The Most Underemployed College Majors

The Most Underemployed College Majors

by Kathryn Dill

Yesterday, Forbes reported on the jobs in which the most Americans feel underemployed, a term compensation comparison site Payscale defines as “having part-time work but wanting full-time work, or holding a job that doesn’t require or utilize a person’s education, experience or training.”

But what are the country’s underemployed workers–who number, according to Payscale’s estimate, as many as 22 million–most likely to have studied?

The majors that appear on this list are those most likely to have been pursued by the professionals who reported the strongest feelings of underemployment to Payscale. While the survey took several options for why these workers feel underemployed into consideration–compensation, under-use of skills or education, and the desire for unavailable full-time work–the vast majority of employees tied their feelings most closely to their paycheck.

First up are Criminal Justice majors. These students are most likely to earn their starting median pay of $34,500 as Police Officers, Paralegals, and Probation Officers. Over 62% of these professionals feel underemployed. But while 78.7% feel they’re underpaid, just 44.3% are actually underpaid by an industry standard.

Next are those who study Business Management and Administration. Students in this field are most likely to go on to work as Operations Managers, Office Managers, and Human Resources Managers for which they earn a starting median salary of $44,300. Sixty percent of those who pursued this major feel underemployed, and 81.2% feel underpaid, though just 52% actually are.

English Language and Literature, and Liberal Arts majors, unsurprisingly, also make the list. The former most often become Technical Writers, Administrative Assistants, and Executive Assistants, for which they bring in a median starting salary of $39,700. Roughly half of these professionals feel underemployed while three quarters feel underpaid. About 30% are underpaid by an industry standard.

Liberal Arts majors, meanwhile, most often find themselves working as Executive Assistants, Office Managers, and Administrative Assistants and earning roughly $34,200 annually. Half of these scholars feel underemployed and 65% feel underpaid. Less than half of those that feel underpaid are.

Missing from the list entirely? STEM majors. These jobs are in high demand, and garner some of the highest wages.

The 10 Most Underemployed College Majors

No. 1 Criminal Justice

% Underemployed: 62.4%
Starting median pay: $32,500
Feel underpaid: 78.7%

No. 2 Business Management & Administration

% Underemployed: 60%
Starting median pay: $44,300
Feel underpaid: 81.2%

No. 3 Health Care Administration

% Underemployed: 57.6%
Starting median pay: $43,800
Feel underpaid: 83.8%

No. 4 General Studies

% Underemployed: 54.5%
Starting median pay: $32,100
Feel underpaid: 76.1%

No. 5 Sociology

% Underemployed: 52.5%
Starting median pay: $38,900
Feel underpaid: 79.4%

No. 6 English Language & Literature

% Underemployed: 52.1%
Starting median pay: $39,700
Feel underpaid: 75.3%

No. 7 Graphic Design

% Underemployed: 51.5%
Starting median pay: $37,300
Feel underpaid: 84.6%

No. 8 Liberal Arts

% Underemployed: 50.3%
Starting median pay: $34,200
Feel underpaid: 64.9%

No. 9 Education

% Underemployed: 50%
Starting median pay: $40,500
Feel underpaid: 73.6%

No. 10 Psychology

% Underemployed: 49.5%
Starting median pay: $38,200
Feel underpaid: 70.7%

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