10 University Majors Losing Favor in China (Part 1)

10 University Majors Losing Favor in China (Part 1)
Jul 05, 2017 Translated by eChinacities.com

The gaokao results have been finalized and the test-takers ranked according to their scores. However, it’s out of the oven and into the frying pan for these newly “liberated” students who have yet another difficult question staring them in the face. Now that they have their scores, their choice of university has been narrowed down to but a few cities or institutes of higher education. The issue now is choosing a major.

To choose something interesting or to choose something practical? To let one’s parents choose or to choose one’s own major? These are the questions currently sitting heavy in the minds of China’s young high school graduates planning on pursuing further education. According to a report titled 2017 Report on Employment for University Students, 30% of graduates end up with careers unrelated to their majors.

Those who start out on one path easily end up on another, and with the rapid changes during the Internet Age, fads come and go all-too-easily. Popular majors today may not be in accordance with market conditions upon graduation.

So, what are some of the majors that are currently falling out of favor?

Biological Engineering

Although it held the Report on Employment for University Students’ title of highly valuable major for six consecutive years, the subsequent lag in biological research and the pharmacological industry has caused  a disastrous lack of career prospects for biological engineering graduates, even those with a PhD. Not to mention the fact that only overseas returnees are seen as capable of teaching in the field.

There were times when biotech was seen as a field with enormous potential. But now the students who sat in labs for four years studying and researching hard are languishing in other positions in other fields.

Civil Engineering

It seems that parents and students have misunderstood the concept of civil engineering. On seeing high-rises seemingly appearing out of thin air in Chinese cities across the country and the ever-soaring profits from the real estate industry, one could easily assume that China will still be a massive construction site in the decades to come. Becoming a part of this huge force for construction will undoubtedly provide a solid foundation in the future, right? So everyone, dazed and confused, steps up to select civil engineering as their major, the blueprint for a worry-free employable future already sketched out in their hearts.

Is there no voice of reason here? Whatever the real estate situation is, the money is concentrated in the hands of investors. Under the creation of architecturally related majors , student quality has been mixed and schools have veered from the professional standards they once upheld. This only serves to exacerbate the supply and demand.

Teaching Chinese as a Second Language

With the launch of “One Belt, One Road”, China is seeking more international cooperation. Chinese people are required to study a foreign language, and more and more foreigners are also starting to study Chinese. Confucius Institutes are already established in 134 countries around the world and increasing numbers of foreigners are taking the HSK Chinese proficiency test designed by the Confucius Institute Headquarters. It seems like no matter how you look at it, teaching Chinese as a foreign language is a major with a bright future.

In reality, however, this major is more like a mash-up of one part Chinese language study and one part practical and theoretical language instruction skills training, which results in graduates with no real expertise in any particular area. Instead, skill sets are spread thin across Chinese, foreign language and education. As for a future career, the best case scenario is teaching in a Chinese language school in Korea or Japan. The most likely scenario is a badly paid role in Southeast Asia.


Lawyers are used to being ranked in the upper echelons of the salary charts. But although this very professional branch of learning provides a monopoly-like advantage in terms of qualifications, getting your foot in the door is much harder than  obtaining a degree. Even if you possess the courage and determination it takes for the judicatory examinations, finding legal related work will certainly prove challenging.

Currently, there are some problems with university level law. Even if you graduate from a famous school at the top of your class, you might not meet the professional requirements of employers. From the first day they enter school, law students discover that they have to memorize countless volumes of legal clauses and learn untold numbers of mutually unrelated cases.  Its an over-saturated, competitive major where the few winners take it all.


Accounting is a trendy major at the moment due to its very high employability. There seems to be all sorts of firms, both big and small, offering job opportunities. However, the talent pools for accounting were already saturated as early as the year 2000. What the market is lacking is not those with an understanding of finance, but rather registered accountants and other types of high level industry personnel. Having a background in Hong Kong or countries outside mainland China helps with employment as well.

Getting into this industry is fairly easy, but that doesn’t mean success comes easily. Finding related work isn’t difficult either. The difficult part is not buckling under the high pressure environment and the dry subject matter. Even outside of the Big Four (the four largest professional services providers in the world), this type of work is still super intense, making it difficult for young people to keep pace. Even though work in this field is easy to find, it may not be very valuable if you have to trade your health for success in your career. 

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Keywords: Top majors Chinese students Chinese university majors


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Sounds like the issue is utilizing these skills properly in the Chinese market. People are too worried about how to make money and forgetting the purpose of these skills.

Jul 06, 2017 19:56 Report Abuse



I agree with you.

Aug 03, 2017 09:39 Report Abuse



Wow this article likes to overgeneralize.

Jul 06, 2017 03:13 Report Abuse