The 13 Most Useless Majors And Why They Don’t Matter

I used to be a college tour guide, in which I told prospective students that they could choose from over 150 different majors at my school. Apparently, 13 or so of them are completely useless — including mine. How about yours? Is your entire collegiate career a sham of actual productivity?

Earlier this week, The Daily Beast had the nerve to publish a list that finally identifies the thirteen most useless majors that college students call their own too often. The lucky thirteen was based on the undoubtedly truthful practices of science and statistics:

“This year we started with new research (PDF) from Georgetown University — which drew from two years of census data to determine the prospects for myriad majors — to narrow down our list to more than three dozen popular college majors. We also used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, equally weighing the following categories to determine current and future employment and earnings potential for our final ranking: Recent graduate employment, experienced graduate employment, recent graduate earnings, experienced graduate earnings, [and] projected growth in total number of jobs, 2010–2020.”

So basically, these were selected from the most popular majors in college, and then deemed “useless” when measuring how much money they haven’t earned past graduates and how many of them are still looking for jobs altogether. More importantly, these supposedly breakthrough findings are based on data collected over the past two years — you know, two of the bleakest years that our country has seen for quite a long time now.

And of course, which industries take a heavy blow throughout an economic recession? Without even looking at the list of overwhelming university uselessness just yet, it’s easy to guess that the liberal arts are, once again, deemed unfit for the blessed brains of science, math, engineering, etc.

I once defended all liberal arts majors on CollegeCandy, and I’ll do it again if I have to. I could continue my rant about how careers in the liberal arts aren’t as clear-cut as those in science-related fields, and I’d reiterate how so many people — more people than we think — don’t necessarily pursue careers in the fields they initially chose when they were 18-year-old freshmen in college. Because 18-year-olds don’t always make good decisions, and neither do 22-year-old graduates who are still somewhat confused by the direction of the rest of their lives, as well as 50-year-olds who undergo a career change after they’re flat-out disappointed in whatever they eventually chose to pursue.

However, I think it’s more important here to see how inaccurate the definitions of “useful” and “useless” are in this list’s context. These majors’ “uselessness” doesn’t matter at all because the definition of “usefulness” does not capture personal happiness, worldwide impact or cultural contribution — it only measures how fast YOU can pay off YOUR student loans by getting a high-paying job after graduation. But honestly, getting your money’s worth from a major and actually doing something useful with it are two different things. The nurse who majored in biology and spent a decade weighing patients on scales and measuring people’s blood pressure may not be as useful as the filmmaker who exposed an injustice through a documentary. Who has a bigger impact on the world? Who can be called more useful?

Even more so, “useful” majors would be nothing without the “useless” ones — what industry can function without artists to create advertising or language majors to publicize it…or even write a manual for that fancy scientific invention? And what will all those useful people do with their free time, if not veg out in front of the television, watch movies, listen to music, read the news, or enjoy some other product from a liberal arts major? Sure, science may save lives, but art makes life worth living.

See for yourself how “useless” the following 13 majors are, and how messed up our world would be if bright minds like us stopped majoring in them:

Are there certain college majors that are more useless than others? Or does its “usefulness” really depend on what is done with it after graduation?

Ashley is a UC San Diego grad who is holding on way too tightly to a potential career in magazines and goes to Vegas all too often. She’s fascinated with celebrities and strawberry beer and doubles as a pathological texter/emailer/blogger. Feed the addiction with tweets @cashleelee. Thanks in advance.



  1. Lisa says:

    It's not in my place don't judge and therefore I don't. It is silly to judge people on what they are doing, nomatter if it is their major, diet or any other aspect of life.
    If you do something you believe in, and that you can do it's fine by me. I support my friends in whatever they do if it makes them happy. I don't care if they choose an education with low income or high unemployment rate. I don't even care if I think they might fail miserably. I'll support them and be there for them, just like they would to me.
    Do what you gotta do, and good luck with whatever major you have

  2. […] • The Top 13 Most Useless Majors. (CollegeCandy) […]

  3. breathehiphop says:

    Different strokes for different folks.

  4. Alexa says:

    I wouldn't call archaeology a useless major and I don't think others would either. Archaeology is used in everyday life. Anytime someone wants to build on a site archaeologists have to come in and make sure it's not historical. I wouldn't call that "useless".

  5. Kate says:

    I would never call any of these "useless," (how RUDE!) however, some of these majors may not offer as many opportunities for employment without an advanced degree or certification. I'm sure the students who choose these degrees are aware of that, though.

    I'm surprised and relieved that my major, Communication, wasn't listed. I constantly have to hear about how my major is for "idiots, sorority bimbos and ex-jocks," even though there are many careers that one can go into with a Comm degree (Reporting, PR, Advertising, Promotions, Event Planning and my current career path- Sales).

  6. Laura says:

    I guess it's all about the person, not the major. If you chose your major because you wanted an easy course load or no early lectures, but you're not really interested in it, then yes, your major is useless. But as long as you're doing something you're passionate about and excited to do, you can make a contribution to the world.

    1. Lo. says:

      True that, Laura!

    2. Ashley Lee - UC San Diego says:


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  8. Leigh says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I've seen 'useless major' lists everywhere and it makes me so angry. If you are passionate about something, continuing your education in it is definitely not useless! My major, English, always pops up on the list which I don't understand whatsoever. English majors are better able to analyze and write, two of the most important things in almost any career. From teachers to copy editors to lawyers to every job where one must communicate, English is important! (and the other 12 are important to of course!) =)

  9. Abby says:

    So basically business is the way to go! Yay !

  10. Jear says:

    "Sure, science may save lives, but art makes life worth living." I just loved what you said there

    1. Ashley Lee - UC San Diego says:


  11. Lena says:

    These are the best pictures!

    1. Ashley Lee - UC San Diego says:

      I'll use any excuse to post pics of The Devil Wears Prada and She's All That. :)

  12. Melissa says:

    I just had to point out – and I could be wrong – but it says the finding were from two years of CENSUS data. A census occurs every 10 years…sooo, the way I understand this is that the two-year data was obtained a decade apart…which makes this a hell of a lot more relevant than you're giving it credit for.

  13. Melissa says:

    One more comment – the slide show…really? You're being overly ignorant there. I understand a blog is somewhere you state an opinion, but it's also good to showcase an objective opinion. Don't get me wrong, my career is unconventional – I'm a digital marketer for eCommerce. A lot of the majors listed as useless are necessary for my career, but at the same time taking an objective stance I understand that those things are useful to me out of pure luck and the fact that my career is, for the time-being, unconventional. Had i not essentially become a copywriter/advertiser/seo & social media guru, I'd be unemployed. A lot of the times, it's only with a mixture of the talents pertaining to several of those majors that get you a job. We have to be honest, economic times are hard, employers can't afford to keep all of us, and if all you're sporting is a single talent from a literature degree, as opposed to – for example – myself who studied literature for 2 years and then switched into business, guess who the employer is going to choose?

    1. Heather says:

      The employer will probably choose to keep the most valuable person. The person withheld the best work ethic and best employee review. Just because someone has a different degree doesn't mean that they are any better or worse in a certain position.

  14. Kristen says:

    Great article! We need to be our own advocates and show the world why what we do is important. Our society unfortunately tends to take the things that those college majors produce for granted. Yes, not every writer, musician, or artist will produce brilliant art. Whose fault is it thought that they are being rewarded for mediocracy? Society! Our society enjoys crappy music with the same ol' chord progressions, they enjoy smutty easy reads, they like art that they can understand easily. Our society really has moved to a line of thinking that doesn't care how we get there, just get it done and do it now. Somehow I really think scientific majors easier for society to praise and except due to the sheer fact that they know that hard evidence exists to support it's validity. While there is also evidence and research that has been conducted for each of those 13 majors the explanation behind it more abstract and requires a different type of thinking that I believe our society just doesn't care to think about. I know it's not all of society, but it's enough to make this an issue.

  15. Jazz says:

    Who made that slide show???.. Are you blind? without those major your world is full of crap!.. OH, wait.. are you a journalist??

    1. Ashley Lee - UC San Diego says:

      This list was made the The Daily Beast and based on data. I didn't make the list, I'm arguing that their conclusions are invalid. I also read articles before I comment on them, but that's just me and my journalistic tendencies.

  16. Rubes says:

    I'm a philosophy major and I used to defend it. But now, I truly think that it's the most useless major on this planet. I can't wait to be done with it, since it's too late for me to switch now.

    1. Wonderfox says:

      But the fact is that there are still many people would like to choose philosophy as their major subject. Hope they don't think the same as you.

  17. Ashley says:

    I’m majoring in Government and Government is NOT a useless major. None of the other majors listed are either. Get your facts straight on your BIASED opinions, cause that’s what they are, just opinions.

    1. Morgan says:

      You do realize that the whole point of this article was to point out how these majors are often seen as useless, but aren't, right? That's why there's the caption above that says it's to show "how messed up our world would be if bright minds like us stopped majoring in them."


  18. Jenny says:

    Any STEM major is extremely useful, like mine in statistics. Anything in the liberal arts, however, is bloated and quite literally useless, especially considering the current state of our schools and economy.

  19. ACM says:

    Just sayin… I WAS a biology major, and THEN switched to nursing. Nurses don't major in biology, they major in the science of nursing. And while I seriously dislike nursing and plan to switch careers as soon as possible, and I like to think I understand where you are coming from, in defense of majors that get a lot of crap, I WILL defend the science majors, especially the nursing majors. Not only have we done more than most students could handle in our undergrad years alone, but we do MUCH more than weigh patients all day long. Trust me. I know that's not the point of your article, but if we're all here defending our majors, whether they;re "useful" or not, whether we like them or not, I figured I would just throw in my two cents.

    BOTTOM LINE: Nurses get as much crap (literal and figurative), if not more, than liberal arts majors do, so while you defend yourself, watch who else you're talking about.

    1. SDR says:

      Wow. Don't know why you got voted down. You're right. People obviously have issues.

  20. Lo. says:

    Woo my degree is history will be useless! I saw the title of this article and KNEW history would be on there. Every major is USEFUL, or they wouldn't exist as professions.

    1. Isabelle says:

      Okay. Alrighty then, if you are certain that you made a choice of education that will form good basis for future employment, are you able to state clearly what this employment will be, how it is linked to your degree and how it will serve society (taxes you'll pay, research, etc)? It's not about the money. I'm asking because it is my belief that too many people do degrees in things that interest them and assume that a job will just appear on the day following graduation. Maybe you can set me straight.

      In my opinion there should be two phases of education. Phase I is what you study to make sure you are able to build a life for yourself and Phase II is what you study out of interest but only after you've established yourself. There is nothing to say your hobby can't become your career later but the primary objective of studying after high school should be putting a shelter over your head, food on your table and support the lifestyle you want.

  21. dakota says:

    I loved this. As a music major, I receive a lot of flack. When I am listening to music that I have to identify for a listening exam, I've had people in other majors say "Gee, can we switch? You have it easy." Funny thing is that if they spent a day in my shoes they would see that my major is incredibly difficult. While I have a lot of respect for other majors and what a person chooses to do with their life, I see no respect for the fact that I am perfecting a craft and that I am going to be a music educator. Anyone who enjoys any sort of art should realize that there is use in majoring in it. Could I sing before I came to college? Sure. Am I far, far better at my craft after the past two years of studying it? YES. Liberal arts are important.

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  23. Isabelle says:

    I think the point isn't so much that those are useless majors, the world does need people who have majored in those degrees, the issue is with how many people we have with those degrees. There are more people with those degrees than there are jobs available. That is the main issue. Also at issue is the unhappiness of people with certain degrees with their ability to earn a living. To me, that mainly stems from a lack of an analysis of the opportunities available post-degree prior to setting off on a course of study. Was I interested in studying philosophy? You bet! Did I think I'd be able to find a high paying job with such a degree? No. I did, however, have other interests that did provide for better future employment opportunities and it is with those that I went. Now I have a high paying job that I enjoy and the ability to study in those areas that also interest me but had not formed a suitable basis for a career. Lastly, let's not forget that many of those who have successful careers in some of those areas, such as art, cinema, etc, do not actually hold a university degree in that particular field.

  24. Jen says:

    I have a bachelor's degree in fine arts, and I'm working in the video game industry, just as I had originally intended. If you want to work as a 3d modeler, or in the animation industry, a fine arts degree is what you want.

  25. Chris says:

    I found the above article to be quite well written and the salient point I took from it was that "useless" means different things to different people. I find headlines however are usually crafted to have loaded terms with double meanings as they are more effective at catching a reader's attention.

    In this context I think "Most Useless" is really those "most unlikely to translate into gainful employment related to the field of study". Now while the captions in the slideslow are amusing they dont really do much to rebut that assertion. Instead they focus on the unrelated definitions of useless leveraged by the author[s] of the original article in order capture a reader's interest.

    For example, JEN gives a counter example… a fine arts major in a relevant employment. However the article was about likelyhood… were the article claiming is was impossible to have such then a single counter example would certainly be enough.

    But given then provided definition of "useless" in this context and steadfastly refusing to allow other flavours of "usefullness" into the discussion as they are out of context [not because they are wrong or invalid… but simply out of context]… I dont think many could reasonably deny that this list is pretty "useless", in so much as they probably are the 13 majors most unlikely to translate into gainful employment".

    These majors may well be useful to a society at large but we likely have enough of them.

  26. Lavinia says:

    in which I told prospective students that they could choose from over 150 different majors at my school.

  27. Nelly says:

    I completely agree with Laura's statement that it's more the person rather than the major. There are plenty of people majoring who've majored in one of "your 13 most useless majors" who've gone onto successful careers. As a history major, I spend a great deal of my time reading, writing, and developing critical analytical skills. I've learned to consider a variety of sources and voice my opinion orally and in writing. I also believe you missed the most important factor: a person's motivation to do the work required for their major. Personally, I love my major and to me the work doesn't feel like a chore. I think it's much more important to have someone passionate in their field, rather than a group of graduates who are just going through the motions. I feel the key to success doesn't just lie in what a person does in the classroom, but rather their involvement outside. Gaining a college education isn't just about the grades you earn in your classes, rather it encompasses something much broader than that. The work skills gained through internships, the professional contacts you make, and your ability to apply the skills you've learned in the classroom are crucial to success in the job market. I truly believe this is a result of a person's hard work and dedication, rather than their major.

  28. Anon says:

    We need more people with skills and less people with degrees.

    Not an English lit major.

  29. Anon says:

    I think the writer is confusing the field with the major. These 13 majors are useless as majors, not as fields. The point is that you don't have to pay a university to become an adept in the fine arts, just as you don't need a university education in music to become a musician.

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