Special Report

College Majors With the Highest Unemployment

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15. Cognitive science and biopsychology
> Unemployment rate: 4.1%
> Avg. salary: $78,131
> Undergrad degree holders with a master’s or professional degree or higher: 43.9%
> Undergrad degree holders in labor force: 21,987

Cognitive science and biopsychology is an interdisciplinary major in which students study about the human mind and psychological processes that are rooted in biology, such as behavior genetics. A relatively small major, only about 22,000 Americans in the labor force chose cognitive science and biopsychology as undergraduates.

Unemployment is slightly higher among those who studied cognitive science and biopsychology than it is among all college graduates, as the jobless rate is about 4.1%, compared to 2.6%.

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14. Food science
> Unemployment rate: 4.1%
> Avg. salary: $65,212
> Undergrad degree holders with a master’s or professional degree or higher: 44.5%
> Undergrad degree holders in labor force: 43,767

Food science is a major that encompasses the study of nearly all aspects of food, including its consumption, chemical make-up, and manufacturing. Careers for those who study food science include quality testing, food production, and famine prevention.

The jobless rate among the nearly 44,000 Americans who majored in food science is 4.1% — above the 2.6% rate among college graduates but below the 4.5% unemployment rate among all education levels.

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13. Drama and theater arts
> Unemployment rate: 4.2%
> Avg. salary: $47,527
> Undergrad degree holders with a master’s or professional degree or higher: 28.8%
> Undergrad degree holders in labor force: 260,895

Drama and theater arts is one of the more popular majors, with nearly 261,000 bachelor’s degree holders in the labor force. However, jobs in the performing arts can be highly competitive and difficult to obtain. The unemployment rate among those who chose drama and theater arts as a major is 4.2% — higher than it is for the vast majority of those with a degree in other academic disciplines.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, indoor theatrical performances were cancelled across the United States. The 4.2% jobless rate in 2019 among those who studied drama and theater likely spiked far higher in 2020 and 2021.

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12. Applied mathematics
> Unemployment rate: 4.2%
> Avg. salary: $89,756
> Undergrad degree holders with a master’s or professional degree or higher: 46.2%
> Undergrad degree holders in labor force: 46,043

Applied mathematics majors study the application of math principles to other fields such as engineering or science. An estimated 4.2% of bachelor’s degree holders who studied applied mathematics are unemployed, compared to just 2.6% of all labor force participants with at least a four-year degree.

While workers who majored in applied mathematics are more likely than most college graduates to be unemployed, those who are working are also more likely to have high salaries. The average annual pay among those who studied the subject is $89,756, well above the average salary of $63,448 among all college graduates in the workforce.

11. Mining and mineral engineering
> Unemployment rate: 4.3%
> Avg. salary: $87,606
> Undergrad degree holders with a master’s or professional degree or higher: 32.9%
> Undergrad degree holders in labor force: 14,578

Mining and mineral engineering is a highly specialized degree that fewer than 15,000 Americans in the workforce chose as an undergraduate major. Those who choose the major are often studying to become mineral engineers, whose job is to survey, plan, and manage mining operations that remove valuable minerals and metals from the earth for different uses.

An estimated 4.3% of labor force participants who majored in mining and mineral engineering are unemployed, well above the 2.6% jobless rate among all college graduates. Demand for mining engineers is projected to grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, in line with the projected job growth across all occupations.

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