10 College Majors You May Regret Choosing

Photo (cc) by wayne's eye view

Selecting a college major seems to be a difficult proposition for many students. Liz Freedman of Butler University reports that anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of newly enrolled college students are undeclared majors, and an estimated 3 out of 4 students will change majors at some point.

While we hate to put any more pressure on stressed-out students, we can’t help but point out that a recent report from compensation website PayScale.com finds some majors may be destined to be underperformers. They sound good — “Liberal arts degrees are so flexible!” — but the harsh reality is you may end up underemployed and unhappy.

Here are the 10 bachelor’s degrees PayScale says might be dogs. The job titles represent the occupations commonly held by those with that college major who said they are underemployed.

1. Criminal justice

Percent who say they are underemployed — 62.4 percent.
Starting median salary — $34,500.
Common job titles — paralegal/legal assistant, security guard, police officer

2. Business management and administration

Percent who say they are underemployed — 60 percent.
Starting median salary — $44,300.
Common job titles — office manager, customer service representative, retail store manager.

3. Health care administration

Percent who say they are underemployed — 57.6 percent.
Starting median salary — $43,800.
Common job titles — medical or dental office manager, medical office biller, medical coding specialist.

4. General studies

Percent who say they are underemployed — 54.5 percent.
Starting median salary — $32,100.
Common job titles — administrative assistant, customer service representative, cashier.

5. Sociology

Percent who say they are underemployed — 52.5 percent.
Starting median salary — $38,900.
Common job titles — receptionist, human resources assistant, teacher assistant.

6. English language and literature

Percent who say they are underemployed — 52.1 percent.
Starting median salary — $39,700.
Common job titles — paralegal/legal assistant, administrative assistant, office manager.

7. Graphic design

Percent who say they are underemployed — 51.5 percent.
Starting median salary — $37,300.
Common job titles — Web developer, user interface designer, marketing assistant.

8. Liberal arts

Percent who say they are underemployed — 50.3 percent.
Starting median salary — $34,200.
Common job titles — receptionist, retail store manager, bank teller.

9. Education

Percent who say they are underemployed — 50 percent.
Starting median salary — $40,500.
Common job titles — day care teacher, teacher assistant, tutor.

10. Psychology

Percent who say they are underemployed — 49.5 percent.
Starting median salary — $38,200.
Common job titles — receptionist, retail store manager, bank teller.

By and large, most of those reporting that they are underemployed say so because they believe they’re underpaid. However, PayScale says that for most majors, less than half of those who say they are underpaid actually have incomes more than 10 percent below market pay.

In fact, only 37.7 percent of liberal arts majors who said they were underpaid are actually underpaid. This may indicate that we have inflated the perceived value of degrees to the point where college students have unrealistic ideas about their earning potential after graduation. Or maybe they’ve simply chosen the wrong major.

5 ways to choose a winning college major

So you may be wondering how to pick a major that won’t have you working as a cashier at the mall while paying off your mountain of student loan debt. While there are no guarantees a degree will be a winner and result in a dream job, here are five ways to improve your options:

  • Talk to recent graduates. Don’t trust what the glossy brochure or slick website tells you. Of course they’ll say a general studies degree can be the foundation for many jobs. They want you to enroll. Rather than trust the school, find people who actually graduated with the major you’re considering and see what they say. You can either ask the school to refer you to recent grads or spread the word on your social media sites to find people who’ve been there, done that.
  • Consider whether a bachelor’s degree is enough. The PayScale list may be surprising because it includes some fields you might think would be high-paying. Business administration? Isn’t that supposed to be educational gold? Oh, wait, it’s the MBA – a master’s degree – you’re thinking about. The PayScale report only considers underemployment for those with bachelor’s degrees, and some of these fields may have good job opportunities that pay well, but only if you have an advanced degree.
  • Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re not sure whether a bachelor’s degree is enough, head to BLS.gov. This is the website for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal agency that slices and dices employment numbers for the government. While you can’t look up degrees, you can look up careers. If you want to be a psychologist, the BLS is great for telling you that a bachelor’s degree won’t get you far when you need a doctoral degree to be licensed.
  • Remember regional differences. The BLS will also give you the expected job growth of a career, currently spanning the period from 2012-2022. For example, criminal justice majors will discover that job opportunities for police officers and detectives will increase only 5 percent during that period, a rate slower than average. That said, BLS estimates are national numbers, and job opportunities in your area may be different. Again, talking to recent graduates is a good way to gauge what job market you can expect to encounter if you have the same degree.
  • Choose a STEM major. Finally, if you really want to hedge your bets, select a STEM major. That would be: science, technology, engineering or math. There seems to be some debate about whether there is a shortage of STEM workers, but, as PayScale notes, there isn’t one STEM major on its underemployed list.

Finding the right major is an imperfect process, but a little real-world research goes a long way. Take the time to learn more about job prospects in your region for your chosen field. Pick the wrong major, and you could find yourself taking dictation for the next 30 years.

But, hey, no pressure.

What was your major? Was it a winner or a dud? Tell us why in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car
26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car

These tools and conveniences help protect drivers from hassles and calamities on the road.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement

No. 1 isn’t visiting grandkids, and No. 4 might surprise you.

10 Common Ways Seniors Get Scammed
10 Common Ways Seniors Get Scammed

Here’s what to watch for to make sure you don’t fall prey to some of the biggest rip-offs targeting seniors.

3 Ways a Health Savings Account Can Improve Your Finances
3 Ways a Health Savings Account Can Improve Your Finances

Open an HSA in minutes to help you save on taxes, cover medical expenses and grow your retirement nest egg.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster
7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster

These tips can get your bathroom sparkling with little time and no elbow grease.

Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19
Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19

It takes just seconds to take this simple preventive measure.

7 Bank Accounts With Extra Perks for Seniors
7 Bank Accounts With Extra Perks for Seniors

These accounts offer exclusive discounts and other perks — including interest — to older customers.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.