Numerous studies have been done regarding which colleges are the most difficult, prepare students the best, and are the most prestigious. Other studies have considered which majors students should consider. While choosing to study something that is of interest and that you are passionate about is definitely valuable, that alone may not be enough if you want to have a career and make money.
PayScale ranked 130 different majors by salary potential (salary meaning total compensation including base salary, bonuses, profit sharing, commissions, and also overtime if applicable.) The numbers include full-time employees with a bachelor’s degree only, and over 1,000 colleges and universities were included from across the nation. For the purpose of our article, we are highlighting the bottom five on the list, which indicate the worst college majors for salary potential.
1. Child and Family Studies
Students studying child and family studies face a median starting salary of $29,300, and a mid-career salary $37,700. These salaries are very low, and many people without a college education could easily make this much or more each year. Students who choose to study this major do learn important life skills, including interpersonal, research, analysis, critical thinking, presentation, problem solving, and other skills. Although these skills might be important to some employers, you can learn them in many other majors as well — and probably make more money. If you do choose this major, you will most likely end up working with children or families, possibly as a program coordinator, outreach specialist, or a caregiver. This type of training could also lead to a job as a therapist or school counselor, but you would have to go to more school (and the salaries on the list are based on bachelor’s degrees).
2. Social Work
Social workers also suffer from low salaries. According to the study, the median starting salary is $33,100, and $45,300 at the mid-career level. Social workers can do many different jobs and work at many different agencies, but again, many social workers work with children or disadvantaged populations. They face grueling work schedules, often with a lot of travel, and extremely stressful and emotional situations. Social workers help to keep families together and also to protect children who must be separated from their families. Many people love doing these types of jobs, and they really make a difference in the world. Yet, they make very little money and they work very hard. However, social workers are very important to society, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is growing, with an expected percent change in employment from 2012-2022 of 19 percent.
3. Elementary Education
Considering there are many children in America, and they all need to be educated, it’s surprising that the median starting salary for elementary education workers is $31,400, and that the mid-career salary is only $46,000. The National Association of Colleges and Employers‘ September 2013 Salary Survey found that the average starting salary for the Class of 2013 college graduates was $45,327, which is nearly as much as an elementary education major mid-career. Elementary educators face hard days in a different way than social workers; they too work with kids, many at all different educational levels. They also have to deal with angry parents, state and national educational requirements, and sometimes, a shortage of jobs.
4. Human Development
Some majors are very hard to market, and human development can be one if you have only a bachelor’s degree. Students learn written and oral communication skills, research, critical thinking, as well as other skills. These skills can help with a lot of career choices, but may not translate to a specific degree as quickly as a nursing or engineering degree. Human development majors also often end up working with children, either in a daycare setting or school setting. While in college, many students study psychological, social, cultural, and biological development of humans; these are all important things to learn about, but many of these topics lend themselves better to pre-law or -pre-med majors who plan to attend more school. Although of course many students who earn bachelor degrees in human development can get careers right away, they may find themselves working in low-paying fields (median startying pay is $33,100, and $47,800 at mid-career).
5. Special Education
The last major on our list also usually involves working with children as well. Special education teachers work with students to help them learn. Their work often involves individual learning plans, unique assignments, continual and regular interaction with parents, and also requires a patient and understanding personality. Although special education programs differ from one school to another, special education teachers need to find a way to help meet individual needs and help provide students with extra help or assistance who might have trouble in a traditional educational setting.
Majors who decide not to teach can consider becoming an early intervention specialist, or other care provider. According to PayScale’s study, the median starting salary for special education majors is $33,900, and the mid-career salary is $48,900.
In the end, you have to decide if you are passionate enough about something to risk making very little money. All five of the jobs listed here could potentially involve working with children, and it’s sad and frustrating that students pursuing these majors may not make very much money. Making enough money to be comfortable is important, but so is enjoying and caring about your job, so you have to decide what’s right for you. There are many very profitable degrees that you could consider too.