The Best College Majors for Steady Work and High Earnings

college graduates holding diplomasUnemployment has remained stubbornly high the last few years, but certain groups suffer higher rates than others.

Education is a big factor, with less educated groups experiencing more unemployment.

For instance, among workers who only have high school diplomas, almost one in four are unemployed, compared to one in ten recent college grads.

But unemployment can vary in other ways: by college major.

A recent report by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce breaks it down—and in short, it says, "Don't major in architecture or the arts." Okay, so maybe that wasn't an actual quote.

Check out this graphic below, which is based on 2009-2010 census data:

chart showing unemployment by major and degreeThis New York Times blog post notes, however, "The unemployment rate for recent graduates was highest in architecture, at 13.9%, probably at least partly because of the housing market collapse." So the unemployment rate among architecture majors may not represent long-term trends.

If we were to make up another quote from the report, it would say, "If you want to remain steadily employed, major in health or education."

But if you look at the chart below, we wouldn't necessarily recommend education for salary purposes. If it's money that you're after, then look no further than engineering:

chart showing salaries by major and degree

Again, those lucky arts majors "top" the list of those making the least, this time along with the recreation and psychology and social science majors.

But majors aside, the other trend we see loud and clear here is that, on average, those with more education earn more and suffer less unemployment. But as we've noted before, the rising cost of graduate education doesn't make this a slam dunk decision for every individual. Use our grad school calculator to figure out if it makes financial sense for you specifically.

And, of course, refer back to the charts above to check out your prospective areas of study for their job security.

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