Top 7 Unhappiest College Majors

It is said that 1 in 3 college students experiences significant depression.

Stress that comes with academia, living miles away from family and friends, poor eating habits, sleep deprivation — there are many things that can make undergraduates susceptible to suffering from depression.

However, some are simply more prone to encountering it than others.

Some college majors, for instance, are known to cause more unhappiness in students.

And in this post, I will talk about a few of them. Keep in mind, though, that it can be a subjective matter — what can leave a student feeling entirely dismal can bring joy and gladness to the other.

But before anything else, let’s answer this pressing question…

choosing college major

What are the Signs You are Unhappy With Your Major?

Your grades and mental health suffering is a telltale sign that you are unhappy with your major. As a result of this, you may dread going to class and even consider dropping out of college. In most instances, dissatisfaction with one’s college major can result from picking the wrong one due to the wrong ideas or information or having it picked for you.

According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 44% of all college students report having depression.

Being far from home, experiencing social pressure to attain postsecondary success, facing the steep and continually rising cost of education — these are some of the things that can wreak havoc on an undergraduate student’s mental well-being.

The stress that comes with working on a college degree is also usually enough to leave one feeling miserable. The challenging or boring courses, the thought of having few job prospects after graduation and not getting grades high enough to graduate can sometimes come from declaring and committing to the wrong college major.

Here are some warning signs that you may have just chosen a major that isn’t the best for you:

You keep getting bad grades

First things first: having terrible grades doesn’t necessarily mean you went for the wrong college major.

So many different things can contribute to having less-than-stellar figures on your transcript. Facing a difficult program or intense academics at the institution you are attending is one factor. Also contributing factors are your learning skills and study habits. Failure to multitask effectively can keep you from having good grades, too.

However, it’s a completely different story if you still keep getting one horrible grade after the other despite doing anything and everything you possibly can to stay as far away as possible from flunking.

If no amount of effort seems enough to drive your grades up, you may be in the wrong major.

You’re having a hard time focusing

Experts from Duke University estimate that anywhere from 2% and 8% of college students in the US have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the hallmark symptom of which is inattention.

Maybe you have undiagnosed ADHD, which is why you can’t seem to focus on your studies.

Or perhaps it’s just that you are too disinterested in the things your professors are talking about to pay attention to any of them. Poor concentration is a common problem among higher education students.

As a matter of fact, based on a report by the University of Maine – Fort Kent, more than 30% of college students in the country say they have difficulty concentrating.

But if you can’t focus because you’re not interested in your classes, you may have a major problem with your major.

You are skipping classes

Speaking of not being interested, naturally, it’s less likely for you to have the urge and desire to jump out of your college dorm bed and step foot inside the classroom each and every time if you don’t care about your core classes.

You are more likely to find yourself elsewhere, such as at the nearby mall or in a cinema or even in dreamland.

A survey published by USA Today said that the average college student had skipped a total of 240 classes by the time he or she graduates, which amounts to $7,200 of wasted money at an in-state public school ($24,960 at a private school).

There are many reasons why college students do not go to class without any permission.

Some do so as a result of poor time management, while others do so because of legitimate emergency matters. But then there are also those who skip classes because of a lack of motivation.

And if what’s keeping you from being motivated enough is the fact that you find your classes not worthy of attending, then it’s likely that your major is not right for you.

stress facts

You feel stressed all the time

Around 49% of college students report having moderate stress, while about 30% admit having high stress, says the figures coming from the American College Health Association (ACHA).

It’s perfectly normal for undergraduate students to feel stressed from time to time.

However, it’s definitely a cause for concern if you suffer from stress day after day and hour after hour — it could be a warning sign that you are overwhelmed by your coursework mainly because you are not fond of it.

And one can worsen the other — your disapproval of your major can leave you stressed, and your stress can make you dislike your major more.

And finally, more than 75% of undergraduate students have considered dropping out of college in the past 6 months as a result of emotional stress.

You were forced into taking your major

According to a study conducted on students at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, the most important factors in the selection of a college major include job availability, prospective salary, social status and prestige of the major — in that order.

Revealed, too, was the fact that peer and family pressure has little influence on the selection process.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it cannot coerce some students into choosing a certain major.

Regardless if it’s a parent, guardian, employer, best friend or a romantic half who made the choice for you, sooner or later, you might realize that you should have prioritized what you wanted instead of what someone else wanted for you.

Of course, a piece of advice from someone who genuinely cares about you can only come from a good place. However, a decision made for you in terms of selecting a major can do more harm than good.

And, more often than not, the repercussions can make their presence known while you are still in the process of completing the program.

You chose based on perceptions

It’s no secret that most individuals pursue a bachelor’s degree to enjoy increased career opportunities and earning potential. Studies say that being a college graduate can also lead to a happier life overall.

Unfortunately, in the quest to reap the perks, many tend to overlook other important things.

In choosing a college major, for instance, some degree-seeking students may be too focused on the ones that will allow them to generate more money after graduation than those that truly align with their interests and passions in life.

Class after class, sooner or later, you might feel like you are taking the wrong path and need to put the journey to a halt.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a hefty bank account or an imposing professional title. But it’s pointless and even detrimental if you’re not happy and satisfied inside.

7 Majors That Can Leave You Unhappy

And now we have come to the main part of this post: some of the unhappiest college majors. When deciding which ones to include in the list below, I considered things such as the difficulty level of the coursework involved and the resulting careers themselves. Also taken into account is how closely associated a major is with mental health issues.

So without further ado, I give you 7 of the unhappiest college majors…

lab technician


  • Median hourly salary: $38.34
  • Median annual salary: $79,760
  • Job outlook: 6%
  • Job openings per year: 8,200

The general consensus is that the average GPA of undergraduates majoring in STEM-related fields is lower than the average of students who are majoring in other disciplines such as liberal arts.

As a matter of fact, the average GPA of foreign language majors is 3.34, while the average GPA of chemistry majors is 2.78 only.

There’s no need for you to be a rocket scientist to know why: STEM majors are some of the most difficult!

And one list of the hardest college majors after the other will tell you that chemistry is a top contender — general chemistry alone is failed by anywhere from 40% to 60% of college students.

Having the desire to wear a lab coat at work is not reason enough for you to survive as a chemistry major.

You will also have to be genuinely interested in hard science and very good in math as well as possess superb problem-solving, analytical thinking and verbal communication skills to shine in chemistry.

Otherwise, you may end up getting bad grades in your core courses.

Computer science

  • Median hourly salary: $44.71
  • Median annual salary: $93,000
  • Job outlook: -10%
  • Job openings per year: 9,600

The dropout rate for CS major is 32%. Let’s put that figure into context to paint you a better picture: the average dropout rate for all fields of study among undergraduate students is 22%.

There’s no denying that computer science is one of the most sought-after college majors out there.

As a matter of fact, the number of undergraduates majoring in CS has more than doubled from 2013 to 2017, resulting in more than 106,000 computer science majors in the country.

Similarly, the discipline leads to a lucrative and in-demand career.

Still, with a dropout rate that’s 10% higher than average, it’s obvious that having a love for computers and a desire for a high-paying job is not enough to keep students happy with what they’re majoring in.

Before you choose to major in computer science, check that you have the following skills:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Communication
  • Detail oriented
  • Problem-solving
  • Team-playing

Majoring in computer science is more than just typing on a keyboard and knowing a bunch of tech terms — majoring in computer science requires a lot of persistence and passion.


Creative writing

  • Median hourly salary: $33.42
  • Median annual salary: $69,510
  • Job outlook: 4%
  • Job openings per year: 15,200

Many different studies have established a link between creativity and bipolar disorder, which is a mental illness where a person goes through episodes of extreme mania and severe depression.

For instance, a study found out that individuals with bipolar disorder were 1.35 times more likely to be in jobs that require creativity.

On the other hand, another study revealed that writers were more likely to have bipolar disorder than non-writers. And then there’s also a study that bolstered the fact that those with bipolar disorder tend to choose creative professions.

It doesn’t mean right away, however, that majoring in creative writing suggests you have bipolar disorder nor will it make you predisposed to having the said mental illness.

But it could be a red flag if you started experiencing severe mood swings ever since you began majoring in it as a result of stress or pressure or future career-related uncertainties.

And also, just because you love writing doesn’t necessarily mean creative writing is for you — many undergraduates wind up surprised that the major is much more academic and difficult than they initially thought.

Fine arts

  • Median hourly salary: $24.02
  • Median annual salary: $49,960
  • Job outlook: 6%
  • Job openings per year: 5,900

Like creative writing, fine arts is a major that appeals to creative people. Needless to say, it’s not unlikely for many fine arts majors to have problems with their mental health, too.

But there’s one more thing that makes fine arts an unhappy major: it has a high unemployment rate.

Various rankings of college majors with the most number of unemployed graduates but actively seeking employment put fine arts at the top of their list.

For instance Money magazine gave the #1 spot to Fine Arts major for having an unemployment rate of 12.1%.

It is followed by philosophy (9.1%), sociology (9%) and family and consumer sciences (8.9%).

On the other hand, among the 162 different college majors ranked by Bankrate, as reported by Artsy fine arts had the absolute highest unemployment rate of 9.1%.


  • Median hourly salary: $38.55
  • Median annual salary: $80,180
  • Job outlook: 3%
  • Job openings per year: 9,100

The Tab, a site dedicated to covering youth and student culture, ranked the most sleep-deprived college majors in the US. And the #1 spot went to architecture.

The average hours of sleep per night of architecture majors?

Only 5.28 hours.

Sleep problems and depression are closely linked. It adds that, for instance, individuals with insomnia are 10 times at higher risk of developing depression than those who get a good night’s sleep each time.

And among those who suffer from depression, around 75% have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

But it’s not just sleep deprivation that makes architecture one of the unhappiest college majors — its combination of challenging courses plus the need for creative and critical thinking skills can take its toll on the mental health of undergraduates.

Architecture is also considered one of the costliest majors out there because of all the additional expenses like:

  • Books
  • Computer
  • Design software
  • Drafting materials
  • Printing supplies
  • Travel
computer engineering


  • Median hourly salary: $42.33
  • Median annual salary: $88,050
  • Job outlook: 7%
  • Job openings per year: 24,200

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published a study conducted on the students of various engineering and medical academic institutions in order to determine the rate of depression among engineering and medicine students as they are some of the most overburdened with massive amounts of information to remember and recall.

Between the said majors, engineering had the most depressed students — 82.87% vs. 56.9%.

Other than being something that can cause degree-seeking individuals who are majoring in it to be unhappy, engineering is also in the ranks of some of the most difficult majors out there.

Engineering primarily concentrates on designing and developing solutions to problems, and a huge chunk of the said tasks involves doing calculations and performing equations.

So, in other words, math is one of the reasons why the engineer college major can be challenging. Plus there’s also the need for students to possess analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.

By the way, different engineering majors have different difficulty levels, and the top 10 hardest are:

  • Chemical engineering
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Materials engineering
  • Nuclear engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Computer engineering
  • Biological engineering


  • Median hourly salary: $64.12
  • Median annual salary: $133,380
  • Job outlook: 10%
  • Job openings per year: 35,300

It’s not uncommon for a lot of movies and TV shows to portray people in the world of advertising to be leading glamorous lives — they play pool and sip fancy coffee in the office, rub elbows with celebrities and travel the world as they make tons of money.

Although there’s some truth to it to some extent, the career requires a lot of hard work and dedication.

Having thick skin is a must, too. Otherwise, the profession will eat you alive!

If truth be told, advertising is a relatively easy major. But as a career, it can be highly competitive — you will need plenty of raw talent, commitment and industry experience.

And as the said fact becomes more and more evident as you near completion, you may all of a sudden feel unhappy.

One college major dropout rate list after the other will tell you that many advertising majors switch majors or quit college altogether before they earn their bachelor’s degree — a previous post on this very site states that it has a hefty 7.7% dropout rate.

Just Before You Declare a College Major

Choosing a major can easily be one of the most decisive moments in your postsecondary career. It’s a good thing that in most instances, undergraduate students need not declare a major until by the end of their sophomore year of college.

With plenty of time to make up your mind, make sure that you do your assignment beforehand.

Although there’s nothing wrong with taking into account the various career opportunities and potential annual and lifetime earnings waiting for you after getting your hands on your bachelor’s degree, it’s important that you also consider your personality and interests as well as the cost of the program in order to avoid having a miserable college life and professional career.

Read Next: Top 20 Unhappiest Colleges

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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