Feeling Worthless? The 10 Majors Most Likely To Lead To Underemployment

Tyler Durden's picture


When it comes to worthless majors, it is no secret that "liberal arts" are at the top of the heap. This is the conclusion of not just the real world: a recent survey of 68,000 workers by salary information firm PayScale confirmed as much when asking the humanities majors themselves, and where employees with degrees in fields like English, general studies, and graphic design were among the most likely to report feeling "underemployed" at their current jobs.

Also, that the list was topped of by Criminal Justice majors probably speaks more about the current captured state of US crony capitalism than anything else.  But what is surprising is that graduates with more "practical" degrees in fields like business administration, ranking second in terms of pay dissatisfaction, also said their jobs didn't put their education, training or experience to work as much as they should. In other words, Wall Streeters thought they were underpaid. Actually did we say "surprising"... scratch that.

Some more from the WaPo:

Why the poor showing for business majors? PayScale notes that in many cases, a simple bachelor's degree in business might not get you very far - a more advanced degree like an MBA might be necessary "in order to set up recipients for jobs in their fields."


At the other end of the spectrum, STEM fields produced graduates with the least likelihood of underemployment. Engineering degrees accounted for six of the ten least underemployed majors. Law, physics, geology and mathematics made up the remaining four.


What causes workers to feel underemployed? Most survey respondents cited poor pay as a leading factor. PayScale also notes that "nine of the 10 most underemployed majors are female-dominated," making underemployment a factor in the gender wage gap. Conversely, many of the least underemployed majors are dominated by men, according to a 2013 Georgetown survey.

In total, about 43 percent of respondents to the PayScale survey reported feeling underemployed. It was unclear if the other 57% were just unemployed to begin with.

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Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:12 | 5148657 Cattender
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Well, the World needs Ditch Diggers Too!

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:14 | 5148667 Stoploss
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We have meskins for that.

More arriving daily!!

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:24 | 5148719 Shocker
Shocker's picture

Thats why you invest money in yourself, not in a piece of paper

Layoff / Closing List: http://www.dailyjobcuts.com


Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:33 | 5148747 Vampyroteuthis ...
Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

I have degrees in the 4th "best" major and have had two rounds of unemployment. This article skews the fact there is a significant lack of any jobs out there now.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:54 | 5148841 TexasAggie
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I have a BS Civil Engineering and a MS (Envir Eng), and in over 50 yrs had two periods of unemployment, one due to wife relocating, and the other, our engineering firm lost a large renewal of a contract by EPA. both period wre less than 6 months.

For the English lit, at least they can probably quote Shakespear while they flip the hamburger, unless they studied some of the more modern lit?

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 10:31 | 5148996 CrazyCooter
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The top ten list looks good ... except law. Dig into that and you will discover (1) it takes a lot of years to earn compared to the others, and (2) if you don't graduate from a top school then opportunity is vastly restricted. This is to the point that many law schools *know* their grad employment rate is abysmal but hide it and lard up kids with loans.

I would also point out that in a healthy market salary is tied to (1) value creation and (2) difficulty. If it takes unique skills, intellect, and has a market willing to pay for it, it will pay well. That is why engineering is so prevalent in the list; engineering is hard and it is required to make/produce/build useful stuff people want.



Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:23 | 5149236 indygo55
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More and more employers are looking for someone who can solve problems in a productive way. That takes critical thinking and some hands on application of ones person to the problem. The degree is not as importanmt any more as so many grads come around with this attitude of entitlement when the real work is not what they want or are able to do. A couple of years of college and a couple of years of making things work in all ways is what i am looking for. Innovation occurs on the production floor be it a manufacturing plant or a service center. Sitting in an ivory tower is no longer available. I hire bright willing and worldly aware individuals who are willing to bend the model to get to the success I need. 



Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:47 | 5149342 Arthor Bearing
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Even the best major has 20% underemployment. The best!

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:25 | 5149519 jbvtme
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look at this shit hole we call planet earth.  it's the engineers who got us here...

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:02 | 5149712 knukles
knukles's picture

A business degree in management and administration is like a government bureaucrat job training program. 
Utterly worthless.
We used to call the "Cowboy and Indian Majors"

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:06 | 5149744 barre-de-rire
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it is a must to be trained to be ineffective afterward....

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:29 | 5149884 Raymond K Hessel
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Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:05 | 5149737 froze25
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And it will be people of vision and engineers that get us out.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:23 | 5149846 Citxmech
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Or not.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:46 | 5149973 lcs
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If you want to see shitholes take a look at planet earth before engineers invented paved roads. 

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:37 | 5149498 PacOps
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You are absolutely correct.

My associates and I fit what you are looking for to a T. We were called Technical Specialists, could solve any hardware problem or software bug anytime anywhere. We got our asses flown all over the world to do just that when the local techs & engineers were at wits end. Only problem now is that we are all in our 70s & 80s. We sure had a hell of a good time from the 60s on. You would have had a hard time keeping us in one location for very long tho.

I don't think any of us had a 4 year degree. Most former military technicians.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:26 | 5149869 toady
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Yep, not quite at the "flying all over the world" level, and only in 80s, 90s, & 00s, but I was a "technical supervisor", "supervising technician" & "technical specialist" at various points in my career. That's where the rubber meets the road in IT.

The boys (and increasingly girls) with the degrees are project managers, program managers, and other "man"agment titles. They sit on conference calls all day talking about what the "techs" did last night.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:26 | 5150244 RichardP
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And that is as it should be.  Management has two basic definitions:  1.) Getting work done through other people, and; 2.) Allocating scarce resources among competing objectives (of which, Point 1 is a part of the allocation process).

It is the technicians who always get the actual work done.  But people don't naturally coordinate amongst themselves, nor do they naturally allocate scarece resources efficiently and effectively.  That is why there is always a need for a person or persons to define the vision and create and execute appropriate controls to verify that everyone's efforts are directed toward bringing the vision to life (budgets, performance reviews, etc).

Managers don't always do well what they should be doing.  And often there are more managers than necessary.  But the fact remains, where large numbers of people are needed in order to complete a project, folks are needed to manage those people and collect the statistics that show progress toward the goal.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:27 | 5150260 PacOps
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Ha! Right! Our managers rarely "managed" us - other that the occasional performance review when they told us how much our next raise was. We were left alone because we just took care of business.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 16:23 | 5151032 RichardP
RichardP's picture

That's the best kind of worker/management relationship.  But that is still a style of managing - recognizing that your workers are competent and leaving them alone to do their job.  But I'm sure your managers kept track of your "output" and made regular reports up the chain of command - the command and control part.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:05 | 5150075 SilverRhino
SilverRhino's picture

High school diploma here

Been laid off 3 times in the last 15 years.  

  • First time was unemployed for 3 months.
  • Second time had a job before the final day and fucked the outsourcing company in the a$$ (only bridge I've burned professionally)
  • Third time got caught by surprise and had a job next week.

Income level :  top 5% to top 1%

It's not the paper, it's what you know how to do.  And to an extent who you know.  Professional contacts are CRITICAL.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 10:49 | 5149069 HardAssets
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Getting a classical education - those subjects covered by the Trivium and which include knowing how to gather information, spot logical fallacies & think critically, and communicating & implementing your ideas - is important. Unfortunately, today most 'liberal arts' programs aren't about a true classical education. They are a mish-mash of unrelated subjects. Those programs have more than their share of propaganda and social conditioning aimed at students.  The technical fields teach the scientific method, but the application is very narrow - to their specific jobs. Most scientists and engineers are specialist technologists, and are as vulnerable to political & social propaganda as the general population. - - - - On the other hand, the children of the 'elites' receive a true classical education in private prep schools. By the time they enter an Ivy League college, they already have the necessary background and are basically just making personal contacts that will be valuable to them later.

My undergraduate education was in engineering. We used to scoff at 'liberal arts' students (with some justification). We knew nothing about a true classical education.

I can't imagine why a kid would spend incredible amounts of money to study 'liberal arts' in most colleges today. (There are some exceptions). He can gain a true classical education on his own for little money. He won't be forced to listen to propaganda or take classes that have no relation to one another or to an overall sound education.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:06 | 5149159 dontgoforit
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Just because I went to college doesn't mean I ain't stupid.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:17 | 5149202 Bananamerican
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Am so

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:33 | 5149901 de3de8
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Are too

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:12 | 5149179 BandGap
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The liberal arts college I attended included degrees in Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Math. Liberal arts has taken on a different meaning these days.

Regardless, it's a tough work environment right now.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:14 | 5149467 KnuckleDragger-X
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Any degree program with the word 'studies' in it disqualifies you from any burger flipper job, it does however qualify you to scrub toilets...

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:33 | 5149902 toady
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"Scrub toilets" is the wifes go-to line when one of the kids gets bad grades 

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:15 | 5149880 Citxmech
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I wouldn't trade my undergraduate degree in philosophy for anything.  No, it has never "gotten me a job" as such - but with that, along with a couple of technical degrees at the community college and post graduate degree - I've never been unable to find work.  It has also helped immeasurably in my ability to identify and maintain a high quality of life.


Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:32 | 5150302 RichardP
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He can gain a true classical education on his own for little money.

One free resource:


Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:07 | 5149746 Drummond
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Alright alright no need to show off. We are all fairly well educated here mate. it's not a knob measuring contest.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:56 | 5148848 Bunghole
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My Geology degree has got me laid off twice after market crashes (1999 and 2009).

I'm looking at taking a sabatical after the next one and doing some diving for that sunken boat I lost.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 10:02 | 5148869 eclectic syncretist
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Good points Vampy.  Meanwhile, our youngster's idolize fat-assed talentless whores and effeminate poser boys devoid of any sense of responsibility or true self-respect.  I guess we should have learned to play the sax.


Wed, 08/27/2014 - 10:11 | 5148913 IronShield
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There are a plethora of reasons for that.  You don't believe that just because you have a degree in one of the "best" majors that you are necessarily entitled to a job, do you?

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 10:38 | 5149027 CrazyCooter
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As I posted above, it is because the degree is difficult to earn (restricted supply) and is used to produce marketable products people are willing to pay for (demand).

That said, when deflation really comes home to roost, it will also hit workers who previously had been immune to such things. When Americans being to truly experience a decline in standard of living, a lot of high paying jobs are going with that decline because demand for those products/services/etc will fall.



Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:12 | 5149176 plane jain
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Trades: Plumbing, Electrical, Welding, Carpentry


Those seem the most likely to make it as far as I can tell.  I like to eat, get treatment for pain/illness, sleep inside with modern plumbing and electric if possible, and everything takes energy in some form.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:30 | 5149271 sessinpo
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plane jain    Farming


Trades: Plumbing, Electrical, Welding, Carpentry


Those seem the most likely to make it as far as I can tell.  I like to eat, get treatment for pain/illness, sleep inside with modern plumbing and electric if possible, and everything takes energy in some form.


And the problem with deflation is the cycle. It isn't just decline in demand for goods and services that lead to lower prices. It is also that demand is down because more people are unemployed and can't afford such goods and services like all the ones you mentioned. Nothing is not affected.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:08 | 5150113 mkkby
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Don't kid yourself.  These trades are all being invaded by mexicans.  It's tough to make a buck there too and it's back breaking labor.  By the time you're 50 you better have a nice savings because your body won't be able to take it much longer.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:23 | 5149229 GooseShtepping Moron
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Thank you for this concise, commonsense post which says a lot of what needs to be said on this particular subject.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:09 | 5149165 Kirk2NCC1701
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Good point Vampy.  What this or any similar article does not address, is the impact of Foreign Students who get a job in the US after they graduate.

Employers (especially all along the West Coast) will hire a Chinese or Indian student almost always:  The H1B1 visa ties the student/employee to them (so they can't job-hop for higher salaries), they have no "Attitude", and all large companies sell stuff to Governments, they get the "HR Points" for hiring so-called "minorities".  Although it is rather ironic to call someone from India or China a "minority". 

Hell, people at work even make private jokes that if a person is a "bi-racial, hermaphrodite paraplegic", that they only need to fog the mirror to get the job.  That's an exaggeration to make a point, but you'd be amazed who gets hired and who does not.  Although this PC disease is all-pervasive in large companies (because of DC), small companies are a different story, since they don't have to meet the same requirements.

I've been to various HP and Intel campuses over the years, and it is no exaggeration than it is usually the white guys/gals who are the "minority", and that their Campus populations do NOT represent the demographics of the general US population.

I also know of many who go back to India or China after a few years and compete with us from over there.  Thanks, US Taxpayer!  Thanks government liberals!

When the cancer that is "government" can't grow because of Honest Money, ALL SORTS of economic and social problems disappear.  But we all know (here on ZH) that this won't fly with Globalist Banksters, whose biz models are predicated on (a) Central Planning and (b) an ever-expanding money supply, i.w. Fiat Currency + FRB.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:13 | 5149186 BandGap
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10% of the incoming freshman class at the University of Illinois this year is foreign Asian. The school needs the money and they are making no bones about it.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:23 | 5149234 lordylord
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RE Kirk2NCC1701:

I agree with about half of what you say.  The other half is BS.  The majority of people in professional scientist/engineering positions are white males.  Tied in 2nd are asian males and females.  I rarely see a black person.  When I do, they are African and not African American. 

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:12 | 5149453 Pendolino
Pendolino's picture

I think Kirk2NCC1701 is referring more to IT engineering. I worked for 10 years for a large software company in the Bay Area. Our team had 20 software engineers in it - one white American male, one white Scottish male, the rest were Indian, Chinese or Iranian. In that entire time we only hired another white American male, who interviewed well and lasted 3 months before being put on the plan and eventually fired. He was book smart and useless at doing the real job. Every time we had a hiring round we'd hardly ever get white Americans applying, despite the jobs being advertised in the national press. Most of us were on H1B visas to begin with then we got our green cards. 10 years further down the line most of them are still working in the States. In the 10 years I was there I probably paid more in state and federal taxes than most American workers pay in a lifetime, so we certainly paid our share back into the system. And I don't imagine for a minute that I'll ever see a penny of my US pension ...

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:50 | 5149356 Dewey Cheatum Howe
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The H1B1 visa also exempts the companies hiring them from Obamacare restrictions. Why do you think full time jobs that are left are also getting hammered across the board in favor of temp workers and H1B1 imports....


Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:10 | 5150132 RaceToTheBottom
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Plus all the H1Bs screw up the savings of the few American techies that are allowed to contract.  The H1Bs don't need 401Ks and such since they are initially planning on leaving.  This restricts the "normally paid" Americans to less than the maximum use of vehicles like the 401K...

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:07 | 5149428 Steaming_Wookie_Doo
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I'm in IT. Internships (summer or otherwise) are the premier way to get an audition at a desirable workplace. My husband has hired a couple of them straight away, even waiting for one to finish his degree (none of them foreign btw). These are paid positions, so it's not total poverty as it might be in fashion industry, etc. You get your hand at seeing what the day-to-day is like, solving problems on the same level as the paid mid to snr level guys. Shine and you'll get snapped up.

My son has already expressed his interest in engineering, showing good problem solving skills and tenacity. I'm going to get him into internships come next summer. Unpaid is fine, but he'll start to get into the groove of what's needed and wanted at the avg shop, even if it's emptying the garbage cans and being a gopher at first. If you can prove basics, you'll get to do something interesting.

I think in this "instant" age, people are dissatisfied when they don't get promoted every year. From jr to mid level might be 3 yrs, to snr level might be 5-8 yrs of experience. The guys who ascend faster are putting in 60-70 hrs/wk. Those who chair warm for 40 hrs a wk, not asking for more, will not move fast at all.

As for not reflecting general demographics, STEM jobs only represent the demographics of those who are really good in school and/or those who are wanting to devote a lot of time to perfecting and augmenting their tech skills. This isn't for everyone.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:58 | 5149692 Hooter Shaker
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Working by the hour is slavery.  Start your own business and the only thing to keep you from prosperity is YOU.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:50 | 5150462 toady
toady's picture

The 60-70+ hour weeks are a trap, and it's the one I stepped in...

Eating up all the extra hours, while only paid for forty was fine when I was 20-30, but it does eventually wear on you, if not physically, then mentally. Towards the end, when they pushed me for over forty, to miss the kids little league games, to skip vacations, all free to them, it was "fuck you, pay me."

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:12 | 5149458 slowimplosion
slowimplosion's picture

You are WAY OFF.  The Chinese and Indians are not hired because of any nonsense "minority" requirements, they are hired because they will work for a lot less money.  You are trying to over complicate something that is really simple.  It's about the money.

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:29 | 5149541 lordylord
lordylord's picture

Exactly.  I can't imagine that a company would screw itself and hire an unqualified minority in any position of importance.  Would they?

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