Top 10 Most Useful College Degrees

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Incoming students should be forewarned, upon entering college, that certain degrees are useless. Some degrees just don’t pay, and if they do, it has more to do with the individual than the education received. It seems unfair that everyone can’t be whatever they want to be and get away with it, but such is life. No warning exists upfront that some degrees are more likely to leave you (at the very least) not homeless. Here is the closest thing to that warning, ten college degrees that are most likely to pay off:

(Pictured: famous people who have earned each degree.)

10. English Degree

Image result for Mark Knopfler

English is a very deliberately-placed number 10. Having a degree in any kind of artistic or expressive field is the least likely degree to land you a job straight out of college (hence the common necessity for grad school). But of all degrees in the arts (art, film, music, etc.), an English degree is the most likely to get you a job in a company you didn’t create yourself on Ebay or Youtube. Being the most literate art, there is demand for individuals who can communicate clearly on paper and there are myriad fields within communication that cherish such a skill (after all, not every skilled person can write well). A few examples are: public relations, journalism, advertising, and a variety of other positions that call for clarity of voice and powerful resonance. (Mark Knopfler has an English degree.)

9. Restaurant Management

Americans love to eat and Americans with money love to eat out (as do those who don’t like to cook). That’s where this degree comes in. More than the sad wages of a waiter or busboy, management (or ownership) guarantees a much more satisfying income (or, should you decide to own a carefully-placed franchise, a fortune). There are countless individuals who own 3 or more Dunkin’ Donuts chains in a three-town area who make millions. And then there are lowly managers and shift leaders who work just as hard (and more so) than your common employees and make only slightly more than minimum wage. For the best bet, shoot for the former. As long as humans eat food in inadvisable proportions, there will always be profit in the food industry. The key is being on top of that pigpile.

8. Political Science Degree

Image result for Condoleezza Rice

If you love the government (or at least watching it through a magnifying glass) and politics make for an effective aphrodisiac, chances are you are boring. But chances are this degree is for you, as are the many jobs that come clattering down grand hallways. This degree is as useful for a journalist, who intends to trail politicians and dig through crates of bureaucratic jargon to find controversy and/or truth, as it is for a future office-holder. Knowing the matters and protocol you are reporting on, it turns out, is just as crucial as knowing those you are upholding and operating through. For both of these positions, which are always in demand and in a necessary balance, poli-sci is key. Note: deluded pursuers of the degree shouldn’t do so just because they want to write for the Daily Show (those interns and writers are highly competent in their fields, more than just being sarcastic news-watchers). (Condoleezza Rice has a degree in Political Science.)

7. Engineering Degree

Image result for Rowan Atkinson

If Dilbert is who you aspire to be, drollness and all, then engineering is the degree to pursue. An engineer, a rare bird in a office complex full of squatting pigeons, must have a holistic grasp on the various physical sciences and mathematics that go into designing and constructing a massive landmark. From bridges to skyscrapers, it takes a carefully devised set of blueprints to ensure that any given construction crew doesn’t nail together a volatile deathtrap. For the holy grail this degree equates to, a handsome paycheck is a given. (Rowan Atkinson studied Electrical Engineering at Queen’s College, Oxford.)

6. Psychology

Image result for natalie portman

Psychology is both the most and least useful degree there is. It is usually the fallback degree for those “undecided” individuals who go to college to figure out what they want to do for a living. For those who very purposefully pursue a degree in psychology, there are limitless possibilities for what they can do with that degree: social work, research studies, psychiatry/psychoanalysis. All are very useful occupations, ones that many people rely on, on weekly basis- but some may tote the degree around as an excuse for condescension and casual psychoanalysis (expect many failed relationships to follow). (Natalie Portman earned her Psychology degree at Harvard College.)

5. Degree in Education

Image result for Leonard Nimoy

The world always needs more teachers and so it is very hard for an individual pursuing primary or secondary education (higher education requires many more qualifications) to not land a job shaping the minds of future generations. It’s amazing that someone should endure so much schooling, only to go right back to school without a practical pursuit in between. The result is something like a snake eating its own tail, where education makes educators, who in turn educate future educators. Call it incestuous, there is stability in teaching (even if the paycheck is negligible). (Leonard Nimoy earned his MA in Education at Antioch College.)

4. Law Degree

Image result for John Cleese

The legal industry is one of the most prosperous in the country; think of how many cases are heard in court, how much golden-briefcased firms and practices appear on TV. While noble in some regards- defending the little guy via the advantage of a superior grasp on the law- it can also be a slimy, corrupt industry that thrives on loopholes and well-choreographed lies. Whatever the path, it is a moral endeavor as much as it is a lucrative one; if you can’t find a position at an existing firm or practice, there’s always the possibility of opening your own. Whatever your oddly-specific speciality (e.g. asbestos, injury claims, media, etc.), there is always a niche, and the pertinent legal fees to accompany. (John Cleese studied Law at Cambridge.)

3. Computer Science

Image result for Masi Oka

Most college students go into computer science because they love video games and think making them would be just as gratifying. That idea comes to a crashing halt, when they realize the degree involves more complex mathematics than the average video gamer can comprehend. Those remaining have a great shot at seeing some money post-graduation. Whether such an individual should learn to create websites (with all the intricate coding and esoteric, technical, Mark Zuckerberg-ish know-how that is incumbent) or develop software, there are a lot of businesses that rely on the kind of exclusive knowledge a degree in computer science guarantees. (Masi Oka earned a B.Sc degree in Computer Science and Mathematics at Brown University.)

2. Business/Management

Image result for Kevin Costner

A business degree sounds as generic as eating food-flavored food; of course you are going to be involved with some kind of business when you are eventually employed. But specialties like accounting, marketing, or management are the kinds of skills that separate the mailroom from the cubicle or office in a multi-tiered corporation. (Kevin Costner: Bachelors Degree in Marketing and Finance)

1. Medical Science

Doctors- specialists, in particular- are amongst the highest paid professionals. And they deserve to be. A minimum of eight years of schooling, impossibly long hours, a patience and meticulousness that few sane individuals can manage… doctors are a rare and special type of human we literally could not live without. While all of these facts are daunting for anyone considering the possibility, gainful employment is a virtual guarantee. They say if you are in it for the money, and the money is great, it is not enough of a driving force. You must also have a super-heroically humanistic sense of altruism. (Ken Jeong earned his medical degree at University of Chapel Hill North Carolina.)


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37 Comments

  1. Somedude4000 on

    This is the biggest load of BS I’ve seen in a while. The only two degrees I can agree to are Medical and Engineering (should be higher on the list).
    Business is over-saturated, comp-sci is being outsourced to India and law students can be found working in the mall somewhere.

  2. The English Degree should be in the top 10 list of the WORST college degrees. Unless you get a teaching degree to go along with it, it’s basically a useless degree (outside of giving someone an air of snootiness) unless you go back and get graduate/doctoral degrees and end up doing what? Teaching in college. The best luck you’d have finding a job is at the local bookstore.

    • I am the owner of an Internet marketing business and we have hired two English majors who provide writing and editing. I think an English degree provides you with the ability to read and write on a higher level than most people and this gives you an advantage in finding a job. As I can verify that none of our clients enjoy writing their own web copy and always use freelance writers who usually have an English degree. Being able to read and write correctly and professionally will always keep you employed, in my opinion.

    • Joseph Furguson on

      The only useless college degree is ones that you do not use. I may not be the greatest writer in the world, but I am better than most because I devoted my college life to learning how to write.That degree is not useless. My teaching credential is fairly useless because I’m not doing anything with it, other than using my knowledge from it to correct misinformation about Education on the web .

      The writing staff of Futurama used to be some of the best educated people in Hollywood. The room was filled with a lot of doctorates in science and math. The dumbest guy in the room has a Masters in Folklore. Their degrees are useless because they are not using them.

  3. Education is not necessarily an easy field to land a job. If the economy is bad, and you are teaching primary or Social Studies, English, Practical Arts (computer skills, shop classes and so on), or Fine Arts (Painting, so on), then not only is it difficult to find work, but many job turn out to be temporary (one year then a pink slip). The pay is barely acceptable (at the beginning, but get a masters and put in 20 years and it is not too bad). The pension is nice (a result of being a Unionized Career, The rest of the Career people were duped by the 401k scheme and gave up their pensions a long time ago). One reason to become a teacher is to put in 3 or 5 years and then transition. 50% of the people who start teaching stop teaching within 5 years. It is a good stepping stone into a career if you are not ale to find anything else. The skills you gain are widely appicable in private industry (organization, “People skills,” presentation skills, anger management, research, etc). Then again, if you “make it,” you havea a great career where everyone admires you and hates you at the same time. You are simultainiously admired and reviled, Respected and disrespected. It is a life of contradictions… still, it can be fun.

  4. Peter Boucher on

    Brian May, the lead guitarist for the rock group Queen has his P.hd (Yes a Doctorate Degree in Astro- Physics) from the Imperial Collge in London, England.

  5. Math degrees are the world’s best kept secret.

    It produces the most employable graduates, and the graduates who experience the highest job satisfaction.

  6. Along with what Chris said, math figures heavily in the best college majors by salary (according to payscale). 7 of the top 10 on their list are all engineering majors ( petroleum, chemical, electrical, materials, aerospace and computer engineering). Others on the list include physics and economics.

    While I think this top 10 list is interesting, I would say that if you desire a good paying job right out of college, or at least have a chance at one, a solid engineering degree would help out a lot. I myself am a liberal arts major, but I concede that any degrees that deal with engineering or the life sciences can be more challenging academically than the ‘soft’ degrees.

  7. Herschell Gordon Lewis had an engineering degree. He made his money making B-movies. Just like Corman. Ron Jeremy has an English degree. I guess he found a better job.

  8. As a proud holder of a BA in Political Science, I find it hard to imagine a degree that is LESS useful. Unless you plan on going thru to a graduate program. Like law school. It offers no useful skill that is readily applied to practical work -related experience. Except arguing… Condi Rice has a PhD, and is bleeping brilliant. Any person of average intelligence with a PoliSci degree will find themselves working retail right beside me…

  9. I would strongly disagree on English, Political Science and Restaurant Management – mabye even Economy. English and Political Science are degrees mainly used to show that you went to college. Most jobs you can get with those two don’t have anything to do with English or Political Science, they just need someone with education – and would hire someone with any other degree, too. Most people I know that study these two things want to go into journalism and it took them a while to realize that they don’t need that degree there at all – they just need a lot of experience from internships.
    True, those two a degrees you can do a very wide variety of jobs with – if you work very hard and don’t expect getting payed much.
    Restaurant Management is pretty useless since -from my experience- few reastaurants hire managers directly, but promote their own people. Sure you can open your own restaurant, but do you really need a college degree for that?
    Economy is useful, that’s true. But there are too many people studying it to be usefull. To get a decent job, you have to do tons of internships and be able to use your connections. So -a bit like English or Political Science- it’s a field where you don’t get hired just like that. You might ask where that happens at all – in medicine and engineering.
    I’m speaking from a European point of view here, of course.

  10. This is a terrible list. English and psychology are terrible degrees, especially if you dont goto grad school.

  11. DEGREE PROGRAMS ONLY NEEDS RESEARCH BEFORE YOU VENTURE INTO IT. I WAS SUPPOSE TO GO AT A CURTAIN COLLEGE TO DO ACCOUNTING DEGREE BUT AFTER STUDYING THE TRENDS INTHE COUNTRY I CAME TO REALISE IT WAS NOT WORTH SINCE I WAS NOT IN LOVE OF COMING BACK TO THE SOCIETY WITH A DEGREE AND BE A TEACHER TO EARN A LIVING JUST LIKE MAJORITY OF MY ADVANCED LEVEL TEACHER. TO MENTION A FEW MY BUSINESS STUDIES TEACHER HAD A DEGREE IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS, FOR ACCOUNTING SHE ALSO HAD A DEGREE IN ACCOUNTING AND FOR MATHEMATICS

    • Your capslock and lack of punctuation tells everyone that you never even came close to visiting a college.

      I also find it funny that you can actually study accounting in the US. In Germany, that’s an apprenticeship you don’t even need the level of education to be allowed to college for.

  12. I was so happy when I saw English on this list! I am not an English major, but I do appreciate the study. English majors are the most useful friends to have in college. They are so helpful when it comes proof reading your papers or helping you with improving your writing. Plus, employers are looking for people who can communicate their thoughts effectively. This is a skill that is lacking and hard to come across. Heck, I wish I had the skills to be English major. I don’t even have the skill to write a toptenz list. These writers are amazing!

    • Are there any lists for best worst or most exciting jobs? I heard you can become a professional chocolate taster. I would love that job 😀 !!!

    • But for communications, they rarely choose English majors, because they actually have very little to do with communications, especially for PR

  13. List is worthless, by most any metric philosophy majors outperform any other humanities course and some of the sciences. Philosophy majors outperform English students in verbal reasoning and writing sections of the GRE and is in fact the highest performer in those categories on the GRE in addition Philosophy majors outperform every other humanity on the LSAT (including poli sci) and quantitative section of the GRE. Philosophy majors also have a higher median salary than all humanities and bio and chem during the middle of the careers.

    Instead they put Philosophy in the 10 worst despite all evidence to the contrary.

  14. The problem with this list is it doesn’t take the supply side of the equation into consideration. Take Business for example; at my school there are billions and billions of business majors, and although the courses might be teaching them information that is useful in the corporate landscape, there will be billions of them every spring applying for the 3 job openings across the country.

    The reason I choose Chem Eng (aside from the fact that math and science makes me horny) is that there is quite a bit of demand for chemical engineers where I live and very few people make it though the program. Its not about supply or demand; its about supply AND demand.

  15. Youthful Investor on

    I’m glad restaurant manager made it on there because this degree is often so much cheaper and quicker to achieve (usually a two year program) than the others listed. Arts majors make fun of these restauranteurs all the time but, fail to realize the food service and hospitality industry has always existed and continue to do so. When everyone is laying off researchers, lobbyists, writers and educators, the rest of the world is opening new restaurants, resorts and destinations.

    • I would point out two things: When the professions you mentioned are laid off, it is not very likely that the economic situation at that moment is fit to open new resorts and restaurants. Isn’t gastronomy a field that is extremely vulnerable to economic downs?
      Second: The question still remains: Do you need a degree for managing a restaurant? Does it help? Is it better than years of experience in that field or is it something that you have to have even if you have the experience (and is therefore just an useless, but mandatory line on your resumee)?

      • Ask College Degree on

        Earlier, there were no official degree requirements to become a restaurant manager, and most restaurant managers received their skills and expertise through work experience as a restaurant employee. Nowadays, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics a college degree is a compulsory qualification for many restaurant manager positions.

  16. The inaccuracies of this list upset me. The education degree summary, in particular has falsities and is pretty insulting to professional teachers. The profession is practical, the pay is anything but negligible, and higher education qualifications are not staggeringly more if at all opposed to k-12. The other options on this list are either simply not as broadly used as others or are misleadingly to specified to be deemed the MOST useful.

  17. English, Psychology and Political science?

    What a joke. The only useful Bachelor degree on this list is Computer Science. The ONLY TIME you should take Eng, Psych, or Political sci as a 4 year bachelor is IF YOU ARE CERTAIN YOU CAN GET INTO LAW SCHOOL OR MEDICAL SCHOOL!!

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