China cuts degrees to nowhere; if U.S. did so, what would go first?

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 20 2011 10:28 a.m. MST

High unemployment coupled with rising tuition has potential students reconsidering the college investment.

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High unemployment coupled with rising tuition has potential students reconsidering the college investment.

According to research by the College Board, a non-profit that provides information on college for students, the last decade saw tuition and fees at public universities increase at an average 5.6 percent above inflation. Americans today owe more than $600 billion in student debt. Choosing a degree to make the costs of college worthwhile is a real concern.

But when deciding which degree to pursue in China, the Chinese government has decided to narrow the choices. The Chinese Ministry of Education will begin eliminating or downsizing college majors in which the employment rate for graduates is below 60 percent for two consecutive years.

Some think college graduates in China, whose college graduation rates increased 150 percent from 2000-2010, have not met the needs of the export- and manufacturing-heavy Chinese economy.

What majors of study cut would the U.S. cut using similar criteria? Below are lists of majors with the lowest and highest employment rates after graduation. Also, for good measure, are lists of majors with the highest and lowest expected salary.

Source: 2010 Census and the Wall Street Journal.

Degrees with Highest Unemployment

1. Clinical Psychology (19.5 percent)

2. Miscellaneous Fine Arts (16.2 percent)

3. U.S. History (15.1 percent)

4. Library Sciences (15 percent)

5. Educational Technology (10.9 percent)

6. Military Technology (10.9 percent)

Degrees with Lowest Unemployment (Six way tie at 0 percent unemployment)

1. Actuarial Sciences

2. Pharmacology

3. Education Administration and Supervision

4. School Student Counseling

5. Geological and Geophysical Engineering

6. Astronomy and Astrophysics

Degrees with Highest Median Salary

1. Petroleum Engineering ($127,000)

2. Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration ($105,000)

3. Mining and Mineral Engineering ($101,000)

4. Nuclear Engineering ($96,000)

5. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering ($96,000)

Degrees with Lowest Median Salary

1. School Student Counseling ($20,000)

2. Counseling Psychology ($34,000)

3. Educational Psychology ($35,000)

4. Visual and Performing Arts ($36,000)

5. Library Science ($36,000)

Of course, financial returns are not the most important part of study for many. Following your passion (for example going back to school for a master's of fine arts in puppetry), no matter the economic rewards, can be rational and commendable.

But be prepared if the economy is not quite in the mood for your passion.

EMAIL: jhigginbottom@desnews.com

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