11.18.2010 / College Degrees and where they Pay Part 2

Every year, thousands of eager freshman start their first year in college with little ideas about what they want to do or what they are passionate about. Many will start somewhere and change majors during school; in fact, around 50% of college students change their major (and some do it more than once)!

"As the saying goes, Do what you love and the money will come."

We have put together two different lists for you that show the top ten highest and lowest paying college degrees. This is the second installment of our two part series:

  1. Lowest Paying
    Child and Family Studies – Many of those who major in child or family studies go on to lead careers in social work, family services or counseling. This degree takes the cake for being the most selfless degree there is.
    Average first year salary: $29,500
    Average mid-career salary: $38,400

  3. Education – Let’s imagine a world in which there are no elementary education teachers. If that were the case, we’d have nobody to teach us the basics to our college degree. Unfortunately, elementary education careers are often overlooked and barely paid.
    Average first year salary: $31,600
    Average mid-career salary: $44,400

  5. Social Work – dealing with homelessness, drug addiction and poverty on a daily basis can be emotionally straining, and even more so when you add in the small pay. It is also one of the fastest growing career fields in the United States, so you’re in demand, just not paid for it.
    Average first year salary: $31,800
    Average mid-career salary: $44,900

  7. Athletic Training – This degree seems perfect for those who, like most, love sports but cannot play. Athletic trainers normally prove to be a vital link between the athlete, physician, coach and possibly family and are needed at all levels of competition.
    Average first year salary: 32,800
    Average mid-career salary: 45,700

  9. Culinary Arts – The work of culinary arts majors is normally underappreciated. It requires long hours of work, almost always on your feet, and unusual hours. A chef with extensive experience may eventually be promoted to executive chef and be treated as management of the restaurant.
    Average first year salary: 35,900
    Average mid-career salary: 50,600

  11. Horticulture – Although this seems like one of the most fun (Who doesn’t love doing yard work?) career paths on our lists, it is also one of the least paid. Horticulturists can seek careers in agribusiness, landscape maintenance or research.
    Average first year salary: 35,000
    Average mid-career salary: 50,800

  13. Paralegal Studies – Lawyers have increasingly been delegating their work to Paralegals and Law Clerks who they can pay less money than maintaining additional attorneys on staff. This career is in very high demand, but also a very demanding field.
    Average first year salary: 35,100
    Average mid-career salary: 51,300

  15. Theology – Self-sacrifice and spirituality normally go hand in hand. If you’re not in the priesthood or sisterhood, where many expenses are paid, you may have a tough time making a living wage.
    Average first year salary: $34,800
    Average mid-career salary: $51,500

  17. Recreation / Leisure Studies – For a career that requires so much energy, the pay seems to be small. But, while those with this career track may not be bringing in the cash, camp directors, community planners and park managers often get to have a lot more fun than their high-paid counterparts.
    Average first year salary: 33,300
    Average mid-career salary: 53,200

  19. Dietetics – Dieticians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. They help prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and suggesting diet modifications. Dietitians run food service systems for institutions such as hospitals and schools, promote good eating habits and conduct research.
    Average first year salary: 40,400
    Average mid-career salary: 54,200


Although we don’t recommend taking pay as the only consideration as you choose your career, it should be one of them. As the saying goes, “Do what you love and the money will come.” Make sure you know what you can expect to make before you graduate so there are no surprises when you get your first job offer.


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