If you're considering going back to school in hopes that you'll graduate to more opportunities, there are certain degrees that you might want to avoid.
Consider the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study, which surveyed almost 1,000 employers on their future hiring plans. Many areas of study, such as fashion design and the performing arts, didn't even make the list.
On the other hand, majors like business had 83 percent of the surveyed employers saying they planned to recruit them. Close seconds were accounting and computer and information science majors with nearly 60 percent of surveyed employers planning to recruit them.
At the other end of the spectrum are degrees that are either so specific they can't be applied in a variety of fields, or those linked to careers with virtually little to no projected job growth.
Want to make sure you don't pick a dud of a degree? Check out our list of most useless degrees.
Useless Degree #1 - Agriculture
Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 24,988 Typical coursework: Crops, plant diseases, animal husbandry, basic veterinary science
When schools such as the University of Idaho cut their agriculture programs, you know times are tough for this degree. The state has more than 25,000 farms, for cow's sake, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census, in 2007.
Still, if your idea of a good day is getting up with the sun and working till it sets as an agricultural manager, a degree in agriculture might be your calling.
Just don't expect farms and ranches to be calling you, says Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., and author of "The 10 Best College Majors for Your Personality." "It's true that farms are becoming more efficient now and so there is less of a need for farm managers," he says. That means less jobs. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects 64,000 fewer jobs in this field over the next seven years.
Total Number of Agricultural Managers in 2008: 1,234,000 Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: -64,600 Percent Change: -5
Useless Degree #2 - Fashion Design
Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 89,140 Typical coursework: Fashion history, sewing, tailoring, color, design, pattern making
The world of high fashion is glamorous, exciting, and, unfortunately, highly exclusive and competitive.
"Fashion never dies out, never ends, and even though everything gets made overseas now, there's always a need for designers. But it's incredibly competitive. It's one you really have to establish yourself in," Shatkin says.
And those glamour positions are expected to be the ones with the fewest opportunities among an already small field, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Because it's so tough, Shatkin suggests that getting a practical minor with this degree is very smart.
Total Number of Fashion Designers in 2008: 22,700 Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: +200 Percent Change: +1
Useless Degree #3 - Theater
Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 89,140 Typical coursework: Theater, acting, directing, design, playwriting, communications, dramatic literature
Here's the good news: Sign up for theater as a major and at least you'll be really good at acting like you have a job.
Here's the bad news: Actors endure long periods of unemployment and frequent rejection, says the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department goes on to say that because earnings are erratic for actors, producers, and directors, many hold second jobs. In other words, how do you feel about waiting tables?
Of course, says Shatkin, "People go into this with such a love for it you can't stop them."
Total Number of Actors/Producers/Directors in 2008: 155,100 Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: +16,900 Percent Change: +11
Useless Degree #4 - Animal Science
Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 80,756 Typical coursework: Animal breeding, reproductive physiology, nutrition, meat and muscle biology
Here's another degree aimed at a career that at first glance doesn't look all that discouraging. After all, animal scientist employment is projected by the U.S. Department of Labor to grow 13 percent from 2008 to 2018.
But crunch a few more numbers and you quickly realize that you could be in for stiff competition to grab a piece of that pie. Fewer than 5,000 animal scientist jobs are projected to exist in the field by 2018.
The problem, says Shatkin, is the degree is so specific that trying to apply it to anything else means a tough time convincing people it gives you any useful skills for jobs outside animal science jobs.
Total Number of Animal Scientists in 2008: 3,700 Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: +500 Percent Change: +13
Useless Degree #5 - Horticulture
Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 24,988 Typical coursework: Crops, plant diseases, agricultural business and economics, crop and fruit science
If you like the farm life but aren't all that keen on all the whining and clucking of an animal farm, perhaps a degree in horticulture is growing on you.
Unfortunately, the number of jobs in the field itself is not growing, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And Shatkin agrees. "Better than agriculture, but not by much. If you're lucky, you may find some way to apply that to a related business like food processing or production," he says.
Total Number of Farmers and Ranchers in 2008: 985,900 Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: -79,200 Percent Change: -8
*All job and job growth and coursework information for 2008-2018 is attained from the U.S. Department of Labor. Number of degrees awarded information comes from Newsweek's Daily Beast.com's "20 Most Useless Degrees" report.
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