Top 10 Most Useless College Degrees

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With the price of a college degree seemingly skyrockets every year, one is completely justified in asking, “Is it even

worth the cost?” A four-year college degree can run from a low of roughly $20,000 to upwards of $50,000 for tuition alone, each year. Working yourself out from under that mountain of student loan debt could seem insurmountable to even the bravest among us. If you are a college-bound young adult it would behoove you to stay away from the most useless college degrees, that is, the ones that offer to worst rate of return on your investment. Below is a list of the absolutely worst and most useless college degrees. The list of 10 is derived in part by looking at the unemployment rates and median annual earnings of college degree graduates in their prime earning years (ages 30‐54).

10. Physical Fitness and Parks Recreation

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With an unemployment rate of 4.5% and median earnings of $50,000 annually we introduce our first degree. The study of parks, leisure, recreation, fitness and kinesiology all sound like fun and exciting careers. Who wouldn’t want a career in leisure? Potential jobs could include golf course manager, yoga instructor, personal trainer and ergonomics consultant. Although all are respectable in and of themselves, there is a reason to pause and consider the many alternate, far less expensive, avenues that are available to obtain the equivalent knowledge. In all cases given, the expensive 4‐year degree can be handily replaced by a high-quality 2‐year diploma or certificate program. There are even many well prepared online options to get the same skills for a fraction of the cost. 

9. Music

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A music degree will net you an unemployment rate of 4.5% and median earnings of $45,000. Music fills and enriches our lives unlike anything else. It has the ability to uplift and change moods, influence behavior and bring people together. The study of music will undoubtedly give the learner a greater understanding and appreciation of its rich history and diversity throughout the world. It will enhance one’s ability to create music through a technical understanding of how instruments work and how music is written. Given that music is as much creative and spontaneous as it is technical and process oriented, one has to wonder if simply studying music will make you successful. So many great musicians and composers throughout history never even bothered with a music degree. 

8. History

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Learning about history is actually an essential endeavor and comes in at 8 with an unemployment rate of 5.8% and median earnings of $54,000 annually. That being said, knowing history should invariably be more than memorizing countless dates and names of important people and places. It’s hard to imagine there are many jobs out there that require one to regurgitate historical facts. Perhaps as a trivia writer or within the publishing community writing textbooks for future students of history. George Santayana (1863‐1952), a Spanish philosopher once mused, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. These are words of wisdom indeed. There’s no doubt that learning the history of the world can benefit everyone. It’s just that there aren’t that many job postings advertising for high paying careers in history majors. 

7. English Language and Literature

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English majors can expect an unemployment rate of 6.2% and median earnings of $52,000 a year. This university program will introduce the student to English writings from the beginnings of English language and culture, in early Anglo‐Saxon England, to the modern 20th and 21st century. The study of English literature throughout history can afford a better appreciation of the changing cultures and values of the English world through its literature. Although there are many inherent benefits to possessing such a degree, it is important to consider the following. When was the last time you ever saw a job posting for English majors that didn’t entail teaching English overseas? 

6. Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts

The 6th place holder comes in at an unemployment rate of 6.2% and median earnings of only $50,000 annually. Liberal Arts, in the classical sense, entails knowledge that was considered essential for one to learn in order to live a full participatory life in society. This revolved around the trivium of grammar, rhetoric and logic. In colleges today, the concepts are rolled into the study of various subjects such as literature, language, psychology, philosophy, history and the sciences. For too many, Liberal Arts may just sound like a degree in life; perhaps we all have Liberal Arts degrees from experience by default. There is some truth in that viewpoint. If that’s your persuasion, conventional wisdom holds you should head to your local bookstore or online retailer and pick up a couple of books on any subject of interest and save tens of thousands of dollars in the process. You will be better off financially and likely still have equivalent job prospects after all is said and done. 

5. Anthropology and Archaeology

Archaeology

Many out there grew up watching films where heroes adventure around the world to find hidden artifacts while fantasizing, or romanticizing, about how great it would be to travel the world in search of ‘fortune and glory’. As with many things in life, fantasy is far from reality. In reality, with this degree, you can expect an unemployment rate of 6.2% and median yearly earnings of only $47,000. Anthropology, although there are various aspects to it, it essentially boils down to the study of humankind. While Archeology is the study of human activity in the past, primarily through research of historical records such as those left buried for millennia beneath many of the worlds ancient cities. The unfortunate reality is that it will be very difficult to find employment anywhere near resembling that portrayed by Hollywood. Most archeologists work on painstakingly tedious and repetitive tasks. This may appeal to you but just keep in mind, the pay isn’t great. 

4. Film, Video and Photographic Arts

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At 4 is Film, Video and Photographic Arts with an unemployment rate of 6.7% and median earnings of $50,000. Who wouldn’t want to work in film? You get to rub shoulders with famous celebrities and get invited to all their wild and crazy parties. Wait a minute, we’re fantasizing again. The reality is that you will likely spend the bulk of your career editing wedding videos for members of the community in the town you grew up in. Kidding aside, a degree in Film, Video, and Photographic Arts will indeed provide you with lots of good information on technical and artistic aspects which are used throughout the media, marketing and entertainment industries. You just aren’t going to be paid well to use your skills. 

3. Philosophy

philosophy

What is the meaning of life? Such is the essence of a philosophy degree. One explores the interconnections between our beliefs, values, and ethics. You will learn all about the nature of the world and the principles and foundations from which reason stems. For all your efforts, you will be challenged with an unemployment rate of 6.8% and a mid‐career promise of an earning a potential of only $48,000 a year. This all sounds very rational, does it not? Plato once said, “Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.” You may indeed be under a spell if you believe you will be getting out of debt anytime soon with this degree. 

2. Fine Arts

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As we approach 1 we pause to reflect on the second worst degree with an unemployment rate of 7.3% and median earnings of $45,000. We all enjoy the finer things in life. However, if you have a deep appreciation for such things as painting, sculpting, and drawing, including their historical development in society and relative cultural significance around the world, then this degree is for you. With a Fine Arts degree there are supposedly some aspects of job security. We will always have museums and art galleries that need someone who can interpret those abstract works of art, in 30 seconds or less, for the masses. Of course you may become a renowned artist yourself, but looking back at the median earnings data, the pay still isn’t great for most. 

1. Commercial Art and Graphic Design

Graphic Design

The absolute worst and most useless college degree is that of Commercial Art and Graphic Design. It has the highest unemployment rate at 7.5% and a low median earnings of $49,000 for mid‐career degree holders. At first, it’s hard to understand why. There surely are many opportunities out there for talented artists and designers in today’s obsessively marketed to the world. However upon reflection, one could argue that it’s one of the most irrelevant educations out there. One only needs to show that they can produce quality work and build a solid portfolio in order to secure a job. Many commercial and graphic design artists work freelance and in the freelance world you only need to deliver the goods; credentials are secondary.

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