30 Lowest Paying College Majors 

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Staff Writer


30. Liberal Arts
Starting Salary: $36,800
Mid-Career Salary: $60,400

Liberal arts is one of the most ridiculed degree plans because it appears to lead to nowhere. There are so many career choices that a person can apply their skills and be successful, it is a shame that it is so laughed at. Liberal arts degrees are versatile and give a person a well-rounded background. Unfortunately careers in this area are grossly underpaid.

29. Psychology
Starting Salary: $36,200
Mid-Career Salary: $60,400

Psychology degree plans involve the study of the way people think and behave. Psychologists and Doctors of Psychology are two professional degrees that stem from this undergraduate degree plan. Admittedly, the doctor makes more than the rest of the occupations like this but, unfortunately, psychology is not highly regarded and salaries are set accordingly. Psychologists and therapists help people analyze their own thinking. They do more than sit beside a couch.

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28. Photography
Starting Salary: $36,100
Mid-Career Salary: $55,400

Photography is not just a hobby. It is a career for many with an eye for setting up or catching the perfect photograph. Students of photography learn the history of photography, how lighting changes photographed subjects, and how to arrange a studio and set. Photographers are artists who capture a variety of images on film or digital media. Wedding photography or portrait photographers are underpaid for capturing moments that are once in a lifetime. Photographers are essential to print marketing layouts, yet they are underpaid for their services in this area as well.

27. Theater
Starting Salary: $36,100
Mid-Career Salary: $55,700

Studying theater is a liberal arts degree plan. It is an experience based learning process. Theater is a business, and the degree courses teach the integral planning necessary to execute any plan because a play is built of many layers in addition to the actors on the stage, the lighting, script, set design, costumes, and sound, which all work together to create the theater experience. Theater majors understand how a complex team works together to complete a project. Their skills transfer easily to the business world. They are often hired in public relations and marketing careers. Theater majors are usually underpaid.

26. Anthropology
Starting Salary: $36,000
Mid-Career Salary: $61,300

The study of humans and human behavior is anthropology. There are several disciplines of anthropology: cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, and archaeology is a related study. Museum curators, forensic anthropologists, and cultural anthropologists are just three possible career choices. Cultural anthropologists work and often specialize in a particular country and culture. They are careful record keepers and have a sense of adventure; they are never ill at ease in new social settings. Anthropologists contribute to the societies they study, but in general, society does not value them with a high paying salary.

25. Art
Starting Salary: $35,900
Mid-Career Salary: $57,000

Art degrees provide a variety of career opportunities for the talented. You can work in commercial arts, applied art, graphic design or media arts and animation. Painters of pictures and sculptures are often underpaid workers known as starving artists. Those working in graphic design are paid with a regular salary, but it is often not a high paying job. Art teachers are also underpaid for the skills that they have and the task that they perform.

24. Interior Design
Starting Salary: $35,800
Mid-Career Salary: $59,200

Designing homes and making workplaces aesthetically pleasing are core responsibilities of the interior designer. They have an eye for art, special design, and color. Interior designers have a variety of skills in their toolkit. They communicate effectively with their clients to determine their interior design needs and then they design, sketch, and create a space that pleases the clients. Their ability to solve space and color problems make the interior designer an essential consultant. However, they are often underpaid for their skills.

23. Human Development
Starting Salary: $35,700
Mid-Career Salary: $47,900

Human development is a major in the liberal arts, and is similar to the humanistic studies. Liberal arts careers prepare you to be critical thinkers, have excellent communication skills, and the ability to research a variety of topics. These skills can be applied in a variety of careers. The human development major must market their skills and choose a career path such as working in independent living facilities, as youth advocates, or even in a domestic violence shelter. Human development graduates also can find themselves working in human resources. All of these jobs are on the lower end of the pay scale.

22. Public Health
Starting Salary: $35,700
Mid-Career Salary: $56,400

Careers in the public health field are involved in preventing disease, protecting the public, and promoting good health practices around the world. Students in the public health major must enjoy biology, math, and social sciences. Integrative biology and social welfare work hand in hand in the field of public health. This is one of the most necessary careers, and those who are involved in the field make a difference. However, they are often working for low pay.


21. Music
Starting Salary: $35,600
Mid-Career Salary: $51,300

Performing and teaching music are the two most obvious career paths for those who are musically inclined and willing to study at the collegiate level. Learning to be a professional musician is a noble choice for the talented. Instrumental music or vocal training is a required prerequisite for entry into this major field of study. This field of study often finds the graduate working in the schools, teaching vocal and instrumental music. Music teachers are paid on the same salary scale of other educators in their districts, and this is definitely an underpaid career choice.

20. Hospitality & Tourism
Starting Salary: $35,500
Mid-Career Salary: $62,500

If you would like to help people enjoy their vacations, the hospitality and tourism field of study is for you! You can work in four distinct areas of hospitality and tourism: travel, restaurants, amusement parks, or lodging.  There are a number of career choices in this field including: working at a theme park, as a travel agent, at a museum, sports arena, restaurant, or hotel. Each occupation contributes to the fun of a vacationer. It is difficult to place a price tag on having fun, but those in the tourism industry who make it possible for you to do so are certainly underpaid.

19. Drama
Starting Salary: $35,500
Mid-Career Salary: $56,400

The major of drama is a part of the performing arts department on many college campuses. Learning theatrical aspects of acting, directing, designing sets and costumes, and writing plays are just a sampling of the activities found in drama courses. This is a very rigorous and demanding degree program, and successful students of this degree program should enjoy physical activity as well as reading and writing. There is a lot of required reading because the students frequently study Shakespearean works, theater history, dramatic literature, and dramatic theory. Graduates working in this career field are frequently underpaid.

18. Kinesiology
Starting Salary: $35,400
Mid-Career Salary: $60,500

Kinesiology is the study of human movement or kinetics. Graduates of this degree are often found working as health educators, fitness careers, or health fitness medicine. Chiropractors, dietitians, osteopathic physicians, exercise physiologists, prosthetists, orthotists, and directors of recreation programs are often graduates of the kinesiology program. Volunteer opportunities working with the Red Cross or the Boy Scouts are also ways to put this degree into practice. Although the career path can lead to medical school, those who do not get the advanced degree are often underpaid for their skill set.

17. Biblical Studies
Starting Salary: $35,300
Mid-Career Salary: $50,500

Biblical studies is a major that focuses on the study of Jewish and Christian scriptures. This field is an excellent choice for a person who enjoys reading. A focus on comparative literature and theology is found in the Biblical studies classroom. Bible scholars learn about the translations and manuscripts of the Bible. They do an in depth study of each canon, or book. They are very knowledgeable in their field but usually find themselves working in underpaid positions.


16. Criminal Justice
Starting Salary: $35,200
Mid-Career Salary: $58,300

Criminal justice is not just a law degree; you find counselors, police officers, and probation officers training in this major. Criminal justice courses teach the psychology aspect of criminal behavior. You must like to read to enter this major because you will be reading about a huge number of court cases. You will learn to interpret statistics and most importantly, the law. Police officers are underpaid for putting their lives on the line daily.


15. Horticulture
Starting Salary: $35,100
Mid-Career Salary: $50,900

Horticulture science is in its most basic form the study of plants. Students in this major are taught to create hybrid plants, grow garden and ornamental plants, and learn about the elements it takes to be successful in a greenhouse. Light, moisture, and plant nutrition are just a selection of these elements that plants need to thrive under a horticulturist’s watchful eye. Horticulturists are able to identify the differences in different types of rose bushes, for example a tea rose or a climbing rose. They are also experts in creating humidity in a nursery. For the skills that they have, they are woefully underpaid.


14. Recreation & Leisure Studies
Starting Salary: $35,000
Mid-Career Salary: $51,800

If being a cruise ship recreation director sounds appealing to you, you might want to study parks, recreation, and leisure studies. It is not all fun and games for the coordinator of such activities, and they are underpaid for the services provided. Graduates of this major will be able to write grant applications for nonprofit programs and study trends of leisure activities, such as indoor climbing walls. Graduates of this degree program are found working in nursing homes, resorts, or with disabled adults. The goal for a graduate of a recreation and leisure program is to be able to help people enjoy healthy lives.

13. Paralegal Studies
Starting Salary: $34,900
Mid-Career Salary: $53,000

If you don’t want to pay the expense to go to law school, but you want to be involved in a legal career, paralegal studies could be the career path for you. Being a legal assistant is a respectable career in the field of law. Attorneys could not be successful without the research help of their paralegals. They are liaisons between the attorney and the client, between the law library and the courtroom, and the attorney and the law office. This variety of duties keep paralegals on their toes. They are the behind the scenes backbone of the justice system, and they are sorely underpaid for the role they play.

12. Physical Education Training
Starting Salary: $34,800
Mid-Career Salary: $56,400

Physical education majors lead to coaching and teaching physical education. The successful student in this major is active and enthusiastic about fitness. This program is heavily involved in anatomy and physiology because you learn the science behind the movements. Physical educators are certified teachers; states have varying certification requirements but this program provides a foundation for this certification. Coaches at the elementary school and high school level are underpaid, like other teachers in the public schools.

11. Religious Studies
Starting Salary: $34,700
Mid-Career Salary: $58,000

Religious studies is the study of religious beliefs and behaviors. The student is provided a background in religious history. The academic study of religion leads to a variety of career paths. Future members of the clergy are often found as students studying these courses. Religious studies are involved in anthropology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and religious history, and most graduates are severely underpaid for the knowledge base that they have.


10. Athletic Training
Starting Salary: $34,700
Mid-Career Salary: $47,000

Graduates of the athletic training major are found on the sidelines of most major sporting events. They are on hand to provide emergency care, clinical diagnosis, and therapeutic interventionists. They provide the injured with instruction on how to successfully rebound from their injury. Athletic trainers are interested in human anatomy and physiology. Athletic trainers are not personal trainers at the gym; athletic trainers are involved in physical medicine for athletes. For the service that they provide, they are definitely underpaid!

9. Culinary Arts
Starting Salary: $34,600
Mid-Career Salary: $51,000

If you love to cook, the major in the culinary arts is just for you! Students learn to prepare meals and present the food in a manner that is pleasing to the eye. The chefs and cooks become culinary artists whose food is renowned the world over. Those with a degree in this field are trained with knowledge of nutrition, diet, and food science. Culinarians are found working in delicatessens, restaurants, hotels, and hospitals. This is yet another underpaid career.

8. Theology
Starting Salary: $34,000
Mid-Career Salary: $52,300

The degree in theology is designed to train people to be speakers and teachers about the Bible. Missionaries, pastors, and other ministers receive this training. Counselors and advocates also benefit from studying in this career major. This study of human nature and destiny mixed with religious beliefs is a rewarding career to those who choose it, but do not expect to receive financial wealth from this career path. Most work for very small pay considering the role that they play in assisting others.

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7. Special Education
Starting Salary: $33,900
Mid-Career Salary: $49,600

Special Education focuses on students who have learning disabilities and physical impairments. This is a very rewarding career intrinsically, but it is an exhausting career both physically and emotionally because you are dealing with a variety of students’ health issues, while providing appropriate academic instruction. Special educators work closely with parents to ensure that the individual education plans are meeting the students’ needs. These teachers are sadly underpaid and underappreciated by the public; however, their students give lots of love. Graduates of this major are teachers who are certified in the area of special education.


6. Animal Science
Starting Salary: $33,500
Mid-Career Salary: $52,500

Animal Science leads to either the private or industrial sectors. Animal science graduates are researchers with government and international agencies. These graduates are found working with feed manufacturers or in drafting regulations for the agricultural industry. Animal scientists work for pharmaceutical companies and consulting firms. Livestock breeders and feedlot operators are just two of the jobs that you could find yourself doing if you study Animal Science.

5. Social Work
Starting Salary: $32,900
Mid-Career Salary: $46,500

Social work is definitely an underpaid hands-on career. This career major is involved in child abuse prevention. They are taught about family dynamics and psychology. If you enjoy helping others face and overcome problems, this is the career major for you. Do not expect the financial compensation to match the demands on your emotions. This can be a taxing career for those with a tender heart.


4. Broadcast Journalism
Starting Salary: $32,700
Mid-Career Salary: $68,900

Broadcast Journalism has a long history; it dates back to 1920 in Pittsburgh when the radio station announced the results of the presidential election. Broadcast journalists are underpaid for the tasks that they perform. They are often in the thick of history as it happens. Those who think on their feet are best suited for this career path. This major finds people both in front of the camera and behind it, operating the broadcast equipment. Operating microphones and other recording equipment are frequent tasks performed.

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3. Exercise Science
Starting Salary: $32,600
Mid-Career Salary: $50,900

Studying human movement is the focus of the Exercise Science major. This career’s primary objective is to help people be healthy through movement and dance. Students in this major are taught about diet and exercise; this major study program focuses on injury and illness prevention. Those who enjoy working out and playing sports would be successful in this underpaid career. Although physical activity is a big part of this career, it is more about helping people live longer and happier lives. Successful students in this career path enjoy science and biology in particular.


2. Elementary Education
Starting Salary: $32,100
Mid-Career Salary: $45,300

The Elementary Education major is a career path that takes students from student in the college classroom to teacher in the elementary school. This is an underpaid career major that requires dedication from its graduates. The elementary teacher provides foundational academic instruction to children. These teachers are not specialized in a particular subject matter; they are trained to teach the entire curriculum to their students. It is unfortunate that the compensation for their abilities is not on par with other higher paid careers because teachers have a great impact upon lives. This major leads to teacher certification, requirements vary by state. Elementary teachers are flexible and able to teach everything from art to mathematics in one classroom.

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1. Child & Family Studies
Starting Salary: $30,200
Mid-Career Salary: $37,300

A person with a degree in Child and Family Studies can hold a variety of positions including Children’s Librarian, Day Care Center Director, Early Childhood Interventionist, Family Resource Coordinator, Nanny, and Child and Family Life Specialist at a hospital. Although these are very intrinsically rewarding careers working with children and family, the monetary rewards are fewer. Professional Associations for workers in this field include National Association of Child Care Professionals, National Head Start Association, and National Association for Family Child Care. These careers involve not only the educational aspect for children’s success, they can involve offering the recreational opportunities. Successful students in this major have excellent problem solving skills, interpersonal skills, and are critical thinkers. This career path leads to government careers and the nonprofit sector.