17 College Majors That Might Not Get You a Great Career

Watch out for these majors! Forbes recently published a list of 17 college degrees that carry high underemployment rates. According to a new survey, many people who hold these degrees are underemployed. This means they are working beneath their potential. Their job (either inside or outside their field of study) doesn’t require their level of education. In other words, they aren’t really using their degree.

This doesn’t mean you should drop your dreams of becoming a paralegal or historian or fitness trainer; this is just to help you spot degrees with mediocre returns in the job market. Studying them might not be the ticket to a successful career.

17 Degrees That Tend to Lead to Underemployment

  1. Physical Education Teaching: 57% grads are underemployed
  2. Human Services: 56% grads are underemployed
  3. Illustration: 55% grads are underemployed
  4. Criminal Justice: 53% grads are underemployed
  5. Project Management: 53% grads are underemployed
  6. Radio/Television & Film Production: 53% grads are underemployed
  7. Studio Art: 52% grads are underemployed
  8. Healthcare Administration: 52% grads are underemployed
  9. Education: 52% grads are underemployed
  10. Human Development & Family Studies: 52% grads are underemployed
  11. Creative Writing: 51% grads are underemployed
  12. Animal Science: 51% grads are underemployed
  13. Exercise Science: 51% grads are underemployed
  14. Heath Sciences: 51% grads are underemployed
  15. Paralegal Studies: 51% grads are underemployed
  16. Theater: 51% grads are underemployed
  17. Art History: 51% grads are underemployed


Why are so many graduates with these degrees underemployed? A few options.

One: The job market for a particular degree might not be growing, like theater or art history, which means you’ll have a tough time securing any kind of job within your field, much less one that demands your level of expertise.

Two: The field might be growing, but there might be too many qualified people competing for the same jobs; new college grads are over-flooding the market. This could be the case with paralegals. While jobs for paralegals are definitely growing, perhaps the new jobs just can’t keep up with the number of graduates.

And three: Graduates in any of these fields might struggle knowing how or where to find good careers that require their particular education. An interesting degree like criminal justice connects to so many careers (lawyers, cops, detectives, judges, homeland security agents) that grads could be overwhelmed. The options are so numerous, they become unhelpfully vague.

What to Do

What should you do if you have or want one of these degrees? First, Find Your Calling can help you discover the job opportunities in each field. Study the supply and demand; know the competition. Are there few jobs but many graduates? Are jobs growing nationally, but not in your area? Try to figure out why you’re having (or why you might have in the future) a tough time finding good employment with that degree.

Second, ask yourself whether you really need two or four years of full study in something like studio art or creative writing. Is that something you could do with a few classes plus practice on your own time? If you love it so much, you’ll be motivated to hone your skills even if you don’t get a degree!

Third, consider minoring in your favorite field but adding a smarter major. For example, you could minor in creative writing but major in marketing or web design. Alternatively, major in your favorite field but add a few technical classes to up your value in the job market. You could major in studio art but add some coding classes that would help prepare you for a career in UI/UX.

The rule of thumb: Don’t give up on your dreams, just be smart about pursuing them. And smart people know the odds.


Take Find Your Calling’s free Discovery Questionnaire to see how your strengths and interests line up with great careers. Already have an account? Log in to your recently updated profile to see the skills you’ll need for your future career, plus the companies that are hiring. Follow FYC on Twitter, Instagram, and FacebookSign up for the monthly newsletter. Contact me at gwen@findyourcalling.com

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