The 5 Least Paying College Degrees in 2013 Comments42 Comments

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‘What’s your major?’

It’s a question that will be asked a thousand times during your college career, and before long you’ll be able to answer it in your sleep. But while it may be a dull and repetitive question asked by everyone from your parents’ neighbors to that socially awkward guy at a party who can’t think of a better topic of conversation, this is the most important question you’ll ever be asked. A college degree can lead to a successful career and a life of wealth and happiness, but it’s the subject you choose that really matters.

Many students, of course, go to college to study a subject for which they have a passion. Some will go to college in the hopes of helping others. A person may attend an online mba program in hopes of creating jobs while another may go for education in hopes of developing new generations of leaders. Regardless of the altruistic nature of people, most study in the hope that their effort will be repaid in the future with higher salaries and greater opportunities. For those people, then, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of the least paying college degrees. The following are the 5 areas of study you should try to avoid if you hope your future will include a house, a car, and the financial freedom to enjoy life.

1. Child and Family Studies

Working with children can be extremely rewarding both spiritually and emotionally, but according to the latest PayScale report it rarely leads to financial security. Graduates in Child and Family Studies often move on to careers in social work and special education, professions which offer an annual average salary of around $37,700.

The figures may be skewed by the fact that 91% of graduates in this field are female, and since many women take a break from their career to raise a family, the average salary of the group as a whole will tend to be reduced. However, even taking into account a gender bias, the average earnings of Child and Family Studies graduates is incredibly low.

2. Social Work

Similarly, social work attracts students who care deeply about the welfare of others. Many graduates take jobs in fields that offer them the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, but in our society this isn’t a financially rewarding field. Social work graduates earn an average of just $45,300 per annum.

3. Elementary Education

This is actually one of the most popular subjects for students who want to change lives. Elementary education graduates shape the lives of our children, guiding them into education and giving them a solid foundation from which they can bloom. Unfortunately, we have decided that the skills required to plant the seed of knowledge in our youngest generation is worth only $46,800 to start.

4. Human Development

Graduates in human development often find themselves with the opportunity to move into relatively lucrative positions in human resources and office management, but many are drawn into low paying careers in counseling and education, leaving them with an average salary of only $47,800.

5. Special Education

A degree in Special Education requires a special kind of person; a person willing to work in an intensely challenging field that often feels like a losing battle. Working with children with learning disorders and emotional problems can be emotionally draining, but most in the field believe that they make a positive difference. However, with an average salary of just $48,900 the work doesn’t offer a great deal of financial compensation.

The common factor between all of these majors – and the careers to which they lead – is that they all focus on helping others. All of these careers are admirable, worthy and emotionally rewarding, and a student hoping to move into any of these careers should be applauded.

However, they should go into their studies with the knowledge that their reward will not be financial. They will likely not find wealth in any of these careers, and they should prepare themselves for that. Hopefully, though, there will always be a few brave and selfless souls who choose this life for themselves, for the sake of us all.

Author Bio: Sani Golriz is a community blogger and active staff writer for CollegeFocus, a website dedicated to helping students deal with the challenges of college, including housing, finance, style, health, relationships, and transferring from a community college to a four-year university.
You can follow CollegeFocus on Twitter at @CollegeFocus101 and Facebook at www.facebook.com/collegefocus.

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This entry was posted in Career, and tagged , Comments42 Comments
By : Adam | 19 Mar 2013
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42 thoughts on “The 5 Least Paying College Degrees in 2013

  1. Alan@escapingmydebt

    This article just makes me sad. So basically any degree where you are either helping people or trying to help the future generations of this country, you should not expect much. But yet, if you are self-centered and greedy, the road ahead is paved in gold.

    Reply
    1. Sani

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks for reading. It’s unfortunate, isn’t it? To be quite honest, it’s quite challenging to find a job in education at this point in time. I have a MA in Edu., a Special Education credential, and an elementary education credential and I still couldn’t find a job. Now, I’m a writer and actually quite happy. The truth is that yes, these are low-paying jobs, but there are people who are meant for them – if they can get them in the first place.

      Reply
    2. Stevens Henager St. George

      that is quite the unfortunate truth that being said my parents work at a residential treatment center for youth and though it doesn’t pay extremely well it is rewarding for them to be able to make a difference in the lives of those children.

      Reply
      1. Jeremy

        Yes those kinds of jobs would be rewarding in other ways. It seems that politicians take advantage of that fact though. They figure they can keep paying them peanuts since they are just happy to be helping people.

        Reply
  2. Mr. 1500

    I have 2 young children, so articles like this strike a chord with me.

    The honest truth though is that I don’t know how I feel yet. I want them to work in something they love. I also hope that work pays them a decent wage so they don’t have to struggle.

    There are many days when I sit back and think that I’m the luckiest guy on earth. I develop software and love it. My 40 hours every week fly by. The side benefit is that it pays well.

    Reply
    1. Sani

      There’s a fine line, isn’t there? My motto is to do what you love and be REALLY good at it. That’s what I try to teach others when I have the opportunity.

      Reply
  3. Michelle

    Most people who go into these fields are looking to help people and have their work and passion align. Money isn’t always on their minds, sometimes that’s something that I would have thought about when I received my degrees! :)

    Reply
  4. Jessica, The Debtprincess

    Yea, great job America! Let’s pay people who care enough to help the least we can. Why are we not paying teachers what they are worth??? Why don’t we value education more? We are so backwards in this country. We should be taking better care of our people!

    I love my choice in career (I’m on that list) and I love what I do but I don’t get paid 1/2 of what I deserve. I put in well more than 40 hrs a week and when you work it out, the pay borders on minimum wage. It’s ridiculous. I will have my masters degree in August so I’ll be extremely well educated and still making $40,000 a year.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      Amen. Look at places like Sweden, where they have a great education system and pay the employees that work in this field a commensurate amount. It’s truly sad. If you’re a good enough teacher you can pray you’ll land a job in a ritzy school district that pays their teachers and staff to be the best, but the odds are against you.

      Reply
    2. Sani

      Hi Jessica,

      I think many people don’t get paid half of what they deserve, unfortunately. And yes, teachers deserve to be paid WAY more than what they do. Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  5. Grayson @ Debt RoundUp

    This just goes to show that if you aren’t in something that relates to business, health care, or entertainment, then your not worth the money. Unfortunately, this is extremely sad because all of the people that want to help others can’t even help themselves financially. My sister-in-law is going into social work. She won’t make much, but she will help many.

    Reply
  6. KK @ Student Debt Survivor

    Social work manager here. My entry level social workers make $42,500 (right out of there masters program). So I would assume that the figure in this post isn’t for college grads (who make much less), but masters level social workers. You can’t get a job in most clinical fields unless you have the correct license, which is an additional cost and additional years of supervised experience. Snark Finance did a really nice piece a week or so ago about social workers (overworked, over educated, and severely underpaid) over at Club Thrifty.

    Reply
  7. Cat

    I agree with the other comments – it’s said that a lot of these lower paying positions are once that help/shape people’s lives.

    Reply
  8. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    I think most going into those fields know they won’t get rich. It is sad when a someone with a master’s degree could qualify for low income assistance in some places. I think that’s why lots of people in these professions burn out. Doing almost impossible work for low pay has to take a toll at some point.

    Reply
    1. Sani

      Yes, Kim, you’re very right. There’s a high turnover rate among teachers for sure. I’m sure other low paying careers that have high stress levels (like social work) have a lot of turnover as well.

      Reply
  9. Pauline

    I hope you don’t accumulate debt to get one of those degrees! It is possible to live quite well on those income if you are debt free and in a low cost of living area, otherwise really complicated!

    Reply
    1. Sani

      Hi Pauline,

      Unfortunately, many people do accumulate quite a bit of debt just getting an undergraduate degree. So you can imagine that there’s more $$ involved when going into these specialized positions. Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  10. Jose

    I’m surprised that a degree in education didn’t make the list. Our teachers have to be one of the most educated, yet least paid professionals around!

    Reply
  11. Edward Antrobus

    47 grand to start as a teacher? Back in NJ where I was pursuing my teaching credentials, think more like half of that. I’ve heard of first-year salaries as low as $18,000/yr

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Yeah I was thinking that $47k figure sounded too high. $47k really isn’t that low to start compared to a lot of other careers, but teachers are known to not make much money.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I agree. I think a society could be much stronger if they attracted the most qualified people into becoming teachers. With low paying jobs like that, the smarter people will usually end up elsewhere.

      Reply
  12. Edward

    I’d like to add to everyone talking about how sad it is that these well meaning professions get paid so little to remember this the next time you complain about you’re taxes, especially property taxes. Because, guess what, teachers and social workers get paid from taxes.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      It is a catch-22. People think teachers should get paid more, but they don’t think they should be the ones paying them. Maybe corporations need to sponsor them and teachers will wear branded clothing to get the pay they deserve.

      Reply
  13. The Norwegian Girl

    It`s like this in Norway as well, working with people won`t get you rich, that`s for sure! Here, the starting salary is about $60.000, which might sound a lot, but it´s the normal starting salary for 3 years educations, but the thing is, the salary won´t increase very much the rest of their careers, while other`s will.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      $60k is a nice starting salary, but from what I’ve heard Norway is a rather expensive country to live in. So I guess it’s all relative. Not getting any raises through your career can be frustrating especially with inflation eating away at that number.

      Reply
  14. Christopher Nowak

    What about a Fine Arts degree? Unless you want to teach, this degree is virtually useless.

    My hourly wage jobs were: 5, 7, 8+ 9.9.5,10.25 and 10.43 an hour (not including part-time music gigs) with my highest gross income ever at $18,335 for one year.

    Thank God for my non-materialism. Believe it or not, I still plan a healthy retirement!!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Yeah those are some pretty low wages. I think the writer skipped a number of lower paying degrees just to focus on the more controversial low paying jobs. There are lots of other degrees that are unlikely to even lead to a job.

      Reply
  15. Des @ Ditch the Degree

    This is a very sad truth. These professionals are among those people who works very hard to help other people’s personality development. So I think, they must be paid well.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I agree that it really shouldn’t be this way. Unfortunately the greedy politicians who control that would rather give themselves raises instead.

      Reply
  16. Christopher Nowak

    You may recall in a previous comment I made about the futility of a Fine Arts degree and my low wage day jobs.

    I would like to announce that I have just recently attained my highest hourly wage job of 11 dollars an hour on September 10, 2013.

    Reply

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