11 Worst College Majors if You Want to Make a Lot of Money

MAKE MONEY - JOBS & CAREERS
You might not earn enough with these college majors to justify how much you spent getting a degree.
Updated Dec. 21, 2023
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Choosing a major in college is not easy. One of the biggest challenges is weighing how much it will cost to get your degree compared to what you can expect to earn in salary after graduation.

Make the wrong choice, and you could spend many years trying to crush your debts and struggling to get by. With some majors, you might even end up having to earn extra cash in addition to your full-time job.

So, think twice about pursuing the following majors if making a lot of money is a priority.

Editor's note: all salary figures in this story come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Athletic training

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Athletic training is a good major if you like helping athletes reach their potential. But don’t expect to get rich.

Athletic trainers typically must have a master’s degree but only make a median annual salary of $53,840. This can be a great career to enjoy, but your financial fitness could take a hit.

Anthropology and Archeologists

Sergey Nivens/Adobe man holding a torch flame while deciphering ancient signs

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans.

They most often work in an academic or research setting. Jobs in the field usually require a master’s degree as well as additional fieldwork.

However, it may be difficult to pay down those student loans after school, as the median salary is $63,940 per year.

Art

proimagecontent/Adobe artist wears black hat posing near picture indoor the studio

Getting an art degree and becoming an artist can help you find a vision and learn new techniques to express yourself creatively. 

But this degree does not make it easy to pay the bills. A typical artist can expect to make $51,150 per year in salary.

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Journalism

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Journalists are an important part of society, reporting on events within local communities as well as covering national and international issues.

Journalism positions typically require a bachelor’s degree, but the pay is not great, with those in the profession making a median annual salary of $55,960.

Photography

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You don’t necessarily need a degree in photography to make a living as a photographer. However, a degree can help if you want to be a photojournalist or an industrial and scientific photographer, according to the BLS.

Photographers make a median salary of $40,170 per year.

Social work

Valerii Honcharuk/Adobe woman social worker talking to a girl

Social work can be a meaningful job where you help others overcome problems in their everyday lives. Most social workers need a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, and in many states, you must earn a license.

In exchange for all that schooling, social workers make a modest median annual salary of $55,350.

Culinary arts

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Students who major in culinary arts may enjoy food and cooking, but they might not like the salary that goes along with their job.

Chefs and head cooks make a median annual salary of  $56,520 while working long hours, including nights and weekends.

Early childhood education

WavebreakmediaMicro/Adobe teacher giving lesson to her students

Working in a preschool and interacting with small children can be fun. But a position as a preschool teacher might require at least an associate’s degree — or even a bachelor’s degree — in early childhood education.

However, preschool teachers may only make a modest wage. The median salary is $35,330 each year.

Graphic design

NicoElNino/Adobe designer team sketching a logo in digital design studio

A college degree in graphic arts allows you to create visual designs for clients such as advertisers or those in other businesses and fields.

However, graphic designers make a modest median annual wage of $57,990. The BLS also estimates that the field will only grow 3% in the next decade, which is slower than other fields in the U.S.

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Paralegal studies

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A paralegal may be hired to assist law firms, government agencies, and other legal professionals. Although you can become a paralegal with an associate’s degree, some employers might favor those with a bachelor’s degree.

However, regardless of the degree you earn, don’t expect to make the salary of a lawyer. Paralegals and legal assistants typically earn about $59,200.

Physical education

Drazen/Adobe female coach has PE class with group of elementary students

A career in physical education might allow you to work at a local fitness center, or even to teach physical education classes or coach sports programs at schools.

But after earning a physical education degree, fitness trainers and instructors should expect $45,380 in median annual income while a high school physical education teacher may earn $62,360 annually.

Pro tip: You may want to check to see if you need a degree if you have your heart set on lower-paying fields. You could enjoy your career while you keep more money in your bank account.

Bottom line

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Consider avoiding these college degrees that won't get you where you want to be financially. Unless you plan to develop a side hustle that helps you earn extra cash to fill in any gaps in your budget.

It would be wise to factor in your income potential when choosing a major and estimate how much money you will need to live and retire comfortably after graduation.

If these jobs still fit the kind of lifestyle you want to live now and in the future, consider making adjustments and simply accept living a more frugal lifestyle.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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