College Majors With the Highest Unemployment Rate

Krystal DeVille

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College Majors With the Highest Unemployment Rate

Teens and their parents wonder whether a college education is worth the time, effort, and student loan debt.

Unemployment rates among college graduates are rising, while rates among workers with only a high school diploma are on the decline. However, employed college grads likely earn a better salary than their less educated peers.

So which option is better?

As you consider whether or not college is worth it, understanding how your desired major fares in the current job market can help you make the most informed choice for your future. 

College Majors With the Highest Unemployment

According to a February 2023 article about STEM Statistics, the “broke artist” cliché is real: fine arts majors are the most unemployed college-educated adults in the U.S. today. Similarly, underemployed groups include:

  • Sociology
  • Philosophy
  • Performing arts
  • Foreign language 

For artists looking to turn a profit and avoid financial struggle, you might expect digital art and visual marketing to provide more stable markets. However, 7.9% of post-grads who majored in commercial art and graphic design are now unemployed, the 6th highest rate in the U.S. 

If you’re determined to flourish in the art world, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics to learn more about creative jobs with the best outlook. 

While many students in artistic fields don’t expect to become rich, some other less-employable majors might surprise you. For example, engineering technology students boast the 10th highest unemployment rate in the nation.

Does this signal of increased robotics in manufacturing, a greater reliance on smart computers, or simply the outsourcing of engineering work overseas?

Majors With the Lowest Unemployment

If you plan to attend a college or university, a focus on education will help ensure that you land a job after graduation. A growing teacher shortage in the U.S. has created a massive demand for educators and education professionals. 

Careers in education are not limited to classroom teaching. They can include counseling, instructional support, curriculum development, or administrative roles. 

The National Conference of State Legislators has created a database tool to track teacher shortage areas by state. For example, Alabama has a particularly high need for Social Studies teachers, while elementary educators are in demand nationwide. 

In addition to teaching, earning a degree in any of these fields can help you find a job:

  • agriculture
  • nursing
  • nutrition sciences
  • construction
  • architecture

The list suggests a growing focus on personal and community wellness, as well as strengthening infrastructure — perhaps inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic.

What Degree is Most Employable?

Overall, nursing and education are the most reliable fields if your goal is to ensure gainful employment. There is plenty to consider when choosing between these two occupations. 

Teachers and nurses share a common goal of helping others, but most other aspects of these two jobs are very different. For example, teachers are more likely to work shorter, more consistent hours while nurses may work long shifts that vary each week. Consider how both schedules may or may not fit into your lifestyle.

One huge perk of nursing compared to teaching is the pay. On average, nurses can expect to make 3-4x what teachers make with the same level of education. As of February 2023, the average teacher in the U.S. earned $23,570 per year, while the average nurse earned $83,268.

As with any career decision, learn as much as you can about things like benefits, hours, pay rate, commute, and job satisfaction before you settle on your major. Interviewing a friend or family member who holds your desired profession can be a huge help. 

Learn more about Nursing as we answer the question, Is Nursing STEM?

Should I Avoid Majors With High Unemployment Rates if It’s What I Want To Do?

So what if you want to be an artist? It’s best to take into account the full context of your own unique situation, personal needs, and goals — and remember that statistics aren’t everything. 

Some factors that might impact your decision-making include age, professional and social connections, living situation, experience, and family support. 

For example, if you are able to locate and accept an internship in your chosen field, this will likely help you get a leg up over fellow majors with no experience. If you are changing careers later in life, whether this is for financial reasons or personal enjoyment may also influence your judgment. Having a partner or housemate who is employed can make a difference, too. 

For specific job-hunting tips in the art field, offers a practical list, which includes potential job titles for artists. Knowing exactly what you want to do and how best to get there will increase your chances of success. 

Ultimately, the decision is yours, but good research can help you choose wisely. Know your limits and your resources, keep an eye on the job market, and have a backup plan in mind. In the immortal words of Doc Brown, “Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.” 

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