The most and least ‘valuable’ college majors

Personal Finance


Engineers assemble intelligent robots at Chuangze Intelligent Robot Co., Ltd. on April 29, 2019 in Rizhao, Shandong Province of China.

Zhang Jingang | Visual China Group | Getty Images

Your college major has a huge impact on the size of your paycheck later on. Pharmacy majors earn a median salary of $100,000, while music majors make $36,000.

Flower fan? Botany majors typically earn $50,000.

A new ranking by personal finance website Bankrate.com orders majors by the median income and unemployment rates they lead to. With the cost of attending college exploding over the last few decades, it’s important to understand how much your degree can earn you in the future.

“Picking a major is a huge decision and it has financial impacts for the rest of your life,” said Adrian Garcia, a data analyst at Bankrate.com.

The salary information shouldn’t dissuade you from pursuing your interests. However, it can help you decide how much you should take out in loans, or what kind of school you should attend. And if you’re undecided, it can provide some direction.

“People have to look at a ranking like this and balance their passion with the financial considerations,” Garcia said.

For example, students shouldn’t borrow more than they expect to earn in their first year of employment, said Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of SavingForCollege.com. “Borrowers should assume the lower end of the income range,” he added.

People who study naval architecture and marine engineering pick up a median income of $90,000, and their unemployment rate is just 1.6%, Bankrate.com found.

Nuclear engineers typically make $98,100, and just 1.8% can’t land a job.

Genetics majors are likely to earn $85,000 a year, and merely 1.2% are unemployed. Electrical engineers have a median salary of $99,000 and an unemployment rate of 2.7%.

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On the other end, drama and theater arts degrees lead to median salaries of $35,000 a year, and more than 5% are unemployed. Linguistics and literature majors have median salaries of $40,000 and 3.9% can’t find work.

If you do study a field without blockbuster income projections — such as journalism, with a $50,000 median pay — borrowing too much can backfire.

That’s because people who take on an exorbitant amount of student debt find it hard to land work tied to their major, and then are under a lot of pressure to get a paycheck that will simply allow them to meet their monthly loan bill.



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