College Majors With The Worst Employment Outlook
These degree programs might not be worth the time and effort.
If you've got college on the brain, chances are you've thought for a moment or two about what you're going to major in. And that's a good thing, because earning a degree takes time, energy, and money. You'll want to choose what you're going to study wisely so you get your career off to a good start. Only problem is this: Do you know if the career world finds your major hot or not?
For Eric Stoller, an education expert and writer for InsideHigherEd.com, choosing a major is really a search for something that can offer both immediate career opportunity and long-term career satisfaction. "Ideally, it's a combination of job prospects and the joy of learning," says Stoller. But "realistically, students need to have a good understanding of the demand for certain majors and their connection to future careers."
To help you in your search, we've identified a few majors that might make finding a job tricky. These majors are associated with the highest unemployment rates among recent college graduates, according to a 2013 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce titled "Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings."* And instead of leaving you hanging, we identified some related alternative majors that might speak to your natural interests and offer better employment opportunities.
So keep reading to get schooled on majors, before you even set foot in the classroom.
High-Unemployment Degree #1: Information Systems
Unemployment Rate: 14.7 percent
What exactly does studying information systems entail? Yeah, we're not so sure either. But according to Pamela T. Rambo, owner of career and college advising firm Rambo Research and Consulting of Williamsburg, VA, information systems majors learn how to teach and train others to use technology in their jobs or at home, ranging from sending an email to using a server to store and share documents.
Problem is, according to Rambo, many companies only need one or a couple people on staff to do this job, which means there aren't a ton of openings available.
What to Study Instead: Computer Science
Unemployment Rate: 8.7 percent
If you're a tech junkie interested in studying something computer-related, best to stick to computer science, which has an unemployment rate that is much lower than information systems.
What skills do computer science majors acquire? According to the College Board, students may study programming, software design, and how to read and write computer languages. They might take classes like software engineering, mathematics for computer science, and artificial intelligence.
"There are many reasons why computer science is a good bet," says Rambo. "We're all really getting used to consumer-intuitive, smart products that anticipate our needs and keep us coming back for more. So we'll need computer science majors to be developing the software and programs that run these things."
She also thinks the popularity of cyber security and data storage and cloud computing will create jobs that computer science majors will be able to pursue with their skill set.
- Software developers
- Network and computer systems administrators
High-Unemployment Degree #2: Architecture
Unemployment Rate: 12.8 percent
Sprawling apartment complexes, cute bungalows, towering mansions - sure, it's fun looking at different buildings. But since the real estate bubble burst, we’ve been seeing far fewer new structures going up. That's why even if you love to build things, it may be better to hold off on this degree. It's actually the major with the second highest unemployment rate right out of school, according to the Georgetown report's findings.
"The housing market is what's killing architecture jobs right now," says Rambo. "For hiring to take place, we really need to catch up to where we were a few years ago in real estate."
What To Study Instead: Civil Engineering
Unemployment Rate: 7.6 percent
Instead of architecture, topping your list should be civil engineering. According to the College Board, this discipline approaches building from a problem-solving perspective, takes into account the natural environment, and covers projects as diverse as planning a clean water system to building a suspension bridge.
According to Rambo, civil engineering jobs are on the upswing. One potential reason may be the stress that our growing population is putting on structures like bridges and tunnels. "The number of bridges in this country that are structurally unsound is growing," says Rambo. "CE’s will be needed to fix or rebuild them."
- Civil engineer
High-Unemployment Degree #3: Anthropology
Unemployment Rate: 12.6 percent
When's the last time you met an anthropologist outside of the college classroom? Never? We thought so. That's because jobs in anthropology - or the study of humans and primates, as defined by the College Board - aren't exactly in demand or easy to come by. There are only so many archaeological digs and excavations that can be funded and fully staffed, which is why "anthropology always gets knocked around as one of the majors that isn’t always clearly linked to a future career," says Stoller.
For Rambo, anthropology grads also face an issue of strict competition for what few positions there are in the field and in academia, which is where she says many anthropology majors seek employment. "There aren't that many anthropology teachers because there aren't that many students that take anthropology classes." She also notes that these teaching jobs require advanced degrees, too, so your undergrad major won’t be enough to even pursue this stream of employment.
What To Study Instead: Nursing
Unemployment Rate: 4.8 percent
You obviously find people fascinating, so why not take your interests toward charitable practices by studying a degree in nursing?
What will you learn in a nursing program? According to the College Board, you'll train to examine and care for the sick and disabled as well as advocate for better health. You might also expect to take classes like anatomy and physiology, health assessment, and pharmacology.
The good news for graduates from this major is that nursing positions are plentiful and aren't always just available in hospitals. "Nursing is so versatile that graduates who are flexible can go to work for insurance companies and businesses in addition to hospitals and doctors’ offices," says Rambo. "Their options to be administrators and consultants are numerous."
Next step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.
- Registered nurse
High-Unemployment Degree #4: Film/Video/Photographic Arts
Unemployment Rate: 11.4 percent
You love television and movies and think it'd be great to study these media forms full-time and go all Hollywood post-grad. Might want to reconsider going down this path, because breaking into the entertainment industry and becoming the next Steven Spielberg is definitely easier said than done.
"When you're talking about film, video, and photography, it's a slow growth area with stiff competition and fewer salaried jobs than you'd imagine," says Rambo. "To stand any chance here you'd need experience and really have to be the best of the best."
What To Study Instead: Marketing and Marketing Research
Unemployment Rate: 6.6 percent
If you love different forms of media and communicating through art, consider pursuing a marketing degree. According to the College Board, you could learn about customers’ shopping habits, study advertising campaigns, and understand product pricing.
For Rambo, marketing is a really practical and versatile degree to earn because at its heart, you’re learning about people’s behavior and buying habits, which makes the world go round and touches so many different industries - from consumer products to services and even the drug industry. "Marketing can really be applied to any field," says Rambo. "The demand for marketing goods and services only gets bigger with globalization, which means more jobs across the globe."
Next step: Click to Find the Right Marketing Program.
- Market research analyst
- Event planner
High-Unemployment Degree #5: Political Science
Unemployment Rate: 11.1 percent
Working for the government in some capacity seems like an exciting prospect and perfect fit for a political science major. Well, better get a spot in line. Because the truth is, says Rambo, you won't be alone in pursuing a job as a civil servant or otherwise. That's because political science is a "low growth field with a high number of graduates," says Rambo.
"There's a very bad prognosis for political science graduates - you better be the best, or combine this major with another area that can make you more marketable for jobs," she says.
What to Study Instead: Business Management and Administration
Unemployment Rate: 7.8 percent
Business management and administration might seem like an unlikely substitute for political science, but consider the fact that both degrees prepare you for teamwork environments - though only one gives you more career options.
The College Board says business administration and management majors learn how to plan, organize, and direct an organization's activities. Students in the program may take classes like management information systems, economics, and business policy and strategy.
So instead of just being qualified to pursue government and think tank positions as with a political science degree, Rambo says business management offers flexibility for finding employment. Why? Virtually every company, big or small, needs someone to hold the reins and make important decisions about its operations on a daily basis.
- Financial analyst
- Human resources manager
* The Georgetown report defines recent college graduates as bachelor's degree holders ages 22-26.
** All potential careers listed are based on information from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook. The degrees are named by the Department of Labor as being either required or preferred by employers, or common as preparation for the associated career. In some instances, the degree may not be the only educational or professional requirement for a career.
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