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Ididio Explores
Is your degree going to provide you the boost you expect?
A college degree has always been regarded as a starting point to a rewarding future, but that seems to be less the case these days. Here we take a look at which degrees have more people working in careers that don’t really require the degree.

Something that comes up often in conversations about careers and education is unemployment. Will this degree get me a job? Is this career going to have openings when I’m done with school? And so on. These are all valid questions, but often forgotten are the levels of underemployment present throughout the job market. Is it worth getting a degree if, although you can get a job, that job doesn’t make use of your years of time and money invested?

To try to answer this question, we began by looking at majors and seeing how many holders of that degree are in jobs where less than 1/3 of their coworkers have a bachelor’s degree.

In this chart, the larger the dot, the higher the number of people that have a degree in that major relative to other majors, and the further to the right the dot is, the more people are in jobs we define as underemployment. This doesn’t consider whether people are employed in jobs that use their specific degree, just that other people in their career have a lower level of education.

Underemployment by degree for workers with a bachelor’s degree.
0%20%40%60%80%100%Percentage with the degree that work in careers where less than 1/3 of coworkers have a degree.General/InterdisciplinaryCareerBusinessSocial SciencesHumanitiesLegal StudiesEducationCommunity ServicesHealth SupportHealthcareSciencesEngineering/DesignQuantitative/Technology
2017 ACS microdata

Just looking at this gives us some insight into the trends for some broad categories and shows us which of the majors break the trend. However, to really understand where underemployment is an issue, we need to look at specific degrees and the careers that people with that degree are going into.

Let’s consider one of the degrees that has higher underemployment and a fairly large population, Criminal Justice and Fire Protection.

Careers for workers with a bachelor’s degree in the degree group Criminal Justice and Fire Protection.
Criminal Justice and Fire ProtectionPolice officersMiscellaneous managersProbation officers and correctional...Detectives and criminal investigato...Social work specialistsFirst-Line Supervisors of Police an...Paralegals and legal assistantsFirst-line supervisors of office an...Elementary and middle school teache...Private detectives and investigator...Other careers where more than a thi...Security Guards and Gaming Surveill...Correctional officers and jailersFirst-line supervisors of retail sa...Customer service representativesSecretaries and administrative assi...FirefightersRetail salespersonsDriver/sales workers and truck driv...Other careers where less than a thi...People with this degreeWork in these careers
2017 ACS microdata

Among people with this degree, 40% go into a career that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. However, the top two careers that appear to not require a degree still (by name, at least) seem related to the degree. Does this mean that your degree is wasted if you go into that career? To answer that question, we can look at the salaries of people in this career based on their education

Salary by education level for Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers.
2017 ACS microdata
$24K$28K$30K$32K$38K$44K$42K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KNoneHigh SchoolSome CollegeAssociate's/Cert.Bachelor's DegreeMaster's DegreeDoctorate

While it’s true that many people with this career do not have a degree, those that do see a pretty marked increase in salary. The takeaway here is that even with a degree that has underemployment, having the degree can still make a difference in the career that you choose.

If you have any doubts, though, we can help you find a major that you can be sure will lead you to financial success in your career.

Use the interactive chart below to explore degrees. Selecting a degree will display the corresponding careers where workers with that degree are employed. Selecting a degree or career on the sankey will take you to the detail page where you can learn more.

Explore degrees
Select a degree to see where the graduates are working. Use the checkbox below to see the data for young workers only.
Compare to only younger workers
Comparing with workers under 35 can give you insight into how this degree will help you early in your career
Find degrees in this broad program area
Then select a program dot or use this list
Business Management and Administration
0%20%40%60%80%100%Percentage with the degree that work in careers where less than 1/3 of coworkers have a degree.Business
Careers for workers with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Administration.
View as
2017 ACS microdata

We created degree and career details by aggregating the person-level data from the American Community Survey 5 year household data from the US Census Bureau.
To determine salaries for bachelor’s-only workers in this study we required the following of the person-level records: education at a bachelor’s and not graduate level, age 65 or younger, and weekly work hours of 35 or higher.
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