median annual salary for elementary school teachers: $53,400
Projected job growth from 2010-2020: 17 percent, or 248,800 new jobs

Degree #3 - Finance

Do you have a natural talent for knowing what to do with money? Consider majoring in finance so you can help others who might need some good financial advice for the road ahead. And in the process, you might help secure your own future. According to the Georgetown report, only 6.6 percent of recent finance grads face unemployment.

Heathfield agrees. "I think finance is a good field," she says. "There are lots of entrepreneurial opportunities for personal financial consulting and planning. Now that the baby boomers are aging, many of them are seeking help with what to do with meager or major funds."

Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Potential Career Path: Personal Financial Advisor**
Median annual salary for personal financial advisors: $67,520
Projected job growth from 2010-2020: 32 percent, or 66,400 new jobs

Degree #4 - Communications

Can you explain complex ideas in simple, easy-to-understand language? Consider majoring in communications. According to the Georgetown report, the unemployment rate for recent communications grads is only 7.4 percent, lower than the average for all recent grads.

According to Heathfield, there are a variety of opportunities out there for these degree-holders. "There are certain branches of communications that are really positive right now," Heathfield says. "Like helping companies establish a social media presence. Also technical writing [and] technical communication will continue to be a good area, especially if you combine it with video skills."

Click to Find the Right Communications Program.

Potential Career Path: Technical Writer**
Median annual salary for technical writers: $65,500
Projected job growth from 2010-2020: 17 percent, or 8,500 new jobs

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

** 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. All salary information from the Department of Labor's Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012. Projected job growth rates from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 edition.

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