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The 12 most useless college majors, according to career experts

Rena Goldman   

The 12 most useless college majors, according to career experts
  • Insider asked career coaches and counselors the worst majors for landing a stable, high-paying gig.
  • They said degrees in acting, English, psychology, and marketing were tough sells in most fields.

Considering the cost of higher education, it's no surprise that many students hope to pursue a major that will snag them a well-paying gig once they graduate.

In a recent survey of job seekers by the job-search platform ZipRecruiter, 44% of respondents with college degrees said they regretted choosing their major — with English, communications, sociology, and marketing management falling under the most regretted majors. Within each field, the survey found, the highest-paid respondents were more likely to be happy about their college-major choice.

While many college advisors will tell you that no major is truly useless — even ZipRecruiter found that of those who regretted their choice of major, 72% said they would choose it again — job experts caution against certain majors that limit your career options and salary potential.

Here are 12 majors that are unlikely to get you a good return on your investment.

1. Acting or theater arts

Brianna Doe, a marketing manager at Inventables who's also a certified career coach and mentor for Arizona State University students and recent graduates, told Insider acting and theater degrees weren't likely to provide transferable skills.

She said the new graduates she'd mentored who studied these fields had struggled to find roles outside theater, especially in the current economic climate, and an internship at a local theater isn't likely to boost your résumé for a corporate role.

2. Film

Film is similar to acting in that you don't need a degree to succeed in the field, Kelly Donovan, who's been a career coach since 2008 and is the principal of Kelly Donovan & Associates, a firm that works with job seekers nationwide, told Insider. "Racking up massive student-loan debt for a film degree is risky," she said.

Instead, she said to think about the degree after getting some in-the-field experience.

Doe said she was able to pivot her film degree into a marketing career, but she had to work to communicate how her skills translated. When communicating her story to prospective employers, Doe focused on what film study taught her about how media influenced society, how society affected media, and how that related to marketing and building an audience.

3. Anthropology

If you want to get a job as an anthropologist, you'll likely need to go to graduate school. Otherwise, Donovan said, your bachelor's won't be useful.

"Most private-sector employers don't have a demand for candidates with specialized anthropology knowledge," she said.

4. Civilization studies

Unless you're going into the field of archaeology, Doe said there's not much you could do with a major in civilization studies when trying to land a job because it's such a specific area of study — the degree focuses on how the world and civilization have evolved and is designed for those who want to work in archaeology.

5. Philosophy

Philosophy is another niche degree that isn't much use outside the field if you don't pair it with a graduate degree. According to Doe, it's not worth spending the money if you don't plan on working in that field. While some skills the degree teaches, such as critical thinking and analysis, are useful, it might be hard to market yourself outside academia.

6. Psychology

Many roles in the field of psychology require graduate degrees, so if that's not in your plan, Donovan said, it's not the right move because the earning potential is much lower without a graduate degree.

"You could still use your knowledge of human behavior to build a strong career in a field like sales, but you could also just earn a business degree and take a few psychology classes as electives," she said.

7. Communications

Building a career with a communications degree alone can be challenging, Ronnie Green, a retired career counselor for Jewish Community Services, told Insider. She said communications was one of the most common degrees among people who sought career counseling from her.

"I've run into hiring managers, colleagues, and friends who really struggle to communicate the value of that degree," Doe added.

8. English

Majoring in English can be a smart move if you plan to be a teacher or a writer, but it's hard to carve out a lifelong career from this major without going to graduate school, Green said.

An English degree can serve you well in careers related to writing and content creation, such as journalism, web-content writing, copywriting, technical writing, or grant writing. But students who aren't sure what they want to do after graduation should go with a business major because that comes with more-transferable skills, Doe said.

9. History

Like an English degree, history is useful only if you want to get a job related to history. You might also need a graduate degree for some of those roles, such as professor, librarian, or lawyer.

Doe recommended having a specific idea of what you want to do with a history degree before pursuing one. For example, consider whether you want to work in a museum, work as a historian, or use the degree as a starting point for a degree in law or teaching.

10. Interior design

Interior design is another specific degree that's useful pretty much only if you go into the field.

"You're not going to get your return on investment," Doe said, adding that you're better off going with a graphic-design degree.

11. Marketing

There are plenty of career options in marketing, but Doe said the field was rapidly changing.

"You can't even really read a book about marketing and expect it to be completely irrelevant by the time you're done," she said.

12. Photography

Photography can be a great career path, but Donovan said you didn't need a four-year degree to get work in the field.

"You could take a few photography classes on an ad-hoc basis rather than going into debt pursuing a degree for four years," she said.