Special Report

The Highest and Lowest Paying College Majors in America

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15. Special needs education
> Avg. annual earnings: $37,161
> Unemployment rate: 1.9%
> Total workforce: 245,983

Special needs educators work with students who have learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, many public schools require special needs teacher to have a certification for this type of work. Though the pay is relatively low, the career field is stable. Just 1.9% of special needs education bachelor’s degree holders are unemployed, and the BLS projects employment in the field to continue to grow at a steady pace in the coming years.

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14. Social science or history teacher education
> Avg. annual earnings: $36,647
> Unemployment rate: 2.2%
> Total workforce: 141,560

Nearly 80% of social science or history teacher education majors who graduate with a bachelor’s degree also go on to earn a master’s degree as well — one of the highest rates of any major and nearly double the 41.5% master’s degree attainment rate for all bachelor’s degree holders. Despite this high level of education, history teaching majors — like all other types of teaching majors — earn less than $40,000 per year on average.

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13. Social work
> Avg. annual earnings: $36,644
> Unemployment rate: 2.6%
> Total workforce: 518,799

Social workers help people deal with stresses and issues in their lives, as well as diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral problems. Social workers are employed at schools, mental health clinics, government agencies, and a variety of other areas. There are more than half a million people in the U.S. labor force with a social work degree, and employment is expected to increase much faster than the overall U.S. employment rate. The average annual salary among workers with a social work degree is just $36,644.

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12. Mathematics teacher education
> Avg. annual earnings: $35,245
> Unemployment rate: 1.6%
> Total workforce: 97,744

Nearly all mathematics teacher education majors who complete their bachelor’s degree program, 99.8%, also earn a master’s degree, the highest rate of any field of study. Most other types of educational specialties have more than 100,000 degree holders in the labor force, with some exceeding 1 million. Yet there are just 97,744 members of the labor force with a degree in mathematics teacher education. Still, like other types of teachers, mathematics teacher education majors are not well compensated, making just over $35,000 a year on average.

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11. Theology and religious vocations
> Avg. annual earnings: $35,003
> Unemployment rate: 2.3%
> Total workforce: 317,454

Those who decide to study theology in college are not likely doing so to become rich. The degree tends to attract those who wish to examine religious faith. For those who want to a career in the church, post graduate divinity school is typically a prerequisite. Over half — 53.2% — of American adults with a theology degree also have a master’s.

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