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Majors with the highest and lowest underemployment

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Nirat.pix // Shutterstock

Majors with the highest and lowest underemployment

Anybody who went to college a few decades ago and is now attempting to grant their own children a similar experience has experienced firsthand the degree to which a respectable higher education has become outrageously expensive—at least relative to what it cost in the past.

Many parents and students alike justify these costs by performing a long-term cost-benefit analysis, which suggests the cost of having attended college will eventually be canceled out by a competitive salary. A study by the Economic Policy Institute showed the pay gap between college graduates and everybody else is at an all-time high, but there are still many degree-holding individuals who feel as though the work they do is either unfulfilling, does not properly utilize the skills at their disposal, or could even be completed without a degree altogether.

In determining which majors most often lead people to underwhelming careers, Stacker analyzed a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which looked at employment statuses of graduates with 73 unique college majors. Stacker ranked every listed major in the study according to the rate of underemployment, which the New York Fed defines as “working in jobs that typically do not require a college degree.” Any ties were broken with unemployment rates.

Read on to see how common majors rank in terms of career success, beginning with #73 (the major with the highest underemployment rank) and working down to #1 (the major with the lowest underemployment rank). 

You may also like: College majors that go on to earn the most money

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John McLenaghan // Shutterstock

#73. Criminal justice

- Underemployment rate: 73.2%
- Unemployment rate: 4.1% (#37 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $37,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 22.2%

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EQRoy // Shutterstock

#72. Performing arts

- Underemployment rate: 65.7%
- Unemployment rate: 3.7% (#24 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $30,000
- Mid-career median wage: $58,000
- Share with graduate degree: 37.6%

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RichardToHKG // Wikimedia Commons

#71. Leisure and hospitality

- Underemployment rate: 63%
- Unemployment rate: 3.7% (#24 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $34,200
- Mid-career median wage: $58,000
- Share with graduate degree: 30.2%

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Pixabay

#70. Public policy and law

- Underemployment rate: 62.8%
- Unemployment rate: 1.7% (#4 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 44.8%

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Africa Studio // Shutterstock

#69. Business management

- Underemployment rate: 59.6%
- Unemployment rate: 4.2% (#32 highest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $65,000
- Share with graduate degree: 23.3%

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microgen // Shutterstock

#68. Anthropology

- Underemployment rate: 59.1%
- Unemployment rate: 6.6% (#3 highest)
- Early career median wage: $33,000
- Mid-career median wage: $57,000
- Share with graduate degree: 46.9%

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Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

#67. Liberal arts

- Underemployment rate: 58.4%
- Unemployment rate: 6.7% (#2 highest)
- Early career median wage: $33,400
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 27.8%

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Pixabay

#66. Fine arts

- Underemployment rate: 58.4%
- Unemployment rate: 5.6% (#10 highest)
- Early career median wage: $33,500
- Mid-career median wage: $55,000
- Share with graduate degree: 22.5%

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Pixabay

#65. Miscellaneous technologies

- Underemployment rate: 58%
- Unemployment rate: 6.4% (#4 highest)
- Early career median wage: $37,000
- Mid-career median wage: $72,000
- Share with graduate degree: 16.8%

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Budimir Jevtic // Shutterstock

#64. Animal and plant sciences

- Underemployment rate: 57.4%
- Unemployment rate: 3% (#15 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $35,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 34.8%

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Nickolai Repnitskii // Shutterstock

#63. Art history

- Underemployment rate: 56.5%
- Unemployment rate: 3.8% (#30 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $38,900
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 41.2%

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Pixabay

#62. General business

- Underemployment rate: 56.4%
- Unemployment rate: 3.7% (#24 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $45,000
- Mid-career median wage: $70,000
- Share with graduate degree: 23.8%

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Pixabay

#61. Sociology

- Underemployment rate: 56%
- Unemployment rate: 3.9% (#32 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $34,600
- Mid-career median wage: $56,000
- Share with graduate degree: 35.2%

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Twin Design // Shutterstock

#60. Mass media

- Underemployment rate: 55.2%
- Unemployment rate: 7.8% (#1 highest)
- Early career median wage: $35,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 18.3%

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Pixabay

#59. Agriculture

- Underemployment rate: 53.9%
- Unemployment rate: 3.1% (#17 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 20.8%

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clicksdemexico // Shutterstock

#58. History

- Underemployment rate: 53.1%
- Unemployment rate: 4.1% (#37 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $36,000
- Mid-career median wage: $66,000
- Share with graduate degree: 49.4%

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CountdownCrispy // Wikimedia Commons

#57. Communications

- Underemployment rate: 53%
- Unemployment rate: 3.9% (#32 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $70,000
- Share with graduate degree: 23.3%

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Rawpixel.com // Shutterstock

#56. Marketing

- Underemployment rate: 52.7%
- Unemployment rate: 3% (#15 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $42,000
- Mid-career median wage: $74,000
- Share with graduate degree: 16.9%

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Hajotthu // Wikimedia Commons

#55. General social sciences

- Underemployment rate: 52.3%
- Unemployment rate: 4.6% (#25 highest)
- Early career median wage: $36,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 37.9%

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Pixabay

#54. Political science

- Underemployment rate: 51.5%
- Unemployment rate: 4.2% (#32 highest)
- Early career median wage: $42,000
- Mid-career median wage: $75,000
- Share with graduate degree: 51.7%

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Anastasios71 // Shutterstock

#53. Philosophy

- Underemployment rate: 50.9%
- Unemployment rate: 6.2% (#5 highest)
- Early career median wage: $36,000
- Mid-career median wage: $62,000
- Share with graduate degree: 57.3%

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Pixabay

#52. Medical technicians

- Underemployment rate: 50.9%
- Unemployment rate: 1% (#1 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $42,600
- Mid-career median wage: $64,000
- Share with graduate degree: 24.3%

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Undrey // Shutterstock

#51. English language

- Underemployment rate: 50.6%
- Unemployment rate: 5.3% (#14 highest)
- Early career median wage: $35,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 45.5%

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Rick Diamond // Getty Images

#50. Ethnic studies

- Underemployment rate: 50.1%
- Unemployment rate: 5.7% (#9 highest)
- Early career median wage: $38,000
- Mid-career median wage: $57,000
- Share with graduate degree: 49.4%

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Tom Page // Wikimedia Commons

#49. International affairs

- Underemployment rate: 49.7%
- Unemployment rate: 4.7% (#20 highest)
- Early career median wage: $45,000
- Mid-career median wage: $75,000
- Share with graduate degree: 42.6%

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BlurryMe // Shutterstock

#48. Psychology

- Underemployment rate: 49.7%
- Unemployment rate: 4.1% (#37 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $34,000
- Mid-career median wage: $56,000
- Share with graduate degree: 50.3%

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usbotschaftberlin // Flickr

#47. Environmental studies

- Underemployment rate: 49.3%
- Unemployment rate: 4.6% (#25 highest)
- Early career median wage: $36,000
- Mid-career median wage: $65,000
- Share with graduate degree: 32.2%

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Will Hart // Flickr

#46. Interdisciplinary studies

- Underemployment rate: 48%
- Unemployment rate: 4.6% (#25 highest)
- Early career median wage: $38,000
- Mid-career median wage: $61,000
- Share with graduate degree: 36.5%

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Prostock-studio // Shutterstock

#45. Nutrition sciences

- Underemployment rate: 47.9%
- Unemployment rate: 5.8% (#8 highest)
- Early career median wage: $35,000
- Mid-career median wage: $54,000
- Share with graduate degree: 46.4%

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Hpeterswald // Wikimedia Commons

#44. Advertising and public relations

- Underemployment rate: 47.7%
- Unemployment rate: 3.7% (#24 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $72,000
- Share with graduate degree: 18.3%

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Mark Skalny // Shutterstock

#43. Theology and religion

- Underemployment rate: 46.9%
- Unemployment rate: 1% (#1 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $32,000
- Mid-career median wage: $49,000
- Share with graduate degree: 42.2%

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Trust "Tru" Katsande // Unsplash

#42. Miscellaneous biological sciences

- Underemployment rate: 46.5%
- Unemployment rate: 3.9% (#32 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $35,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 60.4%

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Maridav // Shutterstock

#41. Foreign language

- Underemployment rate: 46.2%
- Unemployment rate: 4.2% (#32 highest)
- Early career median wage: $35,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 50%

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Rawpixel.com // Shutterstock

#40. Health services

- Underemployment rate: 45.7%
- Unemployment rate: 3.1% (#17 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $36,000
- Mid-career median wage: $55,000
- Share with graduate degree: 52.5%

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Bill Oxford // Unsplash

#39. Biology

- Underemployment rate: 44.6%
- Unemployment rate: 4.6% (#25 highest)
- Early career median wage: $35,000
- Mid-career median wage: $65,000
- Share with graduate degree: 63.2%

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Pixabay

#38. Family and consumer sciences

- Underemployment rate: 44.6%
- Unemployment rate: 4.3% (#29 highest)
- Early career median wage: $32,000
- Mid-career median wage: $50,000

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www.nasa.gov

#37. Earth sciences

- Underemployment rate: 43.1%
- Unemployment rate: 5.3% (#14 highest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $65,000
- Share with graduate degree: 46.1%

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Andre Engels // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Journalism

- Underemployment rate: 42.5%
- Unemployment rate: 3.7% (#24 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $38,000
- Mid-career median wage: $65,000
- Share with graduate degree: 25.3%

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www.nasa.gov

#35. Engineering technologies

- Underemployment rate: 40.9%
- Unemployment rate: 5.3% (#14 highest)
- Early career median wage: $50,000
- Mid-career median wage: $80,000
- Share with graduate degree: 24.3%

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StFX // Wikimedia Commons

#34. Economics

- Underemployment rate: 39.8%
- Unemployment rate: 4.1% (#37 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $55,000
- Mid-career median wage: $90,000
- Share with graduate degree: 42.2%

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Markus Spiske // Unsplash

#33. Information systems and management

- Underemployment rate: 38.1%
- Unemployment rate: 5% (#17 highest)
- Early career median wage: $50,000
- Mid-career median wage: $75,000
- Share with graduate degree: 24%

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Pixabay

#32. Business analytics

- Underemployment rate: 37.5%
- Unemployment rate: 3.8% (#30 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $57,000
- Mid-career median wage: $88,000
- Share with graduate degree: 23.8%

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Peter Kotoff // Shutterstock

#31. Finance

- Underemployment rate: 37%
- Unemployment rate: 3.5% (#22 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $52,000
- Mid-career median wage: $85,000
- Share with graduate degree: 30.5%

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REDPIXEL.PL // Shutterstock

#30. Commercial art and graphic design

- Underemployment rate: 36.2%
- Unemployment rate: 4.9% (#18 highest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $60,000
- Share with graduate degree: 10.9%

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StFX // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Miscellaneous physical sciences

- Underemployment rate: 35.9%
- Unemployment rate: 4% (#36 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $46,000
- Mid-career median wage: $75,000
- Share with graduate degree: 56.2%

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Louis Reed // Unsplash

#28. Chemistry

- Underemployment rate: 35.4%
- Unemployment rate: 3.9% (#32 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $41,000
- Mid-career median wage: $74,000
- Share with graduate degree: 65%

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Magnus Bäck // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Construction services

- Underemployment rate: 34%
- Unemployment rate: 6.1% (#6 highest)
- Early career median wage: $56,000
- Mid-career median wage: $85,000
- Share with graduate degree: 10.4%

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Kyle Glenn // Unsplash

#26. Geography

- Underemployment rate: 33.5%
- Unemployment rate: 5% (#17 highest)
- Early career median wage: $42,000
- Mid-career median wage: $70,000
- Share with graduate degree: 34.4%

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UC Davis College of Engineering // Flickr

#25. Biochemistry

- Underemployment rate: 33.5%
- Unemployment rate: 3.1% (#17 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $75,000
- Share with graduate degree: 70.8%

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ALPA PROD // Shutterstock

#24. Treatment therapy

- Underemployment rate: 33%
- Unemployment rate: 3.2% (#20 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $36,000
- Mid-career median wage: $67,000
- Share with graduate degree: 45.1%

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IPASadelaide // Flickr

#23. Physics

- Underemployment rate: 31.7%
- Unemployment rate: 5.3% (#14 highest)
- Early career median wage: $48,500
- Mid-career median wage: $94,000
- Share with graduate degree: 68.9%

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Iakov Filimonov // Shutterstock

#22. Social services

- Underemployment rate: 31.5%
- Unemployment rate: 3.5% (#22 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $31,300
- Mid-career median wage: $44,200
- Share with graduate degree: 47.4%

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www.uscg.mil

#21. Mathematics

- Underemployment rate: 30.6%
- Unemployment rate: 5.8% (#8 highest)
- Early career median wage: $50,000
- Mid-career median wage: $80,000
- Share with graduate degree: 52.2%

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers // Flickr

#20. Miscellaneous engineering

- Underemployment rate: 29.4%
- Unemployment rate: 4.3% (#29 highest)
- Early career median wage: $60,000
- Mid-career median wage: $85,000
- Share with graduate degree: 44.1%

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Jacob Lund // Shutterstock

#19. Pharmacy

- Underemployment rate: 28.7%
- Unemployment rate: 3.7% (#24 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $40,000
- Mid-career median wage: $115,000
- Share with graduate degree: 58.8%

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www.nasa.gov

#18. Aerospace engineering

- Underemployment rate: 26.8%
- Unemployment rate: 4.1% (#37 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $64,000
- Mid-career median wage: $100,000
- Share with graduate degree: 52.9%

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Pixabay

#17. Architecture

- Underemployment rate: 26.6%
- Unemployment rate: 4.3% (#29 highest)
- Early career median wage: $45,000
- Mid-career median wage: $75,000
- Share with graduate degree: 37.4%

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Pixabay

#16. General engineering

- Underemployment rate: 23.5%
- Unemployment rate: 5% (#17 highest)
- Early career median wage: $60,000
- Mid-career median wage: $88,000
- Share with graduate degree: 36.2%

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Pixabay

#15. Computer science

- Underemployment rate: 23.5%
- Unemployment rate: 4.7% (#20 highest)
- Early career median wage: $62,000
- Mid-career median wage: $95,000
- Share with graduate degree: 32.3%

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Rich McFadden // www.jbsa.mil

#14. Secondary education

- Underemployment rate: 23.5%
- Unemployment rate: 2.3% (#10 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $38,000
- Mid-career median wage: $50,000
- Share with graduate degree: 48.4%

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Mweufika // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Accounting

- Underemployment rate: 23%
- Unemployment rate: 2.8% (#13 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $50,000
- Mid-career median wage: $72,000
- Share with graduate degree: 28.7%

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www.af.mil

#12. Electrical engineering

- Underemployment rate: 22.3%
- Unemployment rate: 4.6% (#25 highest)
- Early career median wage: $65,000
- Mid-career median wage: $100,000
- Share with graduate degree: 44.8%

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Pixabay

#11. General education

- Underemployment rate: 22.2%
- Unemployment rate: 1.7% (#4 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $36,000
- Mid-career median wage: $45,000
- Share with graduate degree: 47.4%

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NTNU, Faculty of Natural Sciences // Flickr

#10. Chemical engineering

- Underemployment rate: 21.6%
- Unemployment rate: 2.6% (#12 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $68,000
- Mid-career median wage: $103,000
- Share with graduate degree: 48.8%

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www.nasa.gov

#9. Mechanical engineering

- Underemployment rate: 21%
- Unemployment rate: 4.3% (#29 highest)
- Early career median wage: $63,000
- Mid-career median wage: $98,000
- Share with graduate degree: 41%

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www.af.mil

#8. Computer engineering

- Underemployment rate: 20.1%
- Unemployment rate: 2.5% (#11 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $65,000
- Mid-career median wage: $106,000
- Share with graduate degree: 39.9%

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Pixabay

#7. Early childhood education

- Underemployment rate: 19.2%
- Unemployment rate: 1.7% (#4 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $32,100
- Mid-career median wage: $41,000
- Share with graduate degree: 38.2%

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Steven Lek // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Civil engineering

- Underemployment rate: 17.5%
- Unemployment rate: 1.9% (#7 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $60,000
- Mid-career median wage: $90,000
- Share with graduate degree: 37.7%

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woodleywonderworks // flickr

#5. Miscellaneous education

- Underemployment rate: 17.5%
- Unemployment rate: 1.2% (#3 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $37,000
- Mid-career median wage: $48,000
- Share with graduate degree: 55.3%

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vicwag // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Industrial engineering

- Underemployment rate: 17.3%
- Unemployment rate: 3.4% (#21 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $64,000
- Mid-career median wage: $87,000
- Share with graduate degree: 39.7%

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Dscot018 // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Special education

- Underemployment rate: 16.2%
- Unemployment rate: 2.9% (#14 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $37,000
- Mid-career median wage: $45,000
- Share with graduate degree: 60.8%

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Kenneth Wright // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Elementary education

- Underemployment rate: 15.9%
- Unemployment rate: 1.9% (#7 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $35,000
- Mid-career median wage: $43,000
- Share with graduate degree: 47%

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Suzannekweiss // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Nursing

- Underemployment rate: 11.4%
- Unemployment rate: 2% (#9 lowest)
- Early career median wage: $50,000
- Mid-career median wage: $70,000
- Share with graduate degree: 26.4%

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