10 College Majors With the Worst Employment Rates — and 10 With the Best

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College can get expensive so choosing a major that can help you get a job — and potentially make money — is a big part of getting the most out of the experience.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently released a report on the labor market for recent college grads. Those were defined as people age 22-27 who have at least a bachelor’s degree. The report includes the unemployment rate for graduates with degrees in more than 70 majors as well as the typical early career and mid-career income for each.

We grabbed the majors with the worst and best employment rates from the report, leaving out vague “miscellaneous” majors such as “miscellaneous technologies.”

Following are the worst degrees for employment today, followed by the best.

1. Art history

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Unemployment rate: 8%

Early-career median wage: $41,000

Mid-career median wage: $72,000

Art history majors might end up in positions such as museum curators or archivists — but probably not with a bachelor’s degree alone. Curators and archivists typically need a master’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Museum technicians don’t need more than a bachelor’s, but they earn considerably less than curators and archivists.

2. Liberal arts

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Unemployment rate: 7.9%

Early-career median wage: $38,000

Mid-career median wage: $65,000

Graduates with liberal arts degrees might find themselves in a wide range of fields.

3. Fine arts

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Unemployment rate: 7.9%

Early-career median wage: $40,000

Mid-career median wage: $68,000

People with degrees in the fine arts might end up working as fine artists, of course, or craft artists. But other occupations include medical illustrator and art teacher at an elementary or secondary school. Granted, none of these professions are known to pay terribly well in most cases.

4. Aerospace engineering

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Unemployment rate: 7.8%

Early-career median wage: $74,000

Mid-career median wage: $120,000

Aerospace engineers have a better-than-average job outlook, with 6% growth expected from 2022 to 2032, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers in this field design, develop and test technologies like aircrafts, satellites, spacecrafts and missiles.

5. History

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Unemployment rate: 7.5%

Early-career median wage: $40,000

Mid-career median wage: $70,000

Graduates with history degrees might end up in creative or research-based fields.

6. English language

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Unemployment rate: 6.6%

Early-career median wage: $42,000

Mid-career median wage: $72,000

Writing careers aren’t atypical for these graduates. That could include copywriting, grant writing, technical writing and so on. Writers are often self-employed.

Technical writers specifically have a healthy job outlook, with employment predicted to rise 7% by 2032, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These writers’ focus is on creating instruction manuals and how-to guides.

7. Mass media

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Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Early-career median wage: $42,000

Mid-career median wage: $70,000

When you think of mass media, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about television and radio jobs. In addition to announcers and DJs, though, other mass media jobs include broadcast technicians, photographers and videographers, camera operators, writers and editors.

8. Physics

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Unemployment rate: 6.2%

Early-career median wage: $62,000

Mid-career median wage: $95,000

There are many subfields within physics, including astronomy and astrophysics, and biophysics and medical physics. Physicists and astronomers specifically study matter and energy. Many work in an office, research laboratory or observatory.

9. Commercial art and graphic design

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Unemployment rate: 6%

Early-career median wage: $45,000

Mid-career median wage: $75,000

Graphic designers work to create, either digitally or by hand, visuals meant to communicate specific ideas, or to inform or otherwise attract consumers. Many graduates with this degree work in advertising or publishing.

10. Sociology

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Unemployment rate: 5.5%

Early-career median wage: $48,000

Mid-career median wage: $67,000

To become a sociologist, you might need to continue your education and get a master’s degree or higher. However, with a bachelor’s degree, you might be able to find work in a related field. Some sociology majors might be able to find work in social services or public policy with a bachelor’s degree.

College majors with the best employment rates

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Up next, we count down the best college degrees for employment.

10. Secondary education

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Unemployment rate: 1.6%

Early-career median wage: $41,000

Mid-career median wage: $55,000

Graduates with this degree typically go on to teach high school or middle school. Sources with Forbes have discussed how difficult this career has gotten, leading to a teacher shortage. Graduates likely have good luck getting a position, with so many institutions struggling to find more educators.

9. Animal and plant sciences

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Unemployment rate: 1.6%

Early-career median wage: $41,000

Mid-career median wage: $70,000

Those specializing in animal sciences can — with additional schooling — become zookeepers or veterinarians, for example. Some who study plant sciences get into biotechnology, horticulture or work with universities. Both specialties also open the doors to research and lab work.

8. Mechanical engineering

Sustainability specialists
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Unemployment rate: 1.5%

Early-career median wage: $70,000

Mid-career median wage: $111,000

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices. While they typically work in offices, they’ll sometimes travel to worksites to help solve any equipment issues.

7. General education

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Unemployment rate: 1.5%

Early-career median wage: $41,000

Mid-career median wage: $52,000

If you get a general education degree, you might be able to work in areas like human resources, accounts payable or as an office assistant. This is a generalist degree that can provide you with skills that can be put to use in various jobs.

6. Elementary education

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Unemployment rate: 1.5%

Early-career median wage: $40,000

Mid-career median wage: $52,000

In general, this occupation has a low unemployment rate, which might be borne out by headlines in past years pointing to teacher shortages, as previously mentioned. Elementary school teachers can find jobs in private and charter schools as well as public schools. They might also be able to work as tutors.

5. Nursing

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Unemployment rate: 1.3%

Early-career median wage: $62,000

Mid-career median wage: $80,000

Nursing is another profession that’s experiencing shortages, and the low unemployment rate reflects this reality. You can become a registered nurse with a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, but you do need to also be licensed. Nurses might work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, care facilities and schools.

4. General social sciences

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Unemployment rate: 0.6%

Early-career median wage: $40,000

Mid-career median wage: $70,000

Social sciences graduates can go into human resources, social work, political consulting, marketing and so much more.

Taking a more narrow look at social work, graduates in this field work with others who may be struggling with everyday issues. They often work for schools, child welfare and human service agencies and healthcare providers.

3. Medical technician

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Unemployment rate: 0.4%

Early-career median wage: $55,000

Mid-career median wage: $70,000

There’s no shortage of possibilities with this degree. For graduates who want to continue their education and earn an advanced degree, one well-paid option is to work as a physician assistant. Under the supervision of a physician, they help examine, diagnose and treat patients. They also have an incredibly high job outlook, with 27% growth expected by 2032, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates.

2. Construction services

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Unemployment rate: 0.4%

Early-career median wage: $64,000

Mid-career median wage: $100,000

Construction services jobs include the actual physical work to build something but also administrative and project management duties.

1. Industrial engineering

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Unemployment rate: 0.2%

Early-career median wage: $71,000

Mid-career median wage: $100,000

Industrial engineers develop or improve systems that marry workers, machines and materials. They sometimes work in offices or directly in the spaces they’re improving. They might be on-site observing functions and systems, then working in an office devising ways to solve any problems.

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