Career Experts Evaluate the Worth of Several College Degrees

Tracy Stengel
Photo byJuan Ramos/Unsplash

One of the most important decisions a high school graduate pursuing a college degree can make is deciding their major. College is an investment in their future, but it can come at a hefty price. Students in the United States attending a public 4-year in-state institution and living on campus pay an average of $25,707 per year or $102,828 over 4 years. The price tag rises considerably for students attending out-of-state or private universities. It makes sense to choose your major carefully.

Business Insider asked three career experts to name the worst majors for students hoping to achieve a stable career with generous pay. Brianna Doe is a marketing manager at Inventables. She is also a certified career coach and mentor for Arizona State University. Kelly Donovan is a career coach and the principal of Kelly Donovan & Associates, a nation-wide company helping people land a good job in a short amount of time. Ronnie Green is a retired career counselor for Jewish Community Services.

The experts advised against five degrees for those not planning on attending graduate school:

History — Doe suggested students have a plan of what exactly they intend to do with a history degree beforehand. For instance, if you want to be a librarian, professor, or lawyer, you will need to plan on graduate school.

Anthropology — If a student wants to be an anthropologist, they will probably need to have a graduate degree. Donovan said, “Most private-sector employers don’t have a demand for candidates with specialized anthropology knowledge.”

Philosophy — Doe doesn’t feel a degree in philosophy is of much use unless you plan on working in academia. She believes it is better to pair it with a graduate degree in order to make it easier to market yourself.

Psychology — Most high paying careers in the psychology field require a graduate degree. Donovan said, “You could still use your knowledge of human behavior to build a strong career in a field like sales, but you could also just earn a business degree and take a few psychology classes as electives.

English — Green said, “Majoring in English can be a smart move if you plan to be a teacher or writer, but it’s hard to carve out a lifelong career from this major without going to graduate school.”

The experts warned against five degrees because they don’t come with transferable skills and/or a degree may not be necessary to succeed in the field:

Acting or Theater Arts — You don’t need a degree to get an acting role. Doe cautioned that she mentored many new graduates who struggled to land jobs outside of the theater.

Film — Donovan said, “Racking up massive student-loan debt for a film degree is risky.” She recommended to consider getting the degree after you have already worked in the field.

Interior Design — Unless you plan on being an interior designer, Doe said, “You’re not going to get your return on investment.” She suggested getting a graphic-design degree instead. ut

Photography — You don’t need a degree to work in the field of photography. Donovan said, “You could take a few photography classes on an ad-hoc basis rather than going into debt pursuing a degree for four years.”

Civilization Studies — Unless you want to work in archaeology, Doe said, “There’s not much you could do with a major in civilization studies when trying to land a job because it is such a specific area of study.”

The final two degrees the experts named is perhaps the most surprising:

Communications — Most of the people who sought out career counselling from Green had a communications degree, which is hard to build a career on. Doe concurred. She said, “I’ve run into hiring managers, colleagues, and friends who really struggle to communicate the value of that degree.”

Marketing — There are a lot of career choices in marketing, but the field is constantly changing. Doe said, “You can’t even really read a book about marketing and expect it to be completely irrelevant by the time you’re done.”

Do you agree with the experts? Are you happy with your degree or lack of one? I’d love to read your opinions in the comments!

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI

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