Popular College Majors With the Highest and Lowest Unemployment

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What college majors pay the most money?
What college majors are the ones most likely to lead to a job in this lousy economy?
Which college majors have the highest unemployment?
These are the kind of questions that parents and teenagers wonder about — a lot.
Someone visiting my Facebook page on Monday shared with me an interactive graphic on The Wall Street Journal’s website that can help you find great statistics about the marketability and paying power of college majors.
Using U.S. Census Bureau data that was compiled by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the newspaper created an interactive tool that you can manipulate to find the majors ranked by unemployment, as well as earnings. If you go to the newspaper’s site, you can click on the categories to rank majors by the lowest and highest unemployment, earnings and popularity.

Majors With the Highest Unemployment

Using the WSJ tool, I looked at the 100 most popular college majors and discovered which ones have the highest unemployment rates.  During the nation’s sustained housing meltdown, architecture beat out all other majors as the one with the worst job prospects:

  1. Architecture 10.6%
  2. Linguistics & comparative literature 10.2%
  3. International Business 8.5%
  4. General social sciences 8.2%
  5. Commercial art & graphic design 8.1%
  6. Studio art 8.0%
  7. Liberal arts 7.6%
  8. Fine arts 7.4%
  9. Film video & photography arts 7.3%
  10. Philosophy and religious studies 7.2%
  11. Drama & theater arts 7.1%
  12. Journalism 7.0%
  13. Journalism 7.0%
  14. Computer engineering 7.0%
  15. Mass media 6.9%

Majors With the Lowest Unemployment

  1. Medical technology technician 1.4%
  2. Nursing 2.2%
  3. Treatment therapy professions 2.6^
  4. Agriculture 3.0%
  5. Pharmacy 3.2%
  6. Elementary education 3.6%
  7. Special needs education 3.6%
  8. Misc. Education 3.7%
  9. Mechanical engineering3.8%
  10. High school teacher 3.8%
  11. General education 4.2%
  12. Health & medical admin. service 4.3%
  13. Transportation science & technologies 4.4%
  14. Finance 4.5%
  15. Physics 4.5%

Majors with the Poorest Median Salary

Many of the college majors with the lowest unemployment are not the ones that earn the most money. I’ve included a chart from the WSJ site below that shows the earnings of the nation’s 20 most popular majors in order and you can see for yourself.

Popular Majors With Poorest Salaries

The most popular majors with the lowest median salary are:

  • Elementary education
  • General education
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Popular Majors With the Highest Median Salary

No surprise, all the majors with the highest median earnings require math skills:

  • Electrical engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Finance

Employment Stats from the WSJ on  20 Most Popular Majors

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of Shrinking the Cost of College, a financial workbook that can help you make a college degree more affordable. 

 More on The College Solution:

 Playing Hide and Seek with Net Price Calculators
College Majors: What the Scottish Can Tell Us
8 Statistics You Didn’t Know About the SAT

5 Great Ways to Succeed in College

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