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Five Lowest Paying College Majors

Written by Nickel - 10 Comments

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Earlier this week, we talked about the value of a “high end” college degree. Today, I wanted to follow that up by highlighting this list of the five lowest paying college majors…

Lowest paying college majors

  1. Social work
  2. Special education
  3. Elementary education
  4. Home economics
  5. Music and dance

Rounding out the top (bottom?) ten are: drama, leisure studies, philosophy, art, and audiology. I’ve gotta say, the contents of this list aren’t all that surprising.

Maintaining perspective

Something to keep in mind here is that there’s more to life than money. If you’re passionate about something on this list, then by all means you should pursue it. Just be aware of what you’re getting yourself into, and set your expectations accordingly. If you seem destined for a low-paying vocation, you might want to re-think that high cost education.

Another important point is that lists of this sort are based on overall averages, so nothing is set in stone. Some people will end up making a lot of money regardless of their major, and others… Well, not so much.

Source: “College Majors Handbook

Published on September 10th, 2009 - 10 Comments
Filed under: Education

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. It’s really a shame. The top three should be paid THE MOST in my opinion. It’s just not right, and says something about our culture.

    Social work
    Special education
    Elementary education

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 10th 2009 @ 3:31 pm
  2. College is not the best path for every career. For example, I suspect that most people making it in the music industry are self-taught.

    Also, having elementary education on the list might be a little misleading. Teachers get a three months break in the summer and have a nice state retirement. I’m not saying they’re rolling in it, but it’s not a bad gig.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 10th 2009 @ 3:36 pm
  3. Thank goodness my little pumpkin is studying Finance- after being accepted into the Music department at Berkeley and NYU – she’s going to a state college instead and studying something she knows she’ll be able to use to make $.

    Why is that important to her? Why does it trump the “experience” of rubbing shoulders with Chad and Buffy at NYU? For one reason only.

    Because I told her she’s responsible for any loans she needs and she’s got to make a living after she graduates.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 10th 2009 @ 4:01 pm
  4. And sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter what your degree is in. I have a BA in Political Science and a Masters in Elementary Education and now I am doing very well as a Director of Technology at a healthcare corporation. Its seems that knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time works just as well. And the skills that serve me best now I had before I even went to college. Would I do it differently if I had the chance? … probably, but not that much.

    I had the opportunity to go to much more expensive schools but, luckily, I made some good decisions and managed to graduate with less than $10,000 in student loans which I paid off quickly.

    I am not saying don’t go to college. Those degree’s got me in the door and gave me invaluable maturity and experiences. But its not worth going into heavily into debt, especially since the payoff on the investment is not definite.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 10th 2009 @ 4:59 pm
  5. Parents and high school counselors need to encourage students to pursue studies in an area that not only interests them, but can help them pay the bills when the going gets tough. Look beyond what is fun now and ask yourself the question of “what if… I find myself a single parent”. Can the career choice be one that fosters independence and stability in economic or personal disaster? Sadly, it is not likely with a degree as a social worker, liberal arts degree or as a teacher.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 11th 2009 @ 12:33 pm
  6. My father tried to talk me out of majoring in Social Work. I understand why, but I felt strongly that I wanted to do something positive with my life and help people. I’m living within my means, saving for retirement, enjoying life and loving my job. No regrets here.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 11th 2009 @ 7:02 pm
  7. FCN,

    My problem is that college kids don’t usually check on the list when they pick their major, and then come on to personal finance sites (such as yours – check your past comments) and then complain that they have too much college debt!

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 13th 2009 @ 9:17 pm
  8. Im and art teacher, I love what I do but I work two jobs as well.
    My major in college was nutrition at one point and I hated it, switched into the art program where my true desire was and combined it with the education program and I couldnt be happier. My boyfriend is a teacher as well and we make ends meet. Were both really happy and love our summers off!

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 14th 2009 @ 12:13 pm
  9. @Hatch: You must NOT be a teacher, otherwise you would be saying something different. Also, most states are cutting into the teacher benefits/retirement to help with necessary budget cuts.

    @Nickel: These may be the lowest paying jobs but the top three REQUIRE the degree in order to even get the profession, and social workers, I believe, need a masters degree to start. You should do a follow-up on which degree have the most debt, if even possible to get the data, I bet it wouldn’t be those three professions.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 16th 2009 @ 10:07 am
  10. Oh no, my major is on the list! I majored in Philosophy at UCLA, while most of my peers went or at I know applied to law school (I think it’s an excellent major if you want to go that way), I didn’t. I ended up as an analyst in the finance dept for a tax software company. I knew nothing about tax, programming or finance! Sometimes I don’t think it matters what you majored in. One of my co-workers is a programmer and was an art major, also went to UCLA. If I had to go back and redo I probably pick a more “lucrative” major, but then again you have to love what you do. I was a biology major before I changed, hoping to go to the med school route but totally hated it and ended up not doing that well.

    Comment by Anonymous — Oct 31st 2009 @ 3:40 pm

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