If you want to earn a college degree that will impress employers, you might want to avoid these five majors…
By Terence Loose
Do you want to go back to school to earn a degree that could help you impress employers?
If your goals include job offers upon graduation, you’ll want to choose your major carefully, says Vicki Lynn, senior vice president of Universum, a global talent recruiting company that works with many Fortune 500 companies.
To help navigate the numerous options available today, we took a closer look at five degrees you may want to avoid, and five more employer-friendly options to consider instead.
Unwanted Degree #1 – Architecture
Earning a bachelor’s in architecture might impress a lot of people, but according to a 2012 study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, “Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal,” it might not impress a lot of employers.
And that can be tough to take, says Lynn, since architecture is such an industry-specific major. “If there’s not a job offer waiting when you graduate, then it can be very frustrating because it can be very hard to maneuver into another career path with this degree due to its narrow focus,” says Lynn.
Perhaps that’s the reason the “Hard Times” study found a 13.9 percent unemployment rate among recent architecture grads. The study’s co-author, Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale, says this is due to the national collapse in the housing industry.
If you like the idea of pursuing the building industry, but want to keep your career options at a maximum, then a bachelor’s degree in business administration could be a more employer-friendly choice. Recent general business grads had a respectable 7 percent unemployment rate, according to the “Hard Times” report.
So, why are employers after this degree? Because of its versatility. “Just about every client I talk to hires business majors,” says Lynn. “They have so many opportunities. Pick an industry, any industry – pharmaceutical industry, banking, technology, energy industry, health care industry – they all hire business majors.”
If you were to choose business administration and management as a major, you’d likely get a solid foundation for directing and controlling an organization’s activities, says the College Board, a nonprofit research organization that promotes higher education.
Unwanted Degree #2 – Philosophy or Religious Studies
Searching for the meaning of life as a philosophy or religious studies major is a noble endeavor, but unfortunately, it’s not super exciting to employers.
“In my opinion, these degrees are not at all marketable,” says Lynn. “I don’t even know what people do with these degrees to be honest. Unless they’re willing to go all the way to a PhD in philosophy, for instance, their career paths are zero.”
And while she does respect these studies, she advises students to at least minor in something such as business or economics.
As for the verdict from the “Hard Times” report? Not too inspiring. Philosophy and religious studies recent grads had a 10.8 percent unemployment rate.
Nothing says “the meaning of life” like the next generation. Yes, kids. So a bachelor’s degree in elementary education could satisfy that hunger to find a deeper meaning in your studies. Recent grads in this field also had an impressively low 4.8 percent unemployment rate, according to the “Hard Times” study.
“We’ll always need good teachers,” says Lynn. “With the aging population, teachers are going to retire and we’ll have to build the pipeline of new teachers.” And who better than education grads to help fill in the need?
As an education major, the College Board says you’ll learn how people learn and how to teach them. They say you’re likely to take courses such as education in a multicultural society, education of the exceptional child, philosophy of education, and teaching methods.
Unwanted Degree #3 – Anthropology or Archeology
Interesting? Yes. Important? Definitely. Marketable? Not so much…
Lynn says a bachelor’s degree in either anthropology or archeology is “totally limiting. Except for on a faculty or doing tours to the Parthenon, I don’t know what you would actually do with this [degree]. Maybe there’s some career in excavating or some other specialty, but I would assume the demand for these degrees is really small and shrinking.”
Again, numbers from the “Hard Times” report seem to back that, with recent grads in these areas logging a 10.5 percent unemployment rate.
If you still have that yearning to “dig” for the truth and like the idea investigating facts, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a more employer-friendly way to satisfy your curiosity.
It might satisfy employers a little more, too, at least according to the “Hard Times” study. It found that recent criminal justice grads had a 7.6 percent unemployment rate.
As a criminal justice major, the College Board says you’ll study everything from how terrorism affects society to the role of drug rehabilitation to every aspect of the law.
Unwanted Degree #4 – Area Ethnic or Civilization Studies
Quick, what exactly does a bachelor’s degree in area ethnic or civilization studies help you pursue? Not sure? Chances are neither are most employers, says Lynn, and that could be a problem for landing a job.
“Some degrees have really bizarre names, and if you have one of those and you have to try to explain it to the recruiter or an employer, it’s not helping you, so I would avoid them. These two fall into that category,” she says.
Unfortunately, the data from the “Hard Times” report backed Lynn up, noting that recent grads in this field yielded a 10.1 percent unemployment rate.
If you’re interested in studying people and the way they think, a good fit might be a bachelor’s degree in psychology – a field in which recent grads had just a 7.6 percent unemployment rate, according to the “Hard Times” study.
“A lot of these graduates find jobs in health care institutions, senior citizen centers, or nursing homes,” says Carnevale. He says that the aging baby boomer generation is driving growth in the health care industry, which is opening up opportunities for majors not usually associated with the industry, like psychology.
As a psychology major, the College Board says you might study such topics as the relationship between the body and mind, the roots of violence, and the way humans act and think.
Unwanted Degrees #5 – Information Systems
At first glance, a bachelor’s degree in information systems might seem like a great fit for the “Information Age.” And in truth, it might be. But it’s also true, says Lynn, that this degree suffers from being related to – but not the same as – more sought-after degrees such as computer science.
“It’s sort of the step child of technology degrees,” says Lynn. “At least from my experience, it’s kind of a mixture of the sciences, business, and maybe some humanities pulling together. So it suffers from ‘What is it and what does it train you to do?'”
And looking at numbers from the “Hard Times” report, she may be onto something. This degree scored an 11.7 percent unemployment rate among recent grads.
If you’re into computers and how they can be used to help people, a bachelor’s in computer science might be a better choice, especially if you want to be marketable to employers upon graduation, says Lynn.
“Computer science majors are getting all the attention,” says Lynn. “So I think it is more clearly understood and offers more opportunities.”
Again, the “Hard Times” report corroborates that, with recent computer science grads having just a 7.8 percent unemployment rate.
As for what the major involves, according to the College Board, computer science students would learn how to design computer programs as well as different programming languages.