Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

College majors with the highest and lowest unemployment rates

  • College majors with the highest and lowest unemployment rates

    For people who choose to attend college, deciding what to study is one of the most important decisions they will make. But with more and more class options appearing in the course catalog each year, choosing a field of study can be an overwhelming task to undertake. Even after identifying your main interests, there’s also the question of what you can do with a certain major. You may be passionate about a certain field, but what are the chances that it will lead to a prosperous, long-term career?

    One thing is for sure — on average, people with bachelor’s degrees earn a salary of $59,124 per year.

    Stacker compiled a list of the majors with the highest and lowest unemployment rates using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Majors listed are ranked from highest to lowest unemployment rate, with ties broken by underemployment rate.

    It’s important to note that this data represents a 2017-2018 average and was released on July 17, 2020. Median wages are for full-time workers with bachelor’s degrees. Unemployment and underemployment rates listed here are for recent college graduates—that is, people aged 22 to 27, who have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

    Early career graduates are composed of people aged 22 to 27, while mid-career graduates are people aged 35 to 45. Meanwhile, the share with a graduate degree is based on the working-age, adult population—people aged 25 to 65, with at least a bachelor’s degree. Those who are currently in school were excluded, and this data is updated at the beginning of each calendar year.

    So grab a seat and see if the major you studied or are interested in made the list. Beginning at #74 and counting down to #1, here are the college majors with the highest and lowest unemployment rates.

    You may also like: Best value colleges in America

  • #74. Physics

    - Unemployment rate: 7.7%
    - Underemployment rate: 34.3%
    - Median wage early career: $49,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $95,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 69.1%

    Because there is a gap in the job market for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, physics offers strong job security. Students in this major tend to find work at independent research labs and at universities.

  • #73. Mass media

    - Unemployment rate: 7.3%
    - Underemployment rate: 56.2%
    - Median wage early career: $35,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $62,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 18.2%

    Employment in mass media fields is projected to grow by four percent from 2019 to 2029. Common jobs related to this path of study take place in various media environments, such as writing, editing, acting, and camera operation.

  • #72. Miscellaneous technologies

    - Unemployment rate: 6.4%
    - Underemployment rate: 55.3%
    - Median wage early career: $44,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $75,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 18.0%

    There has been a considerable shortage of STEM workers to fill available jobs within the past decade, giving miscellaneous technologies majors an advantage. The top occupations among miscellaneous technologies degree holders are software developers, sales managers, and civil engineers.

  • #71. Anthropology

    - Unemployment rate: 6.0%
    - Underemployment rate: 54.2%
    - Median wage early career: $33,600
    - Median wage mid-career: $59,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 48.0%

    Anthropology majors study the human experience from the past to the present, learning about human diversity and how human behavior and ideas are shaped by linguistics, biology, and more. Because of the broad nature of their studies, anthropology students are suited for careers in a variety of fields, from government positions (like forensic anthropology and cultural resource management) to public service (like historic preservation and museum curation).

  • #70. Ethnic studies

    - Unemployment rate: 5.9%
    - Underemployment rate: 52.5%
    - Median wage early career: $40,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $65,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 48.8%

    Ethnic studies majors develop an interdisciplinary approach to studying ethnic groups in society, allowing them to develop skills in writing, critical thinking, research, and cultural awareness. This gives them ample career opportunities within nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Common examples include social work, public relations, human service work, and probation officer work.

    You may also like: 50 ways the housing market has changed in the past 50 years

  • #69. Political science

    - Unemployment rate: 5.2%
    - Underemployment rate: 49.7%
    - Median wage early career: $42,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $78,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 52.6%

    In a 2019 interview with U.S. News and World Report, Pierre Huguet, CEO of admissions consulting firm H&C Education, described political science as “one of the most versatile degrees in terms of job opportunities.” This is because political science majors cultivate analytical and rhetorical skills that can translate to essentially any industry. However, students of this discipline tend to work in political and legal environments, and often find jobs as diplomats, lobbyists, political consultants, and lawyers.

  • #68. Computer science

    - Unemployment rate: 5.2%
    - Underemployment rate: 22.0%
    - Median wage early career: $65,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $96,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 32.8%

    Computer science involves the study of software systems, and because technology plays an ever-increasing role in business, computer science grads are sought after in many industries (not just technology companies). Common jobs for these majors include data scientist, web developer, software engineer, and business analyst.

  • #67. Fine arts

    - Unemployment rate: 5.1%
    - Underemployment rate: 56.5%
    - Median wage early career: $35,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $56,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 23.2%

    Fine arts majors leave school with the ability to take on a host of careers within the art world. Those who focus on illustration techniques can become illustrators (whether for fashion, books, or films), while those who focus on design can become graphic designers or web designers. Other options include fashion design, painting, interior design, and more.

  • #66. Sociology

    - Unemployment rate: 5.1%
    - Underemployment rate: 53.5%
    - Median wage early career: $36,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $60,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 36.8%

    Because sociologists study social life and change, community interactions, and the scientific method, they head out into the job market equipped with crucial analytical problem solving and communication skills. It all depends on what field they’d like to specialize in—work as a human resources manager, urban planner, paralegal, teacher, or family planner are all par for the course.

  • #65. Interdisciplinary studies

    - Unemployment rate: 5.0%
    - Underemployment rate: 49.3%
    - Median wage early career: $38,000
    - Median wage mid-career: $62,000
    - Share with graduate degrees: 36.8%

    The liberal arts curriculum of interdisciplinary studies incorporates various academic fields into a flexible degree that students are able to tailor to their interests. A more liberal arts-based curriculum may focus on humanities and social science classes, while a science-based program can emphasize STEM courses like engineering, computer science, and biology. This allows students to directly plan their degree out to set them up for multiple professional fields of their choice, whether it be media, science, or education.

    You may also like: Global trade by the numbers