It’s no secret that a college degree can go a long way in landing you a high-paying career. In fact, in a recent GOBankingRates survey, 47.6% of Americans thought that they would not have been able to get their current job without their bachelor’s degree. But in order to secure a large salary, you must choose the best career path.
GOBankingRates looked at the cost of a degree, median salaries and the potential earnings after 30 years for 20 different jobs and found that these careers aren’t really worth the price of a degree. Whether you’re an incoming freshman or about to graduate from college, choose your major and career carefully. And remember that some degrees won’t make you much money at all.
20. Catering Manager
To qualify for a job as a catering manager, you’ll need to complete a hospitality/tourism degree, which will set you back $144,480 in return for an average salary of $47,455 per year.
During a 30-year career, you’ll earn $1,423,650 overall. After subtracting the cost of your degree, you’ll end up with only $1,279,170, which averages out to $42,639 annually — a figure that’s thousands of dollars less than the nationwide annual mean wage of $50,622.
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19. Meeting/Event Planner
Students aspiring to be meeting or event planners typically seek a degree in hospitality/tourism, which costs a total of $144,480 and yields an average annual salary of $45,913. Thirty-year earnings are $1,377,390 before the cost of the degree is deducted, and $1,232,910 after. A career salary of $1,232,910 averages out to $41,097 annually — $9,525 less than the nationwide annual mean wage
A communications degree might help jumpstart your copywriting career, but it’s not worth it at a price of $154,836 — especially when the average annual salary equals only $49,134. Over a 30-year period, you’ll earn $1,474,020, which drops down to $1,319,184 after you pay education expenses.
17. Hotel Resident Manager
A hotel resident manager not only typically resides on the property, but also has a glut of responsibilities, which include overseeing the daily activities of staff and ensuring customer satisfaction. In addition, the hotel resident manager must pay attention to the hotel’s operational efficiency and profitability.
To become a hotel resident manager, you can earn a hospitality/tourism degree that costs $144,480 and should expect average earnings of $42,460 annually. Thirty-year earnings equal $1,273,800, but that figure is reduced to $1,129,320 when you deduct the cost of the degree, which equals an annual salary of only $37,644 — over $10,000 less than what the average American earns per year.
16. Food Services Manager
To qualify for this job, you’ll need a degree in nutrition, which costs $148,364 in exchange for an average annual salary of $43,554. Over a 30-year career, you’ll earn $1,306,620, which is reduced to $1,158,256 after degree expenses.
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15. Bereavement Coordinator
A degree in psychology will cost you $161,728, which can result in a job in this field providing an average annual salary of $48,123. Within a 30-year career, you’ll earn $1,443,690, reduced to $1,281,962 after paying for your degree. After educational expenses, your average annual salary would equal approximately $42,723, far less than what the average American earns.
14. Career Counselor in Higher Education
An aspiring career counselor can get on that career track with a degree in psychology, which costs $161,728. The average annual salary for this job equals $46,953. Over a 30-year career, $1,408,590 can be earned, which is reduced to $1,246,862 after paying off the degree, equaling an average annual salary of around $41,562 — $9,062 less than the average U.S. earner.
13. High School Teacher
A degree in education, totaling $171,132, is what you’ll need to land a job as a high school teacher making an average annual salary of $48,704. Although total earnings over a span of 30 years equal $1,461,120, that figure shrinks down to $1,289,988 once you pay off degree expenses — and results in a lower-than-average annual salary of approximately $43,000.
12. Marketing Coordinator
A communications degree with a price tag of $154,836 is what you’ll need to break into this career. But average annual earnings only equal $42,510, which amounts to $1,275,300 over a career spanning three decades. After paying off the degree, however, that number drops to $1,120,464, which leaves only $37,348.80 annually — $13,273 less than what the average American earner makes.
11. Social Worker
Female social workers can actually make more than their male counterparts in this career, according to a separate GOBankingRates study, but the average annual salary is only $44,789. During a 30-year career, you can earn $1,343,670, but once you get through shelling out payments on your $164,724 degree you’ll only actually realize $1,178,946. This ends up equaling around $39,298 a year, which is $11,324 less than the average U.S. earner makes.
10. Religious Educator
The path to becoming a religious educator requires a $190,108 religious studies/theology degree. You can expect an average annual salary of $53,797 at this job, equaling $1,613,910 over a 30-year career. At that rate, it would take every penny of your salary for over 3.5 years to pay off college expenses.
Once you calculate paying off your degree, your 30-year career earnings shrink to $1,423,802 or about $47,460 annually, which is $3,162 less than what the average American earner pulls in.
9. Corrections Officer
With a $164,724 degree in sociology, you can become a corrections officer earning $44,218 annually. Earnings over a 30-year career will equal $1,326,540, which dwindle to $1,161,816 after paying off your degree. Even though this job might offer a pension, after paying off your degree, you’ll only pull in around $38,727 per year — $11,895 less than the average U.S. earner.
8. News Reporter
A $154,836 communications degree is the pathway to a news reporter job, which can yield average annual earnings of $39,793 and 30-year earnings of $1,193,790. Once you pay off your educational expenses, however, you’ll be left with $1,038,954 or around $34,632 annually — more than $15,000 less than the average annual earnings in the nation, which could have you living paycheck-to-paycheck.
7. Elementary School Teacher
An education degree totaling $171,132 is what it will take to break into this career that will earn you an average annual salary of $44,415. Over a span of 30 years, you’ll take in $1,332,450, but that amount will shrink as you pay off your degree, leaving you with $1,161,318 or around $38,711 a year. Even though being a teacher is meaningful, you’ll make almost $12,000 less a year than what the average U.S. earner makes.
6. Chemical Dependency Counselor
Obtain a $164,724 degree in sociology, and you’ll be able to earn an annual average salary of $38,997 as a chemical dependency counselor. Over a 30-year career, you’ll be paid a total of $1,169,910. Once you subtract the cost of your degree, however, you’ll be left with $1,005,186, equaling an annual salary of only $33,506 — much less than what the average earner in America pulls in.
5. Associate Pastor
Once you earn a religious studies/theology degree totaling $190,108, you’ll be eligible to apply for an associate pastor position with annual average earnings of $45,976. After 30 years in the job, however, you’ll have earned $1,379,280. Once you subtract the degree cost, you’ll have $1,189,172 or a below-average salary of $39,639 annually.
4. Graphic Designer
To realize a dream of working as a graphic designer, you’ll often need to earn a fine arts degree totaling $182,352. After your efforts, you can expect an average annual salary of $43,056, totaling $1,291,680 over a 30-year career. Once you pay off your degree, however, you’ll be left with only $1,109,328 or 36,978 per year — $13,644 less than the average annual U.S. earnings of $50,622 annually.
Is College Worth It? 42% of Americans Say No
You’ll pay $182,352 for a fine arts degree that can qualify you for jobs as a painter or illustrator. In return, you can expect an average annual salary of $41,566 or $1,246,980 over a 30-year career. After paying off your degree, however, those lifetime earnings will shrink to $1,064,628 or only about $35,488 per year, which is only about 70 percent of the average annual salary in the U.S.
2. Daycare Center/Teacher
To qualify for top jobs in this space, you might decide to earn an education degree totaling $171,132. But the low average annual salary of $31,685 will make it hard to pay back your investment. Even if you put all your earnings toward paying off your degree expenses, it would still take 5.4 years.
Plus, it gets worse. Thirty-year career earnings will only equal $950,535 or $779,403 after degree expenses. That leaves you with a meager salary of $25,980 annually — little more than half of the annual average earnings nationwide.
1. Human Services Worker
A degree in psychology, totaling $161,728, will likely help you gain a job as a human services worker, but the payoff is less than inspiring — only $28,060 per year. Over 30 years, that only equals $841,800, shaved down to $680,072 after paying off your costly degree.
That means your annual average earnings would be only $22,669 — only $10,529 above the poverty line for a single person, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
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GOBankingRates found the jobs that aren’t worth their education requirements by using Salary.com to identify which four-year degrees are most costly and not worth obtaining based off career salaries. Factors included: (1) cost of a degree, sourced from CollegeCalc.com; (2) job median salary and aggregate earnings after 30 years, sourced from Salary.com and Payscale; (3) 30-year earnings after subtracting the cost of education; factors were scored and then summed up for a combined score.
All information in this article is accurate at the time the study was conducted in January 2019.