There are over 170 different fields of study tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau in which undergraduate students can earn a degree. Despite the wide range of academic subjects offered at colleges and universities, over half of the 75 million American adults with a bachelor’s degree majored in one of just 15 fields of study.
Majors such as business, nursing, teaching, accounting, and biology are each among the most popular with undergraduates — and with good reason. Degrees in these fields prepare students for careers in essential industries like health care, education, and retail, where job opportunities are available in cities and towns across the country. Here is a look at the college majors with the lowest unemployment.
Of course, just as these industries are practically ubiquitous, many others are specific to certain parts of the country. As a result, workers with degrees in less popular or more specialized subjects are often concentrated only in certain areas.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most unique college degree in every state as defined by the location quotient, or relative concentration. That is, college majors were ranked based on the share of adults in a given state with a specific degree relative to the share of adults nationwide with the same degree. For example, petroleum engineering ranks as the most unique college degree in Alaska, as adults in the state are over 15 times more likely than the typical American adult to have a degree in the subject.
As is the case in Alaska, the most unique degree in a given state is often a reflection of a key industry that might be far less common in other parts of the country. In many cases, this is attributable to the presence of natural resources, like oil or mineral deposits, or geographic features, like a coastline.
Though demand for workers with these specific degrees appears to be higher than average in the states in which they are more unique, compensation is not necessarily higher than average. In fact, in just over half of all states, the average earnings among those with the most unique degree is less than what it is nationwide. Here is a look at the highest paying college majors.
To determine the most unique college degree in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the share of adults 25 years and older by detailed undergraduate major from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample. College majors were ranked within each state according to their location quotient — the percentage of adults within a state with a certain bachelor’s degree relative to the percentage of adults with the respective degree nationwide — a metric used to measure relative concentration within a specific geography. The college major or field of study with the highest location quotient was considered the most unique college degree in every state.
Data on average annual earnings for adults 25 years and over with each degree and the percentage of adults 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree or higher also came from the 2019 ACS. College degrees with “miscellaneous” in their title were excluded from consideration.