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These are 2021’s most—and least—valuable college majors

October 4, 2021, 3:25 PM UTC
College Graduation Cap 2021
Paras Griffin—Getty Images

It’s no surprise that the degrees most likely to result in the best jobs in 2021 are based in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but the area of focus that’s most likely to prosper could be a surprise.

Architectural engineering majors are best positioned for a solid career, according to new rankings from Bankrate.com. Liberal arts majors could face the most hurdles.

The ranking, which measures majors based on median incomes and unemployment rates among other factors, found good job prospects and a high median income for people who study the science of buildings. It’s a niche degree, with only about two dozen schools offering that course of study. Median salaries average $90,000.  

“The degree nearly guarantees a job,” wrote Bankrate. “Architectural engineering majors typically line up full-time gigs well before the end of their senior years.”

It’s a big change from two years ago, when accounting topped a separate list.

Students who major in visual and performing arts ranked at the other end of the scale, with average salaries of $35,500 and unemployment hitting 3.6%.

Overall, Bankrate ranked 159 college majors, and there were several whose rankings proved surprising. Counseling and clinical psychology, for example, ranked very low (in part because of the need for advanced degrees). And computer science didn’t crack the Top 20.

Here’s a look at the five most valuable and five least valuable majors:

2021’s most valuable college majors

  1. Architectural Engineering

Median annual income: $90,000
Unemployment rate: 1.3%

  1. Construction Services

Median annual income: $80,000
Unemployment rate: 1%

  1. Computer Engineering

Median annual income: $101,000
Unemployment rate: 2.3%

  1. Aerospace Engineering

Median annual income: $100,000
Unemployment rate: 1.9%

  1. Transportation Sciences and Technologies

Median annual income: $86,000
Unemployment rate: 1.8%

2021’s least valuable college majors

  1. Clinical Psychology

Median annual income: $49,000
Unemployment rate: 3.8%

  1. Composition and Speech

Median annual income: $42,000
Unemployment rate: 4.9%

  1. Drama and Theater Arts

Median annual income: $41,000
Unemployment rate: 4.5%

  1. Miscellaneous Fine Arts

Median annual income: $38,000
Unemployment rate: 5.6%

  1. Visual and Performing Arts

Median annual income: $35,500
Unemployment rate: 3.6%

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