6 Low Paying College Degrees to Avoid

By Michelle Riklan

August 24, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

It’s obvious that salary prospects for different college degrees vary. The Economic Value of College Majors report by Georgetown University and Kiplinger’s list of low paying degrees shed light on how great the difference in salary really is.

Compared to majors in STEM and healthcare where the entry-level salary starts at $43,000 and $41,000 respectively, the majors below earn less, and the gap continues to widen long after graduation.

Not to Discourage You
This article isn’t meant to discourage you from taking any of these majors. I just want to help you make an informed decision. Your decision, after all, will shape your career path.

Think Twice before Majoring in these Subjects:

1. Early Childhood Education

Education majors are among the lowest paid employees. It’s ironic, given that most of us wouldn’t be able to read or write without the help of teachers. Despite this, starting salary for Pre-school teachers, earn a median income of $29,530.

The paycheck is nothing to be excited of, but graduates in this field report a high level of job satisfaction.

2. Art History

Art history graduates work in museums mostly. It’s considered a high-end job, but the salary is nothing but. The starting salary for a fresh graduate is about $36,900, while those with a few years experience only earn $59,000 according to Kiplinger’s data.

Curators with a Master’s degree earn a median of $49,500, which isn’t a huge jump really.

3. Social Work

A social worker’s salary is largely dependent on public funding, as most of them work in state run welfare agencies and clinics. Average salary for new social workers is $39,121, while mid-career professionals earn roughly $44,000.

4. Culinary Arts

Aspiring chefs pay top dollar to get a degree in culinary arts. But as many chefs know, that degree is the start of a long, long journey towards manning their own kitchen.

Before a culinary arts graduate can work in a 5-star restaurant, they will work in the bottom rung of the culinary ladder in grueling jobs with demanding schedules. The job market is competitive, and the median pay is roughly $33,000 for entry-level work.

5. Theological Studies

If you love reading the Bible, teaching the gospel and discussing Biblical text, you can major in Theology. But there’s a caveat. Jobs related to Theology are somewhat limited to ministerial work, counseling and teaching the subject.

Don’t major in this subject if you’re looking for career advancement, or a high income. A career in ministerial work will net you $37,500 for fresh graduates.

6. Music

Music majors earn an average starting salary of $35,700 according to Kiplinger’s data, while those with a couple more years experience earn $51,400. This is, of course, if you manage to get a full-time job, as many positions in this field are part-time, freelance or seasonal.

Don’t let this article scare you though. Don’t choose your major based on the dollar figures alone. Findings in the Georgetown report also support the merit of following your passion. The study reveals that while engineering graduates earn the most, the top 25% of education graduates earn more than the bottom quarter of engineering graduates.


The Economic Value of College Majors


Tales of the Wrong Degree: Lessons from Students Who Chose the Wrong College Degree

Michelle Riklan

Michelle Riklan is a Certified Resume Writer and HR consultant. When she’s not coaching executives for upcoming job interviews, she and her team provides outplacement services to small businesses

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