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Why You’ll Want To Skip Getting A College Degree In These Fields

To a certain degree, the stats provided by the National Center for Education Statistics are shocking: The cost of a four-year college education at public institutions averages $77,000, while private colleges can rake in more than $158,000 per student. Truth is, college costs have been on the rise for years, and the current high price of an education can be a major disincentive to pursue learning and follow a career path.

But according to education experts, having a college degree generally pays off in the long run. Holding a four-year degree can significantly increase lifetime earnings as well as job prospects, and dramatically impact where you end up in the work world. Yet  having a degree in certain fields just doesn’t bode well in terms of success post graduation.

Bankrate looked at earnings and employment information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to determine which majors ranked lowest and highest in career success. Here are the 10 lowest-earning degrees, starting with the lowest average income.


Fine Arts – Average Income: $40,855 | Unemployment Rate: 9.1%

All is not fine when it comes to getting a fine arts degree: The unemployment rate in this category comes in at 9.1%. But students who forge ahead despite the grim statistics can find employment as music contractors, illustrators, or art teachers.


Culinary Arts and Cosmetology Services – Average Income: $42,362 | Unemployment Rate: 4.7%

In these fields, it’s important to know that experience can count as much – maybe even more – than a degree. With a culinary arts degree you can seek employment in nutrition counseling, restaurant ownership, cafeteria and kitchen management, and catering. If you’re a cosmetology major, your career path may lead to work in make-up artistry, aesthetics, various types of salons, and hairdressing.


Visual Arts – Average Income: $43,996 | Unemployment Rate: 4%

Graphic design, marketing, business-to-business communications, and filmmaking and editing all rely on the talents of visual artists. But despite the high demand, graduates who hold visual arts degrees aren’t necessarily guaranteed employment. Visual artists may find themselves unable to find full-time work, and feel forced to settle for freelance or contract jobs.


Composition and Speech – Average Income: $44,211 | Unemployment Rate: 4.9%

After focusing their studies on the communication arts, graduates in composition and speech often seek work in the fields of political campaigning, public relations, journalism, and marketing. After these grads talk the talk, they need to walk the walk:  Gaining writing experience in a specific field often opens the door to more job prospects than just having a degree alone.


Human Services and Community Organization – Average Income: $45,111 |Unemployment Rate: 3.9%

The reward for graduates in this field lies in helping families, individuals, and communities achieve progress, reach goals, and improve well-being. Unfortunately, a degree alone may not be enough when it comes to starting out on this career path; an internship and significant networking might also be needed. Graduates often seek work as educational counselors, social workers, or family therapists.


Drama and Theater Arts – Average Income: $48,287 | Unemployment Rate: 5.2%

The show must go on – and so must the payments for obtaining a degree in drama and theater arts, which provides training for acting and other jobs in the realm of theater. But acting jobs in the theater world aren’t plentiful, and the road to success and recognition isn’t an easy one, which is why some acting majors look for work in related fields such as stage construction or coaching actors.


Library Science – Average Income: $48,754 | Unemployment Rate: 3.3%

Once upon a time, libraries were considered essential, but in today’s digital world they’re often seen as obsolete. Library science majors who can’t find work at an actual brick-and-mortar library can seek employment opportunities in information architecture, database administration, curating specialized library collections, and market research.


Interdisciplinary Studies – Average income: $48,992 | Unemployment Rate: 5.4%

Interdisciplinary studies run the gamut from neuroscience to archaeology to ancient languages and more. According to the Princeton Review, graduates who hold this degree can seek employment in a wide range of fields such as historic preservation, curating antique collections, and anthropology. But job opportunities aren’t necessarily plentiful in these fields, and securing a position can be predicated upon tailoring your studies to a specific career path.


Psychology – Average income: $51,022 | Unemployment Rate: 4.8%

Psychology grads compete for jobs that can involve counseling individuals with everything from personal issues to serious mental health problems; clinical psychology focuses more on the latter. Employment opportunities include working as a victim advocate, career counselor, guidance counselor, health educator, and psychiatric technician.


Educational Psychology – Average income: $54,097 | Unemployment Rate: 6.3%

In general, education psychology focuses on the various ways in which people, especially children, process information and learn. Government institutions, schools, and private research facilities may hire educational psych grads, but another graduate degree or a PhD might be required to land the most sought-after jobs such as a tenured position at a university or college.