15 Underrated College Majors That Will Pay Off (Literally) in the Future

These may not be the most popular majors, but they can lead to more job prospects than you think.
Updated April 29, 2024
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Students starting college today may feel the pull toward majors associated with lucrative career paths, such as computer science, engineering, and business. But some overlooked majors can also provide fulfilling careers that help you get ahead financially.

Here are 15 underrated majors new and prospective students should consider studying. All salary figures come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Microgen/Adobe journalists interviewing

Naysayers often dismiss communications studies and the various fields within it — such as journalism, public relations, and human resources — as underpaid. However, there are many lucrative paths such graduates can take.

For example, the median annual salary for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers is $156,580.

Data science

Gorodenkoff/Adobe female scientist using CAD at work

Data scientists interpret and analyze large data sets. They can work in many fields, including using their skills to help online retailers boost profits or assist other organizations in tracking public health trends.

It can be quite an interesting gig and tends to pay well, too, with a median annual salary of $108,020.


AntonioDiaz/Adobe female translator sitting at table using desktop computer

While many assume teaching is the only job prospect for an English major, there are many jobs available to those with great research and communication skills. Such work ranges from editing to copywriting and public relations.

Writers and editors can make solid salaries as well. Annual median pay is $73,690 for writers and authors and $75,020 for editors.

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Library science

Drazen/Adobe librarian works on computer

Those who enjoy reading and research might consider studying to become a librarian.

In some cases, a master’s degree in library science may be required to land a full-time gig. However, librarians can go on to work in many different settings, from the government to public libraries and universities.

The median salary for librarians is $64,370 annually.

Public health

Lumos sp/Adobe doctor conference

There are many different well-paying career paths for those who earn a degree in public health. Some may choose to become health educators or administrators, while others may decide to continue their education and become medical researchers.

The median salary for a health education specialist is $62,860 annually, and that of a medical scientist is $100,890 annually.

Occupational therapy

auremar/Adobe occupational therapist helping patient to walk

Occupational therapists — who help people with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities adjust to daily life — can make great money, but they may need to pursue advanced degrees.

Many schools offer dual programs, such as a bachelor’s in health sciences and a master’s in occupational therapy. Occupational therapists make a median of 96,370 annually, and growth in the field is projected to be much faster than for many other occupations.

Radiologic technology

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe  radiographer operating ct scanner

Majoring in radiologic technology can set you up for a lucrative career in the medical field. Radiologic technologists typically perform medical imaging exams, such as X-rays and mammograms.

The BLS puts the median salary of these workers at $76,020 annually.

Technical writing

golubovy/Adobe content writer typing on laptop using keyboard

Writing-related majors tend to be dismissed as money wasters, but technical writing can be quite lucrative.

These professionals often have a deep knowledge of a specific technical or scientific subject and earn a median of $80,050 annually.


GreenFinance/Adobe analyzing business data on a tablet

The field of economics tends to be overshadowed by other money-focused studies, such as business and accounting. But these professionals can do interesting work and go on to make serious money.

Economists earn a median of $115,730 a year.

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Environmental science

Chudakov/Adobe sample of water in the creek

Environmental science majors can parlay their degrees into high earnings in many different industries, including meteorology and environmental law.

The median salary for environmental scientists and specialists is $78,980 annually.


Petro/Adobe  woman with microphone

If you find yourself fascinated with the art of language, a degree in linguistics can lead to a fulfilling and well-paying career. Linguistics majors can go into many different fields, from editing and translation to teaching foreign languages.

The median annual salary for interpreters and translators is $57,090.


bnenin/Adobe  pharmacist leaning on counter

You will need a doctoral degree to work as a pharmacist in the U.S., but many colleges offer dual degree programs for this profession that pair a bachelor of science with a more advanced degree. This may cut down on the amount of time you need to spend in graduate school.

The job is secure and pays well, with a median annual salary of $136,030.

Political science

pressmaster/Adobe political delegate with papers

Some folks might assume there is not much that you can do with a degree in political science, but that is far from the truth. These graduates can engage in research, work on campaigns, or in public relations.

You may need an advanced degree for the higher-paying jobs in this field, but the median salary is $132,350 annually.

Social work

Viacheslav Yakobchuk/Adobe workers discussing important questions

Social workers can work in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, and addiction centers.

And while the median annual pay is a bit lower than many other options on this list ($58,380) a career in social work can be quite fulfilling. In addition, different specialties might pay significantly more.


tong2530/Adobe steel welding plants

There are several different types of welding — including gas metal arc welding and atomic hydrogen welding — and pursuing a degree in something like welding technology can lead to excellent career prospects.

To gather data, the BLS lumps welders together with cutters, solderers, and brazers and puts the average annual salary at just under $48,940. However, it’s important to note that pay can vary a great deal and can be significantly higher.

Bottom line

peampath/Adobe college university concept

Americans with bachelor’s degrees earn 84% more than people who do not pursue any education beyond a high school diploma, according to data from the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities.

In short, going to college usually pays off.

However, you don’t have to pursue a career path you don’t enjoy. Many different types of college majors can lead to a fulfilling career that also helps you grow your wealth.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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