While some fields of study, like engineering or finance, can reliably lead to highly remunerative careers, other majors may not guarantee great wealth, even if they’re still associated with socially useful and emotionally satisfying jobs.
Using individual-level data from the US Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey compiled by the Minnesota Population Center’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series program, we looked at average total annual personal incomes for different fields of study among college degree holders.
One of the questions on the American Community Survey asks respondents what their level of educational attainment is. Among those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the survey also asks what major field of study the respondent’s degree was in. Using that data, we found the majors with the lowest average total personal income among employed Americans with bachelor’s degrees in that field.
While the entries on the list tend to have lower pay than other fields of study, they can still lead to careers that are fulfilling in other ways. Many of the majors with lower-than-average pay are in education, and teachers tend to be passionate about helping their students grow and learn, although there is a growing push for higher salaries among teachers. In October, teachers in Chicago went on an 11-day strike, demanding smaller class sizes and higher pay.
It’s also worth noting that this is a fairly simple analysis. We’re just considering all employed Americans who had a degree in each major, without considering other significant factors that could affect personal income, like their particular post-college occupations and industries. Still, it gives an indication of which areas of study may lead to lower earnings after graduation.
Here are the 20 college majors with the lowest average incomes, in order of decreasing pay: