We all know that our economy of the past few years, despite its improvements, hardly continues to offer a land of opportunity as it once did as far as salaries go. The disappointment from being paid less than you deserve is even greater when you also have a college degree (which would normally increase your pay). Some majors and specializations prove much more disappointing than others in terms of the financial compensation in post-graduation employment. To give you a heads-up, we’ve assembled this top of the lowest paying majors which lead to some of the lowest paying jobs in America requiring a degree. Keep in mind, these are not the worst college majors in our country. We don’t want you to get the impression that these majors are necessarily bad just because our society devalues them and deems them less than useful. Rather, these majors typically lead to the lowest compensation rates. Many of these jobs are actually quite vital to our society as a whole. Personal rewards may have to supersede financial gains.
Without further ado, these are the lowest paying college majors one could possibly choose. If you fancy any of these, we don’t mean to discourage you from studying something you’re passionate about. However, you should also be aware of how much you can expect to make in your chosen career if you must take out student loans to pay for the education. It’s hard to pay off a $500 – $1000 payment every month when your overall yearly salary falls below $40,000.
Note: The data below does not refer to the average salaries for all employed professionals in that field, but only for the ones in their first 5-6 years of employment following graduation (and before they reach 30).
1. Early childhood education
The average yearly salary one should expect to earn after graduating from this major is $39,000. Related majors such as Child development and psychology also belong here. In other words, being a preschool teacher may just be the lowest paying job in America (with a degree), which is a bit curious considering how important these professionals are. As a worker in early childhood education, you may expect an increase of your salary to $45,000 after the first 5-10 years of your career. But, this rate is staggeringly low considering the levels of attention, patience and tact that the job requires (and considering the disastrous impact the workers may have if unfit for the job). The only upside to the low pay is the relatively high job security and stability which these jobs usually bring.
Similar degrees from the field of education, social sciences, psychology etc. make further appearances in our top. Therefore, we can conclude that these fields really offer the lowest paying degrees one could possibly have.
2. Human services and community organization
Yet another social science major, this one allows its graduates to get employed in fields related to psychology, health services and education. Even though the BLS predicts a rise of employment by 36% in this field in the following years, the pay still remains low. A human services and community organization graduate can expect to be paid $41,000 per year in their first years of work. It’s really one of the top 10 lowest paying jobs with a degree, corresponding to this top of worst college majors in terms of pay.
There are three main fields of activity for those who graduate from this major: human services per se, education and administrative work, and direct community work. Experts say that the reason these employees are paid so low is because the employers still don’t understand the work these employees actually do and how valuable it can be. Our prediction is that if they continue to misunderstand it, then not only will the pay remain low. The projected rise in available position will also prove to be falsely optimistic.
3. Studio Arts
In theory, working as a studio artist sounds not only interesting and sophisticated, but also with some potential for good earnings. All the block-busting animation movies of the recent years had, after all, throngs of studio artists working on their teams so that every little pixel produced was just right and visually stunning. Beyond the theory though, it’s really hard to find job as a studio art major and the increased competition and temporary nature of the jobs contribute to making the pay very low as well: only $42,000 per year for entry-level employees.
Theoretically offering you a wonderful and highly varied range of jobs in which to employ your skills, completing a studio arts major is unfortunately one of the worst decisions to make as far as job stability and pay are concerned. Since it’s one of the lowest paying majors in the country, it’s only probably worth it as a second major, in addition to another main breadwinning specialization.
4. Social Work
Another entry on our list that proves good intentions, a desire to help and plenty of noble causes to get involved with don’t actually lead to a decent pay (for the efforts invested). Social workers are a highly needed resource for the national intervention, management and prevention of family abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence and so on. They also play an important part in assessing who should be socially assistant and up to what limit, as well as contribute their skills and knowledge to numerous campaigns and support groups for addictions, rehabilitation, family therapy and many other related social issues.
Still, the field remains one of the worst college majors to graduate from in terms of pay considering the levels of effort (and sometimes even personal risk) involved. The average salary per year as an entry-level social worker is $42,000 and there aren’t really many perks to compensate for it. The pay is bad and the levels of stress are very high, but unfortunately things aren’t likely to improve for social workers or the entire care industry for that matter.
This major is part of the wider group of education sciences, and its graduates are prepared to educate and instruct future and practicing teachers about the pedagogic subtleties of their job. Every teacher must successfully complete such coursework with a certified teacher educator in order to be allowed to practice. The problem is that this extra hassle is regarded pretty much as a formality, as just one extra thing to get it over with, and this reflects poorly on the salary figures of the graduates, of course. No one is going to pay highly for something still regarded as pretty much useless or simply a part of a precaution policy. Not to mention that the budgetary side of employment, especially in education, isn’t particularly known for its large amounts of money to spend either.
Therefore, a teacher education major, in all its multiple levels of practice, remains one of the lowest paying college majors in the country and in the world, with an average entry-level salary of $42,000.
6. Visual and Performing Arts
The story as far as this major is concerned is pretty similar to the Studio arts case. This is a major where the students also learn sophisticated arts skills, in order to create, assess, research or manage a collection and so on, but the job market is not really in need of these graduates, and therefore the job offers are few and badly paid. After all, how many art curators or exhibit managers can the country really need?
Just like in the case of the last other worst paying college majors presented above, the average pay after graduation is $42,000 per year for visual and performing arts majors, and the job stability is also very low.
7. Theology and Religious Vocations
A major theoretically reserved for those with some kind of spiritual calling, the theology and religious vocations field can be more or less equated with social work or human services. There is also a high level of commitment to the community required, a lot of extra hours (most of them voluntary), high levels of stress and arguably plenty of self-sacrifice, all for meager levels of pay. The reason for which being a minister or church worker is one of the top 10 lowest paying jobs in the country (and the world) is easy to guess: for many people, there is still an ethical incompatibility between practicing a religious vocation and making loads of money off of it.
Therefore, the average pay for graduates of a theology and religious vocations major is only $43,000 and it’s not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
As other education related majors, especially those in the lower tiers of the educational system (from kindergarten to elementary school and maybe even high school), this major also leads to very poorly paid jobs. No matter the subject you teach or how good the school you work for is, the pay is going to be low and the stress levels probably pretty high no matter what. Somehow, in the national economic priorities, education has never been close to the top of the list, and this reflects most of all in the teachers’ salaries. The only upside of the job, as in most education professions, is that the stability is quite high, so at least these graduates have one less worry after graduation, once they manage to get hired.
The average entry-level pay for a graduate of this major is $43,000 per year, making it one of the lowest paying majors in the U.S. Things aren’t looking better in other areas of the world either, overall, for this profession.
This is a pretty loose employment field, with irregular work, unpredictable outcomes and very poor pay. Sure, there’s always a chance to strike it big and become a 6-figure paid actor, but for the vast majority of graduates, this isn’t the case and the field remains one of the lowest paid college majors. The overall chaos of the job market of the niche is further enhanced by the fact that most people activating in the industry don’t necessarily complete official studies in the field. That’s right: a drama and theater arts major, besides being very poorly paid after graduation doesn’t even count as a hiring advantage in our already chaotic and poor employment market. Sure, the opportunities for being a part of something creative, interesting, and passionate are pretty high. But, unless you derive your main earnings from something else, the passion can’t last forever.
Even though paid slightly better than the rest of our list with an average salary of $45,000 per year for entry-level graduates, this is still one of the worst college majors from a financial standpoint. Chances of finding employment in this major is pretty slim.
10. Family and Consumer Sciences
The Family and Consumer Sciences major will close our top of the lowest paying college majors, though similar cases could be presented further, but won’t for lack of space. People who attend this major are usually driven by an interest in fashion or food management, or have a strong penchant for marketing or maybe both. After graduating from this major, one can work in the following areas: fabric buyer, fashion consultant, caterer, customer relations, costume designer, textile manufacturer etc. and even as a hotel manager.
But for all the variety the major brings, the pay still qualifies it as one of the worst paying majors in America: a graduate can expect to make only $45,000 per year, on average, in their first 5-10 years of being employed.
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