College Degrees You Want Your Kids to Avoid
Sometimes, being a parent is a tug-of-war between encouraging your child to pursue their interests and dreams while also desperately wanting them to be self-sufficient one day. In order to achieve this, a fine balance between fantasy and reality must be achieved.
If your child decides to major in one of the following degrees, it’s likely you failed at this specific task. There’s nothing wrong with any of these degrees, and indeed some are admirable and/or pretty darn cool. It’s just that they come with lousy job prospects, which means your kids could very well be borrowing rent money into their 30s. The silver lining, of course, is that someone who graduates from college has a degree of some sort — and knowledge is valuable, even if it won’t pay for dinner.
With all of this in mind, here are 12 commercially useless degrees that you better hope your children avoid at all costs (because those costs could be high).
Art History / Fine Arts
Of all the majors out there, this one is the poster child for useless-degree jokes and advice. Both President Barack Obama and late Sen. John McCain are among the countless who’ve taken swipes at it, and for good reason. There are not that many practical jobs available to those who can distinguish between a Monet and Manet — although we admit that the FBI’s 16-person art crimes division sounds pretty cool. And if that doesn’t work out, there's always the option of becoming the next Robert Langdon, deciphering Italian masterworks.
But becoming an art detective will require taking many other classes and gaining many other skills, which is probably asking too much of a student who chose art history to begin with. So, the safest bets with an art degree are becoming a teacher or museum curator.
According to “Forbes,” this career choice comes with a median salary of $30,000 and an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent.
Wherefore art thou jobs Romeo? Any performing arts major worth their curtain strings will be quick to point out that this phrase makes no sense, as we’ve effectively asked, “Why are you jobs Romeo?” So, kudos to your child for knowing the meaning of “wherefore,” but how about knowing where the money for the utility bill is coming from?
The safest and surest way to irritate parents is to major in performing arts. Just because your kid likes performance doesn’t mean he or she can perform. We really can’t think of a more self-indulgent degree choice, unless there’s a school offering classes in how to be a Kardashian … wait, ugh, don’t Google that. Some of the top job prospects will be actor, dancer, dramatherapist or theater director. So, there's a 0.0001% chance of succeeding.
According to U.S. News, this career choice comes with an average salary of $26,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.
Anthropology / Archaeology
Does your child want to know more about human cultures and their development? Why we are who we are, why we do the things we do, why we eat the things we eat and say the things we say? Sounds pretty interesting. Do they want to make a career out of it? Parents everywhere hope the answer is no.
The anthropology major tends to be good at dinner parties. They will tell you exactly when the potato was introduced to the European diet and how that shaped the very food you’re eating. What they won’t do is pay off their student loans, buy a home or car, or be able to send their own kids to college. That’s because they won’t ever earn enough money to even travel to Europe once in their lives. As you’ll see here, the top jobs for anthropologists aren’t really in anthropology at all.
According to “Forbes,” this career choice comes with a median salary of $28,000 and an unemployment rate of 10.5 percent.
As far as pay and unemployment go, this is not the worst degree choice one could make. However, as with the performing arts, many more people want to be fashionistas than actually are. It’s an incredibly competitive field that is prone to subjectivity. After all, one person’s blouse might be another’s burlap sack.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is more fun than it sounds, estimates that from 2016 to 2026 there will only be 600 jobs added in fashion design. The better news is that if one does in fact succeed as a fashion designer, they will have good pay and a low unemployment rate.
According to Student Scholarships, this career choice comes with an average career salary of $61,000 and an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent.
Mass Media / Communications
This is a somewhat touchy area for someone performing a media function at the moment, but sadly this degree choice is becoming less and less relevant. For those interested in careers in journalism and media, it’s better to zero in on an area that interests them (like radio, TV or digital). However, a general knowledge of communications can go a long way. As with other degrees on this list, it’s what your child does with it that matters.
Still, journalism is anything but romantic. For starters, the current president of the U.S. won’t be your child's friend, and the United Nations says journalism is one of the world’s most dangerous professions. And, as reported by “The Daily Beast,” there were more than 4,000 journalism jobs lost from 2008 to 2018 — yikes!
According to TDN, this career choice is not so great as it comes with an early career median salary of $35,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent. Most alarmingly, the underemployment rate is depressingly high at 56.1 percent.
If your child wants to learn how to grow plants and maintain productive soil, don’t let them waste your money on a four-year university. Instead, they can enroll at Oaksterdam University and learn how to grow cannabis, which will be far more lucrative than growing hydrangeas and probably a lot more fun.
The horticulture field lost more than 15,000 jobs since 2018, according to The Daily Beast, making it a very useless degree. And according to Student Scholarships, this career choice has a low average hourly wage at about $15. And even worse, this is a field in which automation and new technologies will soon take jobs from humans — the singularity is near.
You could also include cultural and women’s studies in this category, but no matter the labels or areas of focus, it’s a useless degree. Sure, it’s a fascinating subject area, and your child will no doubt learn much about how humans interact based on things beyond on our control. But when they're done with college, what will they do?
Teach! As with many useless degrees, the most common path is to teach someone else that useless knowledge. But to be a gender studies professor making just over $70,000 a year, you likely need a doctorate degree, according to Zippia. That means your child will be in school forever, racking up more and more student loan debt — or, let’s be honest, chipping away at your retirement savings. No African safari for you and your partner to look forward to, but at least your child will have a keen understanding of the wage gap.
According to this report, ethnic studies majors can expect a median mid-career salary of $60,000, while 57.1 percent of them will be underemployed.
As kids, we all wanted to grow up to be a baseball player or martial arts master like Jean-Claude Van Damme. Third on the list was Mick Jagger or some other eccentric rock star. None of those career opportunities came to fruition because we’d mostly abandoned them all by the time college rolled around (although we’ve continued to watch “Blood Sport” from time to time, with no shame).
Sadly for too many well-meaning parents, their kids think they’ll be the next Bob Dylan or Taylor Swift, and Mom and Dad just don’t have the heart to give them a reality check. And then the music school thought their solo was good enough for the $60,000 annual tuition, and there was no prying that flute out of Johnny’s hands. It’s pretty cool to be the kid in the dorm building who can play guitar. It’s another thing entirely to be that kid 20 years from now when he’s busking on the New York Metro and his classmates are filing by on their way to adult jobs with pay scales that don’t involve pocket lint.
According to “Forbes,” this career choice comes with a median salary of $30,000 and an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent. But, honestly, we’re pretty shocked that these numbers aren’t double, triple that.
It had just started raining when Lucie took a seat near the third window in her bedroom. The pitter-patter of raindrops was not enough to drown out the screams of her mother and father, who downstairs were berating each other over Lucie’s academic pursuits — or, as they would say, lack of academic pursuits. They could not agree on who was more to blame for her choice of college and choice of major. Lucie always sat near the third window when they fought, believing it was quieter than the other two, even though deep inside her heart she knew the real reason was because she had a near-perfect view into the bedroom of one Jimmy Freckles across the street....
Whoops, got a little carried away there. The bottom line is, DO NOT let your kid major in creative writing. No one wants to lie to their children, and you will be doing that every single time they send you this week’s new short story.
According to everyone, writers make zilch and are most useful performing the rote tasks even robots are loath to do.
When you’re young, you want to know all the answers and you genuinely believe there is an answer for everything. Sadly, as you get older, you realize that there are far more questions than answers and that, in fact, answers are difficult and wholly subjective in many cases. But you didn’t realize this until you blew four years of college studying philosophy.
“Vice” published this short but informative interview with a 35-year-old Canadian who majored in philosophy and is now a social worker after two stints at other schools studying subjects completely unrelated to his philosophy degree. Parents, it’s a word to the wise for any budding Immanuel Kants who might be living in your home.
According to “Forbes,” this career choice comes with a median salary of $30,000 and an unemployment rate of 10.5 percent. And to top it all off, you will never figure out the answer to, “What does this all mean?!”
Classics / History
As the old joke goes, what’s the difference between a large pizza and a history degree? One can feed a family of four. (Note: This joke can be used with any useless degree mentioned here or elsewhere.)
If your child majors in history, according to Zippia, they can look forward to a career as a stock clerk or police officer or another profession that has absolutely nothing to do with history. But hey, they'll be the best at Trivial Pursuit!
All jokes aside, a knowledge and understanding of ancient history is valuable in the sense of the pursuit of knowledge. It’s just that it doesn’t have many practical real-world applications. Indeed, according to Forbes, this career choice comes with a median salary of $32,000 and an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent.
Rhetoric and Composition
A degree in rhetoric and composition will set your child up to be a teacher and that’s about it. Sure, they'll be able to speak and communicate flawlessly. They will understand the origins of language and composition theory, and they know the etymology of obscure words that pop up in Words With Friends or on crossword puzzles. And if they can make a career out of that, more power to them!
“Business Insider” reports that rhetoric and composition produces the highest unemployment rate at 17.54 percent, which is nearly 6 points higher than No. 2 on the list, environmental science. So, if your child is lucky enough to land a job in this field, make sure they hold on to it for dear life.