What not to study: The 20 college majors with the highest unemployment rates

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Petroleum engineering had the highest unemployment rate, at 7.5%, Bankrate found. Christian Lagerek/Shutterstock

Having a high-paying job doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have job stability, and vice versa.

Some college majors that lead to high-paying jobs also come with above-average unemployment rates – and that includes majors in fields like engineering, cognitive science, and the arts.

The financial-education company Bankrate found the unemployment rates for college majors, based on the most recent available data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Using weighted data, Bankrate determined the unemployment rates and median incomes for graduates across 162 majors that employed at least 15,000 people.

The median income for degree-holders in the study was $US55,000, and the average unemployment rate was 2.8%. Bankrate supplied Business Insider directly with the number of graduates employed in each major on the list.

The major with the highest unemployment rate was petroleum engineering, with 7.5% – despite graduates with that major having a median income of $US87,600.

Here are the 20 college majors with the highest unemployment rates.


20. International relations

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Number employed: 148,500

Median income: $US60,000

Unemployment rate: 3.9%


19. Visual and performing arts

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Number employed: 78,200

Median income: $US32,000

Unemployment rate: 4.1%


18. Commercial art and graphic design

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Number employed: 575,800

Median income: $US41,800

Unemployment rate: 4.1%


17. Other foreign languages

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Number employed: 78,600

Median income: $US45,000

Unemployment rate: 4.2%


16. Industrial production technologies

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Number employed: 78,100

Median income: $US71,000

Unemployment rate: 4.2%


15. Industrial and organizational psychology

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Number employed: 25,300

Median income: $US50,000

Unemployment rate: 4.3%


14. Composition and rhetoric

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Number employed: 89,600

Median income: $US37,800

Unemployment rate: 4.4%


13. Mathematics and computer science

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Number employed: 16,900

Median income: $US99,000

Unemployment rate: 4.5%


12. United States history

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Number employed: 23,200

Median income: $US55,000

Unemployment rate: 4.6%


11. Fine arts

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Number employed: 594,300

Median income: $US37,000

Unemployment rate: 4.8%


10. Communication technologies

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Number employed: 93,600

Median income: $US40,000

Unemployment rate: 4.9%


9. Actuarial science

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Number employed: 17,600

Median income: $US80,000

Unemployment rate: 5.1%


8. Public policy

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Number employed: 43,000

Median income: $US60,000

Unemployment rate: 5.1%


7. Drama and theatre arts

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Number employed: 244,200

Median income: $US35,500

Unemployment rate: 5.2%


6. Miscellaneous fine arts

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Number employed: 22,600

Median income: $US38,000

Unemployment rate: 5.7%


5. Mass media

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Number employed: 302,200

Median income: $US40,000

Unemployment rate: 6.0%


4. Film video and photographic arts

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Number employed: 185,400

Median income: $US37,000

Unemployment rate: 6.5%


3. Materials engineering and materials science

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Number employed: 35,100

Median income: $US78,800

Unemployment rate: 6.6%


2. Cognitive science and biopsychology

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Number employed: 17,400

Median income: $US56,000

Unemployment rate: 6.7%


1. Petroleum engineering

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Number employed: 25,500

Median income: $US87,600

Unemployment rate: 7.5%