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The College Majors with the Lowest Unemployment Rates

MAR 17, 2020 • 3 min read

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Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released it’s highly anticipated, comprehensive report on the labor market outcomes of college graduates by major.

This survey, which looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Labor data, and focuses on recent college graduates between the ages of 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, revealed the two professions that saw the lowest unemployment rate (1%) as theology & religion and medical technicians.

With the demand for healthcare workers rising fast, it came as no surprise that medical technician topped the list, but theology/religion caught some off guard.

There are however, two possible reasons for the low employment rates of theology/ religion majors:

  1. High pastoral engagement
  2. Supply and demand

On the first point, many graduates achieve their degrees while working in pastoral jobs, and on the second, theology/religion diploma holders are quite a rarity. (Graduates who listed theology/religion as their major were significantly less than many of the other majors that appeared in the survey.)

Overall, theology and religion majors earned a post-graduation median wage of around $32,000, while medical technicians made $42,600. The overall median wage for recent college graduates was $40,000.

Other career areas appearing at the top of the low unemployment rate list include: education, public policy & law and engineering.

Engineering is rated as a key area of study when it comes to potential career prospects and ‘jobs of the future’ - and many top universities have expanded their engineering programs to facilitate the growth in demand. (Learn more about the universities currently ranked at the top of the best engineering programs list.)

As for the other end of the low employment rate spectrum, mass media, liberal arts and anthropology majors saw the highest unemployment rates at above 6.5%.

While digital media and mechanisation of news delivery has seen a reduction in the number of media positions available, liberal arts and anthropology majors might simply be victims of the large numbers of students who chose either option as a focus in college.

Check out the chart below for more information on the lowest and highest unemployment rates for recent college graduates by major, as well as their starting salaries!

Lowest unemployment rates by major

MAJOR UNEMPLOYMENT RATE MEDIAN STARTING SALARY IN USD
Theology & Religion 1.0% $32,000
Medical Technician 1.0% $42,600
Misc. Education 1.2% $37,000
Public Policy & Law 1.7% $40,000
Early Childhood Education 1.7% $32,100
General Education 1.7% $36,000
Civil Engineering 1.9% $60,000
Elementary Education 1.9% $35,000
Nursing 2.0% $50,000
Secondary Education 2.3% $38,000
Computer Engineering 2.5% $65,000

Highest unemployment rates by major

MAJOR UNEMPLOYMENT RATE MEDIAN STARTING SALARY IN USD
Mass Media 7.8% $35,000
Liberal Arts 6.7% $33,400
Anthropology 6.6% $33,000
Misc. Technologies 6.4% $37,000
Philosophy 6.2% $36,000
Construction Services 6.1% $56,000
Mathematics 5.8% $50,000
Nutrition Sciences 5.8% $35,000
Ethnic Study 5.7% $38,000
Fine Arts 5.6% $33,500
Engineering Technologies 5.3% $35,000

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