The 10 Toughest Majors For Finding Jobs After College

Ryan Morris
by Ryan Morris
Major-Specific, Rankings - 2 years ago

It’s important to preface this article with the statement that following your passion is a great thing, and the value of doing so is intangible.

If you love your major, and you’re excited about your future career, and you couldn’t imagine being in anything else, then by all means, ignore everything in this article and keep living your life. You’ll be happier for it.

As it happens, not all of us find it as easy to decide. Some of us just aren’t that committed. We like a lot of stuff.

It can be really difficult to pick just one thing to major in when you know it’s not the only thing you could be happy doing. That’s when factors other than passion start coming into play.

Chief among them: will I be able to get a job after I graduate with my major? Like, any job? Anything at all?

We at Zippia used to have these same worries back when we were in college, so now that we’ve got the resources at our disposal to figure things out, we were curious. Which majors have the highest unemployment rates?

Looking at Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we put together a list of just that. The full list can be found below, but first, here’s a quick top ten.

  1. Composition And Rhetoric
  2. Environmental Science
  3. Anthropology And Archaeology
  4. Drama And Theater Arts
  5. Film Video And Photographic Arts
  6. Mass Media
  7. Fine Arts
  8. Area Ethnic And Civilization Studies
  9. Intercultural And International Studies
  10. Communication Technologies

Woof. Communications and the Arts are not doing well here so far.

Before we get to the full list, let’s talk a little more about how we put it together.

How We Determined the Hardest Majors to Get a Job After College

Using Census Data from PUMS, we looked at the total number of people who graduated with each particular major. Then using data for which of these people were employed versus unemployed, we came up with percentages for each major’s unemployment level, which we then used to rank each major. The higher a major ranks on this list, the lower its employment rating.

That’s all — pretty simple for this one. Below you’ll find a more complete breakdown of our top ten list, along with unemployment percentages for each major.

1. Composition And Rhetoric

Unemployment Rate: 17.54%
If your school had a Rhet. Comp. department, then you almost certainly took at least one class from this major. The freshman and sophomore level general education writing courses, and occasionally junior level writing courses, are typically taught by folks from this department.

Despite their ubiquity — or maybe because of it? — there doesn’t seem to be a ton of job opportunies for Rhet. Comp.ers, with nearly 20% of these majors unemployed.

2. Environmental Science

Unemployment Rate: 11.79%
The study of the environment: how it works, and how we humans are pretty much totally wrecking it. Kinda depressing that the unemployment rate is so high for this major, given how clearly in need we are of people with this expertise.

3. Anthropology And Archaeology

Unemployment Rate: 11.76%
Anthropology is the science of humanity, and it’s often lumped together with its most popular subset Archaeology, which is the study of humanity as learned through analyzing “material culture” — that is to say, looking at all the crap we humans have made throughout history.

As with Environmental Science, it seems similarly ominous to see that there’s no jobs for folks studying history. Something about us being doomed to repeat it?

4. Drama And Theater Arts

Unemployment Rate: 11.42%
Oh, actors. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them — at least until whoever’s in charge of Student Housing quits ducking your calls.

(Kidding. We love actors here at Zippia; check out our page on them.)

Still, though, tough to see so many art-related majors on this list, although it’s true that there’s only so many paying gigs when it comes to acting. If you’re having trouble making it big, maybe try smaller — instead of going to NY or LA, try a theatre company in a more manageable-sized city.

You’ll still make connections while getting practical experience that might help you move on to bigger things later, or maybe you’ll even find that you like the smaller city vibe.

5. Film Video And Photographic Arts

Unemployment Rate: 11.24%
These are the people who have a camera with them literally everywhere they go, but occasionally, they’ve actually, you know, studied photography.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to make them much more attractive to potential employers.

6. Mass Media

Unemployment Rate: 10.92%
With a Mass Media major, you’ve studied the way that communication works on a global scale in the modern world. It also practically guarantees that you have at least briefly considered adding the words “social media guru” to your resume at least once.

7. Fine Arts

Unemployment Rate: 10.90%
“What are you gonna do with that?” is perennially the most annoying question people with Fine Arts majors get from their family. As such, it’s at least a little disappointing that Fine Arts Major shows up on our list, if only because of how much I hate the people who love to ask that question.

Oh, right, and art is important for a modern society to function or have hope, or something like that.

8. Area, Ethnic And Civilization Studies

Unemployment Rate: 10.84%
With this major, you really get the chance to dig into a particular group or demographic that interests you and immerse yourself in that local culture, getting more of a grasp on how that particular group views the world. It can broaden your horizons and allow you to act effectively and mindfully as an advocate for oppressed groups, and yet apparently, it will not help you much when it comes to finding a job. :/

9. Intercultural And International Studies

Unemployment Rate: 9.93%
Of a similar vein as the previous item on this list, but rather than digging into a smaller area of people, you’re looking at entire cultures on a national or global scale. Also similar to the last item, this seems like a pretty important subset of knowledge to be so very difficult to employ.

10. Communication Technologies

Unemployment Rate:
This is the hardware and software that makes mass media and the communication/information age tick. You’d think for this one there would at least be a lot of jobs in, I don’t know, Silicon Valley or something. Aren’t phones supposed to be a big deal right now?

Putting It All Together

So in a nutshell, the people least likely to get a job in America are the ones who majored in subjects that focus on effective communication, understanding other cultures and our effect on the environment, and making beautiful works of art. That probably says something about us.

Well, that pretty much does it for this very depressing list. Make sure you check out our official major pages for these and other (more employable) majors. You’ll find the more complete list below.


Detailed Ranking of the Hardest Majors to Get a Job After College

Major Unemployed Labor Force Unemployment Rate
Composition And Rhetoric 20 114 17.54%
Environmental Science 29 246 11.79%
Anthropology And Archaeology 24 204 11.76%
Drama And Theater Arts 29 254 11.42%
Film Video And Photographic Arts 28 249 11.24%
Mass Media 32 293 10.92%
Fine Arts 35 321 10.90%
Area Ethnic And Civilization Studies 18 166 10.84%
Intercultural And International Studies 14 141 9.93%
Communication Technologies 11 117 9.40%
Biology 107 1,222 8.76%
History 62 709 8.74%
Advertising And Public Relations 25 287 8.71%
Multi-Disciplinary Or General Science 18 210 8.57%
Computer Science 49 584 8.39%
International Relations 13 155 8.39%
Commercial Art And Graphic Design 45 546 8.24%
Liberal Arts 24 292 8.22%
Criminal Justice And Fire Protection 71 884 8.03%
Architecture 18 226 7.96%
English Language And Literature 76 959 7.92%
Economics 49 630 7.78%
Sociology 38 496 7.66%
Treatment Therapy Professions 17 223 7.62%
General Engineering 17 227 7.49%
Communications 75 1,002 7.49%
Journalism 25 348 7.18%
Political Science And Government 56 795 7.04%
Philosophy And Religious Studies 15 213 7.04%
Electrical Engineering 24 347 6.92%
Computer And Information Systems 12 175 6.86%
General Business 67 987 6.79%
Social Work 18 271 6.64%
Computer Engineering 13 196 6.63%
Marketing And Marketing Research 62 937 6.62%
Business Management And Administration 92 1,421 6.47%
Psychology 125 1,935 6.46%
Chemistry 17 265 6.42%
Criminology 7 111 6.31%
French German Latin And Other Common Foreign Language Studies 12 192 6.25%
International Business 7 114 6.14%
Theology And Religious Vocations 10 165 6.06%
Music 20 333 6.01%
Community And Public Health 8 134 5.97%
Chemical Engineering 11 196 5.61%
General Education 32 581 5.51%
Physical And Health Education Teaching 7 128 5.47%
Early Childhood Education 10 183 5.46%
Physical Fitness Parks Recreation And Leisure 40 737 5.43%
Finance 42 780 5.38%
Mechanical Engineering 29 553 5.24%
Health And Medical Administrative Services 6 115 5.22%
Mathematics 19 369 5.15%
Family And Consumer Sciences 16 322 4.97%
Accounting 44 927 4.75%
Art And Music Education 9 191 4.71%
General Medical And Health Services 10 213 4.69%
Hospitality Management 10 217 4.61%
Physics 7 156 4.49%
Civil Engineering 12 280 4.29%
Biochemical Sciences 7 166 4.22%
Language And Drama Education 6 146 4.11%
Animal Sciences 5 126 3.97%
Nursing 44 1,156 3.81%
Elementary Education 29 799 3.63%
Communication Disorders Sciences And Services 7 201 3.48%
Special Needs Education 5 161 3.11%
Natural Resources Management 2 100 2.00%
Social Science Or History Teacher Education 1 100 1.00%