Special Report

Choosing These College Majors Will Pay Off the Least

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a heightened sense of uncertainty about many aspects of American life, including higher education. Classes at American colleges and universities are resuming, though already, thousands of cases have been reported at campuses across the country, prompting some to suspend classes again. The crisis has forced many students to make a difficult choice about whether or not to continue their education, knowing that going to school means potentially risking their safety while also incurring further student debt in the midst of an economic crisis.

Student loan debt is soaring in the United States, overtaking both auto loans and credit card debt in recent years to become the second largest form of consumer debt, after only home mortgages. Americans hold a cumulative total of $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loans. 

This record high debt level is due in part to climbing tuition costs. The annual cost of attending a four-year private institution in the U.S. reached nearly $50,000 in 2019, more than double what it was less than two decades ago. This is how much it cost to attend college the year you were born

Using average annual earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the college majors that will pay off the least. Average annual incomes of working Americans who chose these majors range from about $46,000 to just under $28,000. It is important to note that while these salaries are on the low end of the spectrum for adults with bachelor’s degrees, they are all well above the $13,364 annual salary for the average worker without a four-year degree. 

The subjects on this list are largely in areas like education, the humanities, and the arts. And for many Americans who go into these fields, earning potential after graduation is not their first priority. Occupations like social work or teaching are well suited to many students’ talents and interests, even though they are not typically high paying. 

Still, it is important to consider, and take measures to minimize, the financial burden of choosing these majors. This may mean applying for scholarships, or attending a school with lower-than-average tuition costs. Here is a list of the most affordable colleges with the best outcomes in each state.

Click here to see the which college majors will pay off the least
Click here to read our methodology