College costs in the United States can be extraordinarily expensive. Some top-tier schools have tuition, room and board that are more than $60,000 a year. Even state schools can cost residents well into the tens of thousands of dollars for a four-year education. One side effect of this is that student debt levels have exploded and it takes some graduates years, and even decades, to pay off student loans. These debt levels make many students ask the question of whether college pays off at all, in terms of future jobs and earnings. One answer to the question about student debt levels is which college majors have the best employment levels.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey (ACS), 24/7 Wall St. has identified the college major with the lowest unemployment rate. Across all labor force participants with a bachelor’s degree, the annual unemployment rate stood at 2.6% in 2019. For people with some degrees, the unemployment rate is below 1%.
It is important to note that since 2019, the U.S. job market has changed markedly, largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment soared from a multidecade low to a high not seen since the Great Depression in just a matter of months, affecting Americans of all education levels
As student debt soars in the United States, job security in future career prospects is not the only factor for students to consider when choosing a major. Earning potential also will affect the financial footing of college graduates, and many of the most secure jobs are not necessarily high paying.
The college major with the lowest unemployment rate is soil science. Here are the details:
- Unemployment rate: 0.0%
- Average salary: $47,202
- Undergrad degree holders with a master’s or professional degree or higher: 30.7%
- Undergrad degree holders in labor force: 6,371
Soil science majors study soil, typically in the context of agriculture, learning the chemical properties of soil, which soils are best suited for specific crops, how to control weeds, as well as conservation and soil management. Students who choose this major often end up working as advisers to crop farmers domestically and abroad, analyzing the mineral content of soil samples or specializing in a specific crop type.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for workers in agricultural science is projected to grow faster than average in the coming years as pressing new challenges arise related to population growth, climate change and increased demand for resources. The unemployment rate among the 6,400 labor force participants who majored in soil science is effectively 0%.
Methodology: To determine the college major with the lowest unemployment rate, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on employment status and undergraduate major from the Public Use Microdata Sample summary files of the 2019 ACS. Undergraduate college majors were ranked based on the number of unemployed individuals with a bachelor’s degree in that major as share of all members of the civilian labor force with that major in 2019.
Data on earnings and educational attainment also came from the Census Bureau. Data on field of study and employment status were self-reported by the survey’s respondents. To be included in the dataset, the respondents must have graduated and received a bachelor’s degree. While the respondents were able to list the field of study for any bachelor’s degree they have received and may have listed multiple majors, only the first major listed was considered in this analysis.
Majors noted as a miscellaneous subset of a more common field of study were excluded from our analysis.
Click here to see all the college majors with the lowest unemployment rates.
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