Special Report

The Lowest Paying Jobs for College Grads

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In the United States, a college education opens up a far wider range of career opportunities than would otherwise be available. And most of those careers pay far more than average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical American worker with only a high school diploma earned only about 60% of what the typical worker with a bachelor’s degree earned in 2020. 

While college-educated workers are more likely to have higher compensation than average, a four-year degree by no means guarantees a high salary. There are over two dozen occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree where the average annual wage is either in line with or below the average annual earnings of $56,310 across all occupations. 

Using wage data from the BLS, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 25 lowest paying jobs for college graduates. Average annual wages for the occupations on this list range from about $36,000 to just under $57,000. We excluded all non-specific occupation classifications used by the BLS from consideration, specifically those jobs labeled as “all other,” a catch-all designation.

Compensation is one of a number of factors to take into account when choosing a job, and for many who go into the kinds of careers on this list, compensation is a secondary consideration. Such jobs include service occupations, like social work and counseling, some of which require a master’s degree — a level of education some of the highest paying jobs require. Here is a look at the 87 jobs with six-figure salaries

While the jobs on this list are not especially well paying, they are relatively secure. Demand for workers in the majority of these fields is projected to grow faster than the 3.7% average employment growth rate across all occupations between 2019 and 2029. Here is a look at America’s fastest growing jobs

Click here to see the lowest paying jobs for college grads.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

Source: jacoblund / Getty Images

25. Marriage and family therapists
> Avg. annual wage: $56,890
> Typical entry-level education: Master’s degree
> Total employment: 60,850
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +22.2%

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Source: DeanDrobot / Getty Images

24. Clergy
> Avg. annual wage: $56,560
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 52,260
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +4.0%

Source: AndreyPopov / iStock via Getty Images

23. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians
> Avg. annual wage: $55,990
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 326,220
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +7.3%

Source: SolStock / E+ via Getty Images

22. Meeting, convention, and event planners
> Avg. annual wage: $55,890
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 109,800
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +7.9%

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Source: AaronAmat / iStock via Getty Images

21. Education and childcare administrators, preschool and daycare
> Avg. annual wage: $54,940
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 46,410
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +1.0%

Source: SimonSkafar / E+ via Getty Images

20. Farm and home management educators
> Avg. annual wage: $54,870
> Typical entry-level education: Master’s degree
> Total employment: 8,090
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): -3.8%

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19. Mental health and substance abuse social workers
> Avg. annual wage: $54,540
> Typical entry-level education: Master’s degree
> Total employment: 116,780
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +16.7%

Source: Tinpixels / Getty Images

18. Exercise physiologists
> Avg. annual wage: $54,020
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 7,330
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +11.6%

Source: Motortion / iStock via Getty Images

17. Social science research assistants
> Avg. annual wage: $53,560
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 35,330
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +5.7%

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Source: Yok_Piyapong / iStock via Getty Images

16. Legislators
> Avg. annual wage: $53,560
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 51,290
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +6.1%

Source: Jantanee Rungpranomkorn / iStock via Getty Images

15. Directors, religious activities and education
> Avg. annual wage: $52,660
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 19,860
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +3.3%

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Source: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

14. Child, family, and school social workers
> Avg. annual wage: $52,370
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 328,120
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +11.7%

Source: LuckyBusiness / Getty Images

13. Athletic trainers
> Avg. annual wage: $52,230
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 27,430
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +16.2%

Source: Pixfly / Getty Images

12. Statistical assistants
> Avg. annual wage: $52,120
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 9,320
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +6.5%

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11. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors
> Avg. annual wage: $51,550
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 293,620
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +24.7%

Source: FatCamera / Getty Images

10. Recreational therapists
> Avg. annual wage: $51,260
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 20,080
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +8.5%

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Source: Ika84 / E+ via Getty Images

9. Museum technicians and conservators
> Avg. annual wage: $49,990
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 11,930
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +11.5%

Source: fizkes / iStock via Getty Images

8. Credit counselors
> Avg. annual wage: $49,940
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 30,770
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +7.6%

Source: yellowstonenps / Flickr

7. Biological technicians
> Avg. annual wage: $49,490
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 80,640
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +4.9%

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Source: Kosamtu / E+ via Getty Images

6. Agricultural inspectors
> Avg. annual wage: $48,620
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 13,450
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +2.0%

Source: AzmanJaka / E+ via Getty Images

5. Coaches and scouts
> Avg. annual wage: $47,100
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 208,180
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +11.8%

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4. Proofreaders and copy markers
> Avg. annual wage: $44,670
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 6,610
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): -1.9%

Source: LSOphoto / iStock via Getty Images

3. Rehabilitation counselors
> Avg. annual wage: $42,080
> Typical entry-level education: Master’s degree
> Total employment: 100,260
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +10.2%

Source: skynesher / E+ via Getty Images

2. Teaching assistants, postsecondary
> Avg. annual wage: $39,460
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 138,740
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +3.4%

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1. Substitute teachers, short-term
> Avg. annual wage: $36,090
> Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
> Total employment: 512,030
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +2.6%

 

Methodology

To identify the lowest paying jobs for college grads, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed annual mean wage estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program. Jobs that typically require a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral or professional degree were ranked by annual mean wage. Data on typical entry-level education requirements and total employment also came from the BLS OES. Data on projected employment change from 2019 to 2029 came from the BLS Employment Projections program.

We excluded all non-specific occupation classifications used by the BLS from consideration, specifically those jobs labeled as “all other,” a catch-all designation.

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