The Most Useless College Degrees

Over 40% of recent college graduates work in jobs that don’t require a degree. Don’t become part of this statistic – learn which degrees hold the least value in today’s job market.

This post will expose the most useless college degrees, explain why they’re poor choices, and offer practical alternatives to help students make informed decisions.

As a career counselor with many years of experience guiding students, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of uninformed degree choices on employment prospects.

What Makes a College Degree “Useless?”

A degree isn’t inherently “useless.” However, some majors struggle to translate into viable career paths due to oversaturation, skills mismatch with employer demands, or better alternative education options. Beyond just low earning potential, a “useless” degree often suffers from:

  • High saturation: Too many graduates competing for limited roles specific to that major
  • Limited demand: The targeted skills lack widespread employer demand
  • Superior alternatives: Shorter programs or non-degree paths prepare students equally well (or better) for related careers

By understanding these factors, students can avoid majors that fail to provide adequate returns on their significant investment of time and money.

The Worst Offenders

Psychology

Psychology degrees tend to be oversaturated as they allow broad career exploration versus technical training. While essential for clinical psychologist roles, a psychology bachelor’s alone provides limited vocational skills for the general job market.

Better Alternative: Focus on specialties like counseling, behavioral analysis, or human services via certifications. A master’s is wise for clinical roles.

College Student Taking Notes

Biology

While vital for specific healthcare careers, a general biology degree can leave graduates adrift without a clear career path or technical skills. Steep competition exists for limited roles viable with just an undergrad biology education.

Better Alternative:

Consider accelerated nursing, radiology tech or other healthcare-adjacent programs for more direct career preparation. Combining biology with coding for biotech or bioinformatics roles is another avenue.

Communications

A communications degree attempts to cover everything from journalism to marketing to public relations. This broad approach often leaves graduates lacking specialized, up-to-date skills employers want.

Better Alternative: Target training in digital marketing analytics, public relations, or advertising rather than a generalist communications track.

Man in Beige Blazer Holding Tablet Computer

Liberal Arts / General Studies

These catch-all degrees pride themselves on academic exploration versus vocational focus. While enriching, they leave graduates struggling to showcase job-specific expertise to employers.

Better Alternative: If general education excites you, pair it with concrete skills like business, accounting, or tech to boost career viability.

Sociology / Anthropology / Archaeology

Cultural study fields provide intellectual stimulation but little practical career training. Most roles require advanced degrees, leaving bachelor holders underprepared.

Better Alternative: Leverage undergrad focus into cultural resource management consulting roles or commit to graduate study for professorial paths.

Art / Art History

Creative fields like art and art history cultivate passion but lack marketable technical skills. Classroom instruction alone rarely equips graduates for self-employed artistic careers.

Better Alternative: Prioritize building a professional portfolio, freelancing expertise, business acumen, and entrepreneurial skills over a traditional art/art history curriculum.

Woman Painting on a Wall

Restaurant Management

 This degree mistakenly teaches leadership through academic classes versus real-world experience. Employers inevitably favor proven restaurant vets over classrooms for management roles.

Better Alternative: On-the-job training and working your way up the ranks provides far more applicable expertise than a restaurant management degree program.

Pop Culture Studies

An overspecialized niche study of trends and entertainment, pop culture degrees exemplify academia’s tendency to greenlight niche programs with dubious career applicability.

Better Alternative: Self-guided study of pop culture trends, writing for fan blogs/publications, and hands-on experience provide more utility than formalized pop culture majors.

Nannying

While caring for children requires training, nannying roles have historically never required a full 4-year university degree. Degree programs in this vein seem exploitative to those wanting to nurture kids.

Better Alternative: Childcare certifications, classes, and experience working at daycares make more sense than a nannying bachelor’s.

Puppetry

 This is an example of higher education allowing hyper-niche pursuits with extremely limited professional prospects. Puppetry skills are best developed through direct mentorship and practice.

Better Alternative: Real-world apprenticing and learning from experienced puppeteers should take priority over formal puppetry majors.

A Woman Holding Two Plush Toy Puppets

Individualized Majors

An increasingly common trend allows students to build ad hoc interdisciplinary majors combining multiple subjects. While flexible, these lack defined skills translation for in-demand careers.

Better Alternative: Follow time-tested structured programs and career pathways instead of piecemealing together courses aimlessly.

Gender Studies

Humanities pursuits like gender studies are the archetypal “impractical” majors, emphasizing academic theories over vocational preparation. Graduates often struggle to demonstrate their job qualifications.

Better Alternative: If exploring gender intrigues you, consider combining it with skills-based majors like data science, economics, public policy, or business.

The “Gray Area” Majors

Not every degree translates poorly to the job market, but some well-known majors carry higher risk unless you take specific precautions. Psychology, Communications, and General Studies can still provide value if:

  • You specialize in a niche, in-demand area within the broader major
  • You supplement the degree with business, tech, or other career skills
  • You have a concrete, researched career plan from day one at college

Taking proactive steps like these can salvage potentially risky majors and increase their career utility.

Check this video, too:

What SHOULD You Do Instead?

Rather than simply trash entire degree programs, let’s explore positive alternatives to misguided majors.

Some of the fastest growing fields with strong employment demand include:

  • Healthcare Roles (Nursing, Radiology, Medical Lab Tech, etc.)
  • Skilled Trades (Electricians, Plumbers, HVAC, etc.)
  • Technology (Programming, Data Analysis, Cybersecurity)
  • Accounting / Finance
  • Engineering (Specialize in emerging fields like Sustainability)

Many of these paths offer apprenticeship programs, affordable technical schools, and online skills-based certifications or bootcamps as alternatives to traditional four-year degrees.

If you’re a high school student, explore all your options – two-year degrees, skilled trades, and high-demand four-year majors like those listed above.

But if you’re already in college but doubting your path, it’s never too late to change majors or transfer schools to get back on a viable career track.

College itself is not the problem. Picking the wrong academic path without proper career research is the pitfall to avoid. Here’s how to make the most of your education investment:

  • Dig into reputable sources on job outlooks and salary data (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, PayScale, etc.)
  • Don’t follow your passion blindly – consider the practicality, demand, and earnings potential in that field.
  • If you love a “risky” liberal arts major, commit to gaining specialized expertise, adding technical skills, and crafting an airtight career strategy.

As an experienced career guide, I’ve helped countless students navigate these critical decisions and land fulfilling jobs aligned with their education.

While passion matters, long-term career sustainability should drive your degree choice. With the proper due diligence into employment prospects, you can avoid the trap of “useless” majors.

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