When I attended the journalism school at the University of Montana, I was told by every professor in every class for four years that I'd, “better not be in this career for the money.” I wasn’t, and if I was, that would have been very foolish.
Not only do journalists make very little, but it’s a highly competitive field in a declining industry. When it comes to college majors that don’t make money, I’m on the front lines with a degree to become a writer.
Some other notoriously low-paying majors include anything in the arts, social work, education, theology and psychology. Thank goodness we have people who are committed to their passion and aren’t in it for the money. Otherwise, we’d have a serious shortage of people in these important fields.
For many of us, the decision to attend a university and obtain a degree stems from the belief that gaining skills in your chosen field will lead to a higher salary than you’d get otherwise. This is true for many college graduates, but is the pay high enough to offset the mountain of student debt we’ve collected while getting our education? For some graduates this isn’t the case. Not only is the cost of higher education at an all-time high, but many common degrees don’t pay enough in practice to make a college education worth the hassle or the cost. The key to college education from a financial perspective is steering clear of the liberal arts degrees and sticking with a technical career in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields.
College Majors that Actually Make Money …
The king of high-paying jobs in the STEM industries is engineering. This is a really broad term for all of the subsectors of engineering that dominate the lists of the top-paying college majors. Petroleum engineering, nuclear engineering and chemical engineering are some of the highest paying engineering positions in the game. The median starting salary for a bachelor’s degree in general is $45,478 and the median starting salary for someone with an engineering degree is $64,376. So it’s clear engineering is a front-runner for college majors with a financially successful path ahead. For those with an interest in engineering as a career choice, the options for subsectors that will fulfill your passion seemingly are endless and range from aerospace engineering to plastics engineering and many others in between.
The accounting field is a booming industry that is among the most profitable private business sector in the United States. The median national annual salary for accountants and auditors is $63,550, which is not as high as the median starting salary for engineers, but is still considerably higher than the average salary for any old bachelor’s degree. Since the demand for accountants is expected to rise in 2016 due to business growth and the retirement of baby boomers, salaries are expected to rise as well, by about 4.7 percent. For students entering the accounting field, the job market is not only favorable, but it has staying power and needs employees.
Mixing the world of creativity and engineering is the world of architecture. Architects use their eye for design and their engineering skill set to create beautiful and safe buildings. The median annual salary for architects in 2013 was $74,110 with the top 10 percent being paid approximately $119,370, mainly in metropolitan areas. The job market for architects is tight, so available jobs aren’t quite as easy to find. This career, despite its high average salary, is still relatively difficult to get into due to low demand.
Technology is a very beneficial choice for a college major given the outlook for today’s business sectors. Computer science is another one of those STEM fields that is in need of people, pays well and has a ton of job opportunities. Computer science majors can become software architects, “agile coaches,” business intelligence directors, data architects or one of many other specialties in this diverse field. Computer science majors who end up in a specialized field or in management tend to earn more. In 2015, the average starting salary was $61,287.
Healthcare isn’t usually on the list of the most lucrative college majors for students looking to make the most out of their schooling financially. It isn’t one of the top-ranked salary fields, but in terms of making an above-average salary while making a positive impact on people’s lives, healthcare is the way to go. Also, with baby boomers leaving their positions in various nursing fields, the job opportunities are wide open. People actually are begging for graduates to come in and fill positions. Due to the high demand for nurses, salaries are rising. The average pay for a registered nurse is approximately $66,220; $92,970 for a physician assistant; and $116.500 for a pharmacist, according to U.S. News & World Report.
With young adults drowning in student debt they’ve accrued during their four-year stay in school to enhance their skills for the workforce, it’s a smart idea to be aware of the salary options for various college majors. For the unlucky ones who majored in a field with a low average salary, it can be difficult to understand how gaining that skill set was financially worth it when those debt repayment notices start rolling in.
For those who are interested in the most lucrative and promising fields, it’s smart to research available majors and understand your salary options. As for me, I’ll continue writing about salaries I’ll never have while staring at my $30,000 degree. At least college prepared me for the money I won’t be making.
What do you think? Are there other fields/jobs you would add to this list?
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated from the University of Montana in 2012 with her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She enjoys listening to talk radio, watching bad reality television, drinking good beer, and drinking not-so-good beer. You can find her on Twitter!
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