Americans with a bachelor’s degree are nearly half as likely to be unemployed as those with only a high school diploma. While earning a college degree is a proven way to reduce the likelihood of unemployment, not all undergraduate fields of study provide equally solid job security.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the college majors with the lowest unemployment rate. Across all labor force participants with a bachelor’s degree, the annual unemployment rate stood at 2.6% in 2019. Among the majors that were finalists on the list, the unemployment rate at that time ranged from 1.7% to effectively zero.
It is important to note that since 2019, the U.S. job market has changed markedly, largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment soared from a multidecade low to a high not seen since the Great Depression in just a matter of months, affecting Americans of all education levels.
Still, the U.S. economy appears now to be on track for a strong recovery. Many of the majors on the list prepare students for occupations that likely will remain in demand for years to come.
As student debt soars in the United States, job security in future career prospects is not the only factor for students to consider when choosing a major. Earning potential also will affect the financial footing of college graduates, and many of the most secure jobs are not necessarily high paying. All but seven majors on the list have salaries lower than the average annual salary of $63,448 among working college graduates.
The degree with the lowest unemployment is military technologies, with an unemployment rate of 0.0%. Here are some more details:
- Average salary: $52,807
- Undergrad degree holders with a master’s or professional degree or higher: 35.8%
- Undergrad degree holders in labor force: 3,887
Military technologies majors are preparing for careers in the armed services, specifically in specialized segments such as weaponry, strategy and leadership. The degree is not offered at most schools, and fewer than 4,000 labor force participants majored in the field. The major is also one of only a handful for which the unemployment rate among those who studied the subject is effectively zero.
The coursework for students in the major develops their math, science and computer skills, and it also tests and builds their physical endurance.
To determine the college major with the lowest unemployment rate, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on employment status and undergraduate major from the Public Use Microdata Sample summary files of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. Undergraduate college majors were ranked based on the number of unemployed individuals with a bachelor’s degree in that major as share of all members of the civilian labor force with that major in 2019. Data on earnings and educational attainment also came from the Census Bureau.
Data on field of study and employment status are self-reported by the survey’s respondents. To be included in the dataset, the respondents must have graduated and received a bachelor’s degree. While the respondents were able to list the field of study for any bachelor’s degree they have received and may have listed multiple majors, only the first major listed was considered in this analysis. Majors noted as a miscellaneous subset of a more common field of study were excluded from our analysis.
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