A pragmatic 18 year old in today’s trying economy knows that balancing what you love with what will pay is important. A university education is notoriously expensive. Unless students choose majors with a high chance of a hefty starting salary upon graduation, they’re likely to be lumbered with enormous student debt.
Despite the debilitating cost, everyone is encouraged to go to college. Teachers, parents and society in general urge teens to attend college and receive a degree. These degrees will ideally net amazing careers and propel society forward. However, not all degrees are created equal: It’s no secret that the whole ‘follow your heart’ ideal doesn’t always pay off in the real world; a real world that values technology creation and advancements in science over the equally noble endeavors of artists and novelists.
These more ‘touchy-feely’ careers are more difficult to break into, and rarely pay much at all. This has much to do with what society wants and values, and Western society wants fast information and cold hard facts. Every one of the lowest paying college majors are focused on empathy or creativity; it seems that those admirable qualities just don’t pay. The following are the ten college majors with the lowest annual salary, on average.
10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs – $40,000 per year
The first major on the list isn’t quite like the others, but the low salary is likely due to the fact that these programs are only preparatory. That is, they prepare individuals for a career in the medical field but are often very short and only offered at community colleges and vocational schools. Think of these as intro programs to the much larger and lengthier experience of specializing in the medical field, which takes years. Focusing on biology, psychology and other classes, these programs prepare students for medical school but won’t net grads a significant salary on their own.
9. Visual and Performing Arts – $40,000 per year
The title does sound a bit vague, and that’s because this major includes a general education on all things art. As with the health and medical prep programs, this degree can lead to further education in art-related media. Some careers that this degree is useful for include art, drama and music teachers, visual artists and photographers. The salary for these jobs vary widely, but with only a major in the general visual and performing arts, you’re unlikely to make much.
8. Communication – Disorders Sciences and Services – $40,000 per year
People who get a degree in communication disorders will likely become speech pathologists, working with a large variety of people from all different walks of life. As such, the study of communication as a means for human attachment and improving quality of life is a major focus of this very noble major. However, because it is a pre-professional degree though, more coursework and further studies would mean a higher pay rate.
7. Studio Art- $40,000 per year
Studio Art is just as the name implies. Students work in studios on art, whether it be visual arts or performing arts. With this degree, the possibilities are endless. Because students get to explore countless art forms, they have the chance to do some soul searching and work out exactly which art form speaks most to them. The flexibility and creativity of this major makes it a great choice for artistically inclined people. However, the yearly salary for an average graduate of of this degree is low.
6. Drama and Theatre Arts – $40,000 per year
Students in this major learn what it takes to be a great actor, while studying the finer points of theatrical work. It may sound fun, but that’s not to say that it’s easy. On the contrary, students with this major will most likely be putting in full-time hours each week. Between rehearsal time, plays, classroom attendance and studying, there isn’t much free time left over. But if theatre is something one is passionate about, the hours won’t seem grueling. Actors perform for their love of the art form and not for financial reward, so it’s probably no surprise to any theatre students that this degree doesn’t come with huge financial reward.
5. Social Work – $39,000 per year
A major in social work may not be the best idea for those looking to make a lot of money from their degree. With social work, individuals will be studying psychology and communication while learning how to help those in vulnerable situations. People with this major must be empathetic and genuinely enjoy helping those in need. Though the pay is not great, careers in social work are generally very fulfilling, and those who go into this area tend to see it more as a vocation than as a money-maker.
4. Human Services and Community Organizations – $38,000 per year
Human services is another major that focuses on helping those in need. Students learn what society must have to function correctly and how to encourage and create social action in the community. This major can lead to a more specialized field, such as social work, child care and counselling. The expected salary after graduation is low, but it is livable. The fulfillment from working in a related career is also high.
3. Theology and Religious Vocations – $38,000 per year
On par with social work, a major in theology is a vocation rather than a financially savvy decision. This major focuses on religious study and those who choose this path are usually dedicating their lives to religious and spiritual devotion. This major may lead to careers in education, or to becoming a pastor, priest or missionary.
2. Early Childhood Education- $36,000 per year
The love of working with children usually appears at an early age. Those who take joy in educating kids choose to become teachers, or ECEs (early childhood educators). With a passionate and trying job like this, the money aspect takes back seat. Really, ECEs should probably be paid much more, as they typically take care of many children and teach them valuable skills and methods for lifelong learning. For such a vital role in an educated society, the salary for an ECE is almost certainly too low.
1. Counseling and Psychology – $29,000 per year
Surprisingly enough, the lowest paying college major is not in the arts but in counselling and psychology. Not only do those with majors in this area average very low salaries, but the unemployment rate is also high. It’s hard to believe that after spending so much on a worthy education, people can make such pitifully low wages.
There is more opportunity in the school-based counselling field than other counselling areas, but once again, unemployment is very high. Many who choose this career path say that they love to help people. Because it is a passion-based option, like many other on the list, people will still continue to choose this major despite the dismal financial prospects.
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