11 Most Useless Degrees With Highest Unemployment Rates

A degree is not a guarantee of a good job. According to a 2022 survey, only 46% of graduates work in their field of study, and 16% are unemployed.

Is It Even Worth Studying?

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It poses the question of whether some degrees are simply less useful than others. And if a degree was less likely to result in employment, would it even be worth studying?

The 11 Most Useless Degrees

attending college

In new research released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, we’re given the college majors with the highest unemployment rate:

1. Fine Arts

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With an unemployment rate of 12.1 percent, a degree majoring in Fine Arts is unlikely to provide employment for every single graduate.

Though the degree itself can lend to creative careers such as art curators, graphic designers, or even animators, the statistics say one thing: it’s a risk that may not be worth taking.

2. Philosophy

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Aristotle would be horrified, but the numbers don’t lie.

Unemployment for those with philosophy majors is at 9.1 percent, and though the subject is broad, leading to many various career types, it seems to evoke uncertainty among the masses.

Dr. Grant Ian Thrall, a former university professor, wrote on a question-answer message board, “It is good to study philosophy, but not good to study only philosophy.”

3. Sociology

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If you’re interested in studying how human society functions, you may want to rethink, as Sociology majors end up with a 9 percent unemployment rate, placing them third on the list.

In November 2022, ZipRecruiter conducted a survey of 1,500 job seekers, questioning if they had regretted their college major.

Out of those who studied sociology, an enormous 72 percent expressed regret. 

4. Family and Consumer Sciences

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While it might seem shocking that a science major reflects low employment, the study of Family and Consumer Sciences has an 8.9 percent unemployment rate.

This hesitation may not translate to the students, however. In independent research conducted by College Factual, this particular major was the 22nd most popular in the 2021-2022 academic year!

5. Mass Media

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A broad major encompassing traditional and more modern forms of mass communication, this is one area of study that students flock to.

In 2022, over 65 thousand degrees were awarded, placing Media Studies in the top ten most popular majors.

And while it may be a desirable focus at college, the unemployment rate, sadly, is a significant 8.4 percent.

6. Commercial Art and Graphic Design

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For those creatively inclined, a major in Commercial Art and Graphic Design may show some appeal, and while the median pay for a professional graphic designer is a healthy $57,990 per year, the unemployment rate sits firmly at 7.9 percent.

So, if you’re heading for this career choice, tread carefully.

7. Foreign Language

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It might seem strategic to major in a language degree, but unemployment has reached 7.8 percent.

Graduates like Hannah Muniz, who studied a foreign language, are still forced to admit that the result can be unpleasant. In Hannah’s words, “majoring in a foreign language is a somewhat risky business.”

8. Performing Arts

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Research from YouGov reveals that not only are those who major in the arts are poorer, but they also are more likely to regret their major.

With a 7.6 percent unemployment rate and an early-career median annual salary of just $39,000, it’s easy for enthusiasm to wane.

9. Public Policy and Law

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Often referenced as a political science major, Public Policy and Law graduates may go to a career in law enforcement, public affairs, market research, and even analyst positions.

It has an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent, and if this Reddit user’s experience is true, the post-graduate job hunt can be painful.

They go on to say, “I often wonder how much better off I would be than I am now if I picked econ (sic) or even math back in my freshman year. But there’s no way of going back.”

10.  Engineering Technologies

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Ironically, an engineering major is considered one of the most hopeless degrees when it has an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent and a median early-career salary of $62,000.

The irony comes from the Federal Reserve study, which showed that engineering was the least regretted among 11 fields of study, with only 24 percent of students feeling negatively toward their choice.

Despite the positives, Career Explorer found that engineers are below average when it comes to happiness as they struggle to find their jobs meaningful.

11.  International Affairs

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Similar to a foreign language major, a college education in international affairs circulates around the idea of political and economic resources.

While the starting median salary is decent and career prospects steady, it’s still a 7.1 percent unemployment rate.

According to Payscale, a staggering 73 percent of international relations majors regretted their choice of major, as Insider reports that many find working within a bureaucratic system frustrating. 

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Ultimately, when choosing a degree, do your research on what life will look like post-graduation.

Do others enjoy working in the industry? Are there potential working positions available to you in your location?

By eliminating the unknown factors, it is more likely that your degree – useless or not – will set you on a steady path to employment. 

This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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