Five College Majors To Avoid

Degrees to avoid
Five college majors to avoid

Get a leg up on the job hunt by majoring in a field that employers are looking to hire from - and steering clear of majors that are falling in popularity.

By Danielle Blundell

When it comes to picking a college major, not all disciplines are equal in the eyes of hiring managers. And according to Kimberly Patterson, career consultant at New Jersey-based UnConventional HR, there's no time like the present to be practical about what you study.

"There's a saying that you'll hear at some point in your life, 'do what you love and the money will follow," says Patterson. "There really should be a footnote that says, 'except in cases of job slumps, recessions, and extreme technology growth.'"

And while there's no magic answer for getting a job post-graduation, there are some majors that have higher unemployment rates for recent graduates than other majors. We looked to a report from the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, titled "Hard Times," to see what some of the majors with the highest - and lowest - unemployment rates for recent grads are.

Read on for the inside scoop on degrees employers love, and others that just might not be as practical.

Hated Degree #1: Architecture

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads*: 12.8%**

All things considered, architecture isn't that bad of a major. We'll always need buildings and structures. But the real estate market isn't exactly booming like it was back in the early 2000s, and as a result, job opportunities aren't booming either.  So, you might want to reconsider this field.

Why the Hate: Patterson thinks architecture jobs do exist - but that they may require more research to locate as they're more specialized and fewer now that the building boom has burst. They oftentimes require more schooling and experience to pursue as well.

Loved Degree #1: Health Care Administration

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Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 4.6%

Interested in health care, but know you don't have the stomach for med school? You could still pursue an in-demand career if you were to major in the behind-the-scenes field of health care administration, where organization and knowledge of the health care system are the keys to success.

Why the Love: Patterson sees both the recent changes to the health care system, as well as the aging baby boomer population's need for care, as two big pros of majoring in this field.

"Health care administration will continue to grow - specifically as the provisions of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) continue to roll out over the next several years," says Patterson. "There will be more professionals who will need to have a specialized skill set of health care as well as be informed and knowledgeable of ongoing legislation."

Essentially, she believes that health services managers and the like become invaluable to insurance carriers, hospitals and health care facilities, and pharmaceutical companies.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

Common Courses: You could find yourself taking courses in anatomy and physiology, accounting, and health care policy, according to the College Board, a non-profit organization committed to excellence and equity in education.

Potential Careers***:

  • Medical and health services manager

Hated Degree #2: Anthropology

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 12.6%

Ancient civilizations, cultural differences, human interaction. Sure, you might be curious about all of the above, but can you make a living analyzing what people have done and said throughout the years? Nothing is for certain in the field of anthropology, given its high unemployment rate for recent grads.

Why the Hate: For Patterson, the problem with majoring in anthropology - like other liberal arts disciplines - is that most opportunities in this field exist in teaching, which often requires an advanced degree and a lot of schooling. This begs an even bigger question, she says, about whether or not you even want to teach. If you're not interested in teaching, she says anthropology is probably not practical for you.

Loved Degree #2: Education

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Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 5%

Think you'd like to relive your glory days - that is, the ones you spent in elementary, middle, and high school? You might consider majoring in education as a first step towards someday having your own classroom full of eager students to teach.

Why the Love: For Elliot Lasson, the executive director of Joblink of Maryland, Inc., there will always be a need for teachers. "Given the fact that 'learning' is now a lifelong enterprise (people constantly need to keep up and retool - in every profession), those who are proficient in knowledge management technologies will be at an advantage," says Lasson.

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

Common Courses: According to the College Board, education coursework could include classes on educational psychology, instructional technology, and teaching methods.

Potential Careers:

  • Elementary school teacher
  • Middle school teacher

Hated Degree #3: Arts (Film, Video, and Photography Arts, and Fine Arts)

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 11.4%

Thinking of earning a degree in the fine arts? Sure, painting pictures and snapping photos might sound awesome now, but if you decide to switch career fields, it could be a challenge to market your very niche and technical skills to employers outside of the arts industry.

Why the Hate: According to Lasson, one problem with majoring in the fine arts, studio art, photography, or otherwise, is that, "There are very few jobs which would be a direct fit for those majors," he says. "And if there are, they'd be less than full-time."

Loved Degree #3: Business

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Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 7.6%

Always been told you have a way with money and a nose for business? Why deny that natural aptitude and instead, embrace it and actually major in business?

Why the Love: "Business will always be a solid major attractive to employers because - well, it's business," says Patterson. "The biggest complaint that I hear from managers about their employees is that they want them to understand how their business works. It's the foundation of every organization, and it's important."

Lasson agrees, saying that business is perceived as a practical major with skills directly learned in the classroom and applied on the job.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.

Common Courses: Getting your bachelor's in business could include completing courses like accounting, economics, and management, says the College Board.

Potential Careers:

  • Personal financial advisor
  • Human resources specialist
  • Commercial loan officer

Hated Degree #4: Philosophy

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 9.5%

You're known in your group of friends as a thinker, and that's why you've gravitated towards philosophy, perhaps the headiest of all subjects. But when was the last time you met a modern-day philosopher? The only philosophers you ever hear about are Socrates and Plato, which could indicate that perhaps philosophy as a viable profession peaked, well, centuries and centuries ago.

Why the Hate: You may be one smart cookie to be capable of studying philosophy, but Lasson says philosophy is one major that suffers a disconnect between academic training and the skills employers need. "Companies are not hiring based on potential or general intelligence as an upside," he says. "They are hiring for the here and now."

Loved Degree #4: Communications

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Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 8.2%

If you're a people-person that can chat just about anyone up about anything, then majoring in communications might be right up your alley. Companies will always need to communicate with their employees, clients, and the public, making this major relevant now and in the future.

Why the Love: For Lasson, "Communications is changing because of the Internet," making the nature of the work that communications majors and professionals do both increasingly sought-after and in-demand. 

"The way that messages are sent out today is very different than in the past," says Lasson. "The world today is so 'open,' thus subjecting any corporate entity to immense scrutiny. So, branding the organization effectively and exhibiting damage control techniques becomes all the more important to maintain a positive corporate reputation."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Communications Program.

Common Courses: According to the College Board, you could be taking courses such as the dynamics of group communication, persuasion, and research methods.

Potential Careers:

  • Public relations specialist

Hated Degree #5: Religious Studies

Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 9.5%

Studying the different religions of the world could definitely help give students a different perspective on life. But again, as a degree program, the future of  religious studies student can be a bit dim upon graduation.

Why the hate: Similar to hated degrees listed, Lasson says the general negative stigma stems from the philosophical nature of degree, as well as the impression that it's not at all aligned with the needs of business today.

Loved Degree #5: Computer Science

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Unemployment Rate for Recent Grads: 8.7%

You're a tech junkie that's always plugged in, multitasking on your smart phone, tablet and laptop, sometimes all at once. Well, you'd be doing yourself a favor if you thought about making computer science your major.

Why the love: According to Patterson, computer science is a smart choice that hiring managers are actively seeking. "Computer science will always be a desirable degree," she elaborates. "These folks hold the key to the secret door to any computer system you've ever used."

Common Courses: The College Board says you could spend part of your time in courses such as introduction to program design, mathematics for computer science, and software engineering.

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

Potential Careers:

  • Software developer
  • Computer programmer

* 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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