Recently, many high school graduates have questioned whether they should go to college at all. Their math is simple. Few can pay the full amount to cover tuition, room and board, so they take out student loans. Recent research shows one in four Americans have student debt, with an average of just over $37,000. The Biden administration has stated it wants to forgive some of this debt. However, plans for this have not been finalized.
Against these tens of thousands of dollars of debt, students have to measure what they believe their future earnings will be. For some people, the paydown of the debt may not occur for years or even decades. This means it will be harder for some of them to buy homes. Even day-to-day expenses may have to be on strict budgets.
The major that college students choose can significantly affect their earnings power in the future, which, in turn can affect their ability to pay their debt. To determine the lowest-paying college major in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Census Bureau data on average annual earnings of individuals holding an undergraduate degree in 2019. The disparities in incomes between majors paying the most and least are quite stark.
At the far end of the spectrum, the highest-paying college majors on our list are health and medical preparatory programs, pharmacology and computer engineering. The average annual earnings in these fields in 2019 were all significantly above $100,000. This reflects the value of an education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields in particular.
The lowest-paying majors include elementary education, library science and miscellaneous education, with average annual earnings no higher than $30,000
The lowest paying college major is elementary education. Here are the details:
- Average annual earnings in 2019: $28,376
- Unemployment rate in 2019: 1.4%
- Total workforce in 2019: 1,391,273
To determine the lowest-paying college major in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on earnings from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample files. Undergraduate college majors were ranked based on the average reported incomes of individuals holding the degree in 2019.
Data on unemployment rates and total workforce were calculated using data on employment status by field of degree from the same source. The Census Bureau considers the first degree listed by survey respondents in response to the prompt “Please print below the specific major(s) of any BACHELOR’S DEGREES this person has received” to be their major undergraduate field of degree.
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