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04.26.11

20 Most Useless College Majors

As college seniors prepare to graduate, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine which majors—from journalism to psychology—didn't pay.

As college seniors prepare to graduate, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine which majors—from journalism to psychology —didn’t pay.

Some cities are better than others for college graduates. Some college courses are definitely hotter than others. Even some iPhone apps are better for college students than others. But when it comes down to it, there’s only one question that rings out in dormitories, fraternities, and dining halls across the nation: What’s your major?

Gallery: Ranking the 20 Most Useless College Majors

With college graduation nearly upon us, two questions are running through the minds of nearly every soon-to-be-alumnus: Was my degree worth it? And: What do I do now?

While the most important factor in choosing a college major may be a student’s interests, a close second is certainly the likelihood of actually finding a job and making a living after graduation, especially when factoring in the high cost of tuition. Turns out that when it comes to post-college earning power, not all degrees are created equal.

To find the most useless degrees college students can get with their four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, we wanted to know which majors offer not only the fewest job opportunities, but those that tend to pay the least. The Daily Beast considered the following data points, weighted equally, with each degree’s numbers compared to the average for each category, to achieve a categorical comparison that accounts for differentiation from the mean. Data are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale:

• Starting and mid-career salary levels, using the profession most associated with the degree.
• The expected change in the total number of jobs from 2008-2018.
• The expected percentage change in available jobs from 2008-2018.

For informational purposes, in this accompanying gallery, we provide the number of degrees awarded for 2008-2009, the most recent academic year available from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Several majors on this list—photography, literature, theater—suffer from low starting and mid- career salaries, but still show potential for job growth, and industry superstars can still make a very nice living. But the most useless major in America? It’s a degree close to our hearts here at The Daily Beast.