10 Worst-Paying College Majors

College graduates in caps and gowns hold degreesYou probably already know that college grads have an easier time finding jobs, and earn more those who only have a high school diploma. But that's not the whole story. Some college majors offer a much worse return on investment, with starting salaries that are no better than high school grads' pay, according to a new study released Wednesday. The study, conducted by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, looked at 2010 and 2011 salaries and unemployment rates among college grads between the ages of 22 and 26. The startling conclusion: Some majors have starting salaries no better than the average salary of a high school graduate, which is about $29,900 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

More: Employer's Tough-Love Letter To New College Grads

Low Pay And High Unemployment: The worst-paying majors tended to be in the arts, where the low pay in creative work is matched by high unemployment rates, with an average of roughly 9 percent unemployment for arts majors. In fact, the overall unemployment for all recent grads is 8.9 percent. Several arts disciplines, however, lead to double-digit unemployment, according to the study.

But that doesn't mean those who major in those fields are worse off in every way. In fact, as Forbes has reported, studies of college graduates show that liberal arts majors are "are as satisfied or more satisfied with their lives as their classmates in other disciplines." And several majors in technical fields have high unemployment rates, too, despite relatively high salaries.

Below are the 10 worst-paying majors, with average starting salaries and unemployment rates. (See also the 10 highest paying college majors.)

10. Music
Starting Salary: $30,000.
Unemployment Rate: 9.2 percent.

Find a job now in music.

9. Film Video and Photographic Arts
Starting Salary: $30,000.
Unemployment Rate: 12.9 percent.

Find a job now in film, video or photography

8. Liberal Arts
Starting Salary: $30,000.
Unemployment Rate: 9.2 percent.

Find a job now in liberal arts.

7. Psychology

Starting Salary: $30,000.
Unemployment Rate: 7.6 percent.

Find a job now in psychology.

6. Philosophy/Religious Studies

Starting Salary: $30,000.
Unemployment Rate: 10.8 percent.

Find a job now in philosophy or religion.

5. Social Work

Starting Salary: $30,000.
Unemployment Rate: 6.6 percent.

Find a job now in social work.

4. Fine Arts

Starting Salary: $30,000.
Unemployment Rate: 12.6 percent.

Find a job now in fine arts.

3. Physical Fitness / Parks Recreation

Starting Salary: $30,000.
Unemployment Rate: 8.3 percent.

Find a job now in physical fitness or parks recreation.

2. Anthropology / Archaeology

Starting Salary: $28,000.
Unemployment Rate: 10.5 percent.

Find a job now in anthropology or archaeology.

1. Drama / Theater

Starting Salary: $26,000.
Unemployment Rate: 7.8 percent.

Find a job now in drama or theater.

Major Decisions


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262 Comments

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ygvs0

SOME people are so poor that the only thing they have is money.

February 27 2014 at 2:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

And anything that can be done remotely. If you get to modem in 3 or 4 days a week--better think of something else to do, because they're plotting to outsource it to someone in Timbuktu who will do the job "good enough" for 1/20th what you do.

I was replaced by a cadre of geeks in Bangalore who make less than I could make at Starbux.

June 05 2013 at 9:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
heatherinag27

Since when is the "starting salary" for theatre majors, aptly listed as the worst paying major out there, that high?? My first year out of school was about 20% of that. Six years out and steadily working as an actor (I have had only acting jobs as my source of income for well over a year, and gigs combined with "survival jobs" before that), I'd still like to hit that "starting salary"! Maybe the techies and the arts administrators skew the actors higher?

June 03 2013 at 12:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew

I'm sorry but I am a theatre major and I have theatre friends who are making $78,000 working freelance in the city....you're data is not correct.

May 31 2013 at 9:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bellzybub

I'd like to know where they got these figures. I know people with most of these degrees and they don't make that kind of money. I once loved a job. But when i couldn't afford to move out of my mothers home and own a car at the same time it was time for me to rethink my career choice. 23k in debt only got me to the point of realizing I needed to go get a degree that would allow me to pay my bills. Doing what you love doesn't really help when you are living a horrible existence due to lack of $.
I now make a decent living and can do what I love in my free time because I can afford to have free time.

May 31 2013 at 7:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
spike

How about getting an education that will provide the necessary money to actually follow youyr passion? Just a thought.

May 31 2013 at 3:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lilie Siplin

Seems to me that having any original college degree is a SUPPOSED THREAT.

May 31 2013 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bethiep226

I find articles like this upsetting. Young people just starting out: follow your passions. Happiness is more important than money, and if you decide you are motivated by money, you can find a way to make it by doing what you love. I was an English major ,and I wouldn't go back and make a different decision. The decision that I would change was the one to go to grad school to become a teacher-I listened to people who had never taught before tell me it would be a great job for me. I didn't like teaching and am still paying for the degree 12 years later. Study what you love. Many employers value the skills of a liberal arts major because they know they are inquisitive people who like to solve problems.

May 31 2013 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bethiep226's comment
KingofKnights

Your comment is disheartening, you are just misleading the kids to follow there heart.. They will have to go hungry or even worse homeless if they always follow there dreams.... This is the Hard truth... I am not sure how old you are.. but being a guy in the 25's I know how it is..... branches like engineering are tough.. but hey .. I know for sure that I can feed my family and clear my loans within an year....

May 31 2013 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jjack5400

These appear to be mostly liberal elite types of majors. I guess you can always get federal funding, not only for your worthless degree, but for grant money to help you start your worthless career.

May 31 2013 at 6:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pearl Nestor

I found a job in the market place just after high school because I already had two years of Graphic Arts, majoring in Press Operations. So I started off being a Printer. I knew I had to have some marketable skills apart from my interests. I am an Artist and a Painter, didn't think would become famous right off, also knew how to write, didn't think I would be a best seller with my first book. When I hear of people going off to get these degrees I wonder how many Philosopher's are needed in the world or if there is a factory nearby that has need of them. It's always practical to educate yourself to the realities of life. When I hear of these majors that people go for, I just assume they are going for tenure in another college because that's the only venue that would be asking for those skills, and that's good too. It just seems so limiting.

May 31 2013 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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