Most useless degrees

Most useless degrees

If you have completed high school and are wondering which major to take up for your degree program in order to land a stable job, take some time to decide.

While many degrees, particularly some that are a part of STEM, may guarantee you work, some degrees may not be so “hot” in the job market. Searching for a job with these “not-so-hot” degrees may put in you a predicament.

But, true, no education is useless. It not only widens your horizons and gives you better perspectives and helps us create the possibilities to invent and discover.

The value of a college education or degree is determined by whether you have you have benefited from it in these ways. But it is also evaluated by how you make use of it, and how much value others, including employers, peers, and society, give it.

We were curious to know if some degrees were perceived as not-so-useful purely from a job/career point of view.

We found that opinions on the job prospects of degrees differ, but some degrees came up more often than others during our research.

Of course, we found that additional qualification helped increase the job opportunities of graduates with “suboptimal” degrees.

The list below of “degrees perceived to be useless” from a jobs-search perspective has been prepared on the basis of degrees mentioned in various online sources.

Most of these give the disclaimer that their lists are subjective, though they have used figures (including employment potential and wage data) from the US Government (including the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and research by media houses, career sites, salary sites, and research organizations.

The list below, therefore, doesn’t reflect our view, since we believe that you, as a student should, as far as possible, try to pursue your interests. The list provides only a general word of advice that you could keep in mind when you select your major.

We found a few common features in the methodology used by the sources that we have used. They include:

  1. The job market and salary for the degree-holders.
  2. Unemployment rate among the degree-holders.
  3. The expected decline in demand for the degree-holders.
  4. The salary benefit to the degree-holder from earning the degree compared with a high-school diploma holder in the same job with work experience.
  5. The return on investment, comparing tuition and other expenses with expected salary. Again, these are purportedly based on government figures and media research / career sites statistics.

 

Most useless degrees

Here’s the list of the most useless degrees, as perceived by several sites.
 

Advertising and public relations

Why it’s perceived to be useless: In a world of social-media networks and free media, the traditional forms of advertising are finding the going difficult.

Companies are looking at new avenues of advertising and big agencies are gasping for breath. Degree programs that teach advertising are becoming less popular as a job-earner.

Alternative: Develop an expertise in social-media network and online marketing channels. Use new media trends and show the results to company recruiters to get a marketing position.
 

Anthropology / Archaeology

Why it’s perceived to be useless: Anthropology and archaeology may be interesting subjects of study, but a bachelor’s degree in either does not pave a viable career path.

Alternative: To have a realistic shot at developing a fulfilling career, you need to get a PhD. But even then, after spending precious time and money, your options may be extremely limited.
 

Communications / Mass media

Why it’s perceived to be useless: Many forms of the media are dying following the advent of social media. Mass media has an even higher percentage of unemployment than similar degrees.

A degree in journalism is a better choice. A communications degree doesn’t have much value on its own to find a job.

In any case, communication skills are better acquired through campus life and activities, not from a degree. You can show your skills by creating a podcast, for example, covering topics that you are passionate about. Who knows, you may impress a bigwig in your field and land a plum job.

Alternative: Specialize in broadcasting and online media or develop skills for social media or digital marketing and content development.
 

Criminal justice

Why it’s perceived to be useless: If you are interested in becoming a detective, police officer, lawyer, or prosecutor, a degree in criminal justice is not required, you only need a high-school diploma. In most instances, you learn in a sponsored training program at a police academy and your training will be a part of your training period.

Alternative: Why not study political science for a degree course, for example, and try to enter law school? Most law schools don’t consider a degree in criminal justice rigorous enough to count as a qualification for admission to a law school program. You’re better off doing a good degree course that teaches you research and analytical skills and then trying to earn a law degree.
 

Education

Why it’s perceived to be useless: Your objective is probably to get a teacher’s job, but keep in mind that teachers draw meager salaries. You will find it hard to make good the tuition fee and other expenses you incurred at college.

Alternative: If you want to be a teacher, try to develop your own online platform. Creating a YouTube channel is a good idea, and you can reach a lot of students whatever you are teaching. You will also make more money.
 

Ethnic and civilization studies

Why it’s perceived to be useless: You may be able to study a particular segment of population in-depth, but employers will wonder how they can use this ability of yours.

Alternative: You can take up an international studies degree to follow your dream of studying other cultures. Your job prospects are slightly better with an international studies degree.
 

Fashion design

Why it’s perceived to be useless: Jobs requiring a fashion design degree are decreasing and the competition is getting fierce, and you may need excellent connections to get in the door.

Alternative: Develop a strong portfolio and improve your networking. Before you start your degree program make sure that you have artistic ability, creativity, and a strong personality. These are what will fetch you a job in fashion designing.
 

Film, video, and photographic arts

Why it’s perceived to be useless: If you are searching for job ads for corporate videographer or photographer, you will be doing so for a long time. Not many companies think of hiring a full-time professional for this job and those that require hire a freelance photographer or videographer.

Alternative: Try to use the skills you have develop to start a business or pursue a business major that will help you convert your talent into a stable income.
 

Fine arts

Why it’s perceived to be useless: In a field where most opinions about ability are subjective, and where your success depends on your innate artistic creativity, a $50,000-dollar degree might not be worth it.

Alternative: Try freelancing or develop a viable business such as wedding photography (even if you consider it infra dig) to pay your bills. You can also go for an art education degree instead to improve your job prospects. Meanwhile, work hard to develop an impressive portfolio.
 

Music

Why it’s perceived to be useless: Stage experience, practice, and luck help musicians more than a degree. Tuition in theory help classical musicians more than other musicians.

Alternative: Unless you want to become a music teacher instead of a performing musician, you better try getting into the world’s best music schools. Practise hard and form your own band to become a performer. Studying music theory is unlikely to take you very far.
 

Philosophy

Why it’s perceived to be useless: The main criticism against a degree in philosophy is that schools focus on theory, which may be good for use in debates, but has little practical application.

Alternative: The best advice is not to pursue this degree program. If you are interested in practical philosophy, to be able to make better decisions in life, many books are available.
 

Psychology

Why it’s perceived to be useless: The increased focus on mental health issues these days has created a feeling among students that a degree in psychology leads to a lucrative career. However, because of the high number of students joining the degree program, the job hunt is becoming more competitive. Moreover, to become a psychologist, you need a doctoral degree in the US and many other countries.

Alternative: Go on to do a doctoral degree, try to impress consumer companies with your understanding of human behavior to secure a marketing position, go to medical school to train as a psychiatrist or to a nursing school to work in mental health institutions.
 

Theater arts

Why it’s perceived to be useless: At least some people will be asking, “Who goes for a theatre arts degree?” Well, there are at least some aspirant actors who may frown at the question. The fact is that you don’t need a degree to become an actor.

Alternative: There may be no academic alternative. Of course, if you think acting is your fore, go for auditions, and if you are interested in stage production, try to get a first job behind the scenes.
 

Other degrees perceived as ‘useless’

Theology:

God may be on your side, but your earnings as a pastor or other related jobs may not reflect this. Moreover, you will also have to contend with a lot of politics.

Travel and tourism:

In a sector that is market-driven, jobs may be unstable or hard to come by. Moreover, salaries are based on commission, bringing the state of the market into the picture at all times. The salaries for low-end jobs hotel, motel, and resort desk clerk is low at around $20,000 a year.

Sociology:

Most people who earn a sociology degree hope to get a job as a social worker, correctional treatment specialist, probation officer, or jailers. However, except for social-workers, the demand for the other sociology-related professions is not expected to increase by much.

Some sources also consider degrees in biology, history, general science, English language and literature, creative writing, nutritionist, physical fitness, and commercial art and graphic design as worthless for securing a job with a reasonable salary.

Among master’s degrees that are considered useless are early childhood education, professional / community / mental-health counselling, and library and information science.
 

Conclusion

This list of degrees perceived as “useless” doesn’t indicate that only STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) graduates find jobs. Far from it. Talent, motivation, hard work, and luck can help you to carve a niche in almost any field.

It is not a good idea to rely completely on any degree to build a well-paying career. It is often mandatory to acquire additional skills, knowledge, and qualifications.

Keep in mind that many people, even those with “hot degrees,” are doing jobs that have nothing to do with what they studied in their degree programs.

The best way to identify a useful degree may be to research the prospects of industrial sectors and the job market. But keeping in sight your interests may also pay.

In the end, success may have to do more with your personality and innate talent rather than a piece of university paper. Of course, you should have talent of a very high order.

Not convinced? Ask Bain Capital’s Mitt Romney (BA in English, MBA, JD), Pay Pal’s Peter Thiel (BA in 20th Century Philosophy), ex-CEO HP Carly Fiorina (BA in Medieval History / Philosophy, MBA, MS in Business), Hedge fund manager George Soros (BA in Philosophy), CNN founder Ted Turner (BA in Classics), Medicine Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus (BA, MA in English, degree from Columbia School of Medicine), and ex-CEO Xerox Ann Mulcahy (BA in English and Journalism).

Of course, these successful people acquired additional skills and knowledge beyond a basic degree to reach the top.
 

Tips to avoid getting trapped into a useless degree

Ask these questions below before you choose your major

  • What are your goals after completing your degree?
  • What are your plans five years after starting work?
  • Will the degree that you have in mind help you achieve your plans?
  • Or will any other major enable you to pursue your interests, and at the same time, fetch you a good job?
  • Is it a degree that company recruiters value in a job applicant?
  • What are the prospects of the industrial sector where you might search for a job?
  • How likely are you to be replaced by a freelancer or contract worker a few years into your job?

 
You might want check out these related posts
Top masters degrees in demand to secure your future
A Master’s Degree can help your career during and after recession
Master’s degree specialisations that pay the highest salaries
Value of MS degree from USA, Germany, Canada, UK, Australia for jobs in India
 
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

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