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The 5 Most Underemployed Bachelor’s Degrees

Topics: Data & Research

Liberal arts majors may cringe as they click on PayScale’s underemployment report, expecting to see their program at the top of the list for majors most likely to lead to jobs with low hours and/or in unrelated fields. But, while art- and writing-related majors do make the ranking, they don’t have a monopoly on courses of study that can lead to underemployment.


(Photo Credit: jessejacobson/Flickr)

The 5 Most Underemployed Bachelor’s Degrees

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  1. Physical Education Teaching

Typical Job(s): Physical Education Teacher

Percent Underemployed: 56.4%

Reason: Not Using Education or Training: 79.1%

Reason: Part-Time, Seeking Full-Time: 20.9%

  1. Human Services (HS)

Typical Job(s): Case Manager, Human Resources Associate

Percent Underemployed: 55.6%

Reason: Not Using Education or Training: 82.2%

Reason: Part-Time, Seeking Full-Time: 17.8%

  1. Illustration

Typical Job(s): Graphic Designer

Percent Underemployed: 54.7%

Reason: Not Using Education or Training: 74.5%

Reason: Part-Time, Seeking Full-Time: 25.5%

  1. Criminal Justice

Typical Job(s): Paralegal, Fraud Investigator, Police Officer

Percent Underemployed: 53.0%

Reason: Not Using Education or Training: 87.4%

Reason: Part-Time, Seeking Full-Time: 12.8%

  1. Project Management

Typical Job(s): Project Manager

Percent Underemployed: 52.8%

Reason: Not Using Education or Training: 91.5%

Reason: Part-Time, Seeking Full-Time: 8.5%

Of course, not every bachelor’s degree is intended to provide a direct on-ramp to a career. While some degree programs also function as vocational training, others are more of a foundation for future study, whether formally or informally.

Still, unless you have a trust fund, you probably need to think about how your choice of major will impact your odds of employment after graduation. Student loan debt now tops $1 trillion in the U.S. (Feel like freaking out about it some more? This clock provides a continuously updating tally. The total increases by $2,726 every second!)

PayScale’s College ROI Report shows that the highest student loan payments tend to fall to lowest earners. To avoid getting stuck between a rock and a hard place, students need to go into their college and program selections with their eyes wide open.

Should College ROI Influence Choice of Major?

One thing prospective students should NOT do is to try to shoehorn themselves into a more promising major. Occupational outlook is only one factor when choosing a career path; pick something just because it’s projected to grow by 20 percent in the next 10 years, and you’ll wind up unhappy both at work and at home.

A better approach: start with what you love, and then look for the school and major that will allow you to follow your passions to greatest success. The College ROI Report ranks majors and degree programs including Art, Business, Science, and Humanities.

Then, whatever you choose, know that picking a direction is only the first step. Networking begins as soon as you set foot on campus. Every class you take brings you in contact with professors, teaching assistants, and students who could one day write you a recommendation for an internship or give you a lead on a job. Start building connections, and you won’t have to rely on your degree alone to help you find a space in the workforce after graduation.

Tell Us What You Think

Did future employment factor into your college decision? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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