Student Loans: 5 College Majors That Could Put You in Debt for a Long Time

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Choosing a college major is a massive life decision that can make or break your finances. And while there’s more to life than just a high-paying career, pursuing the wrong degree can end up making you feel broke.

According to a recent study by The HEA Group, there are several college majors that pay less than $50,000 per year upon graduation. Considering the cost of a four-year degree is at an all-time high, and student loan payments are being reinstated this year, it’s important to understand what your potential salary will be when you start your career.

Here are five college majors that might keep you in debt for a very long time.

Criminal Justice and Corrections Degree

Average earning after four-year degree: $47,089

Thinking of becoming a cop or corrections officer? If you want to help protect and serve, the path to a job is a degree in criminal justice and corrections. But while getting a bachelor’s degree in this field costs the same as any other four-year degree, the average starting pay is much lower than other careers.

The good news is you can make a decent income as a police officer, but getting a degree does not guarantee you a job as one. With this major you may end up being a court reporter or criminal justice teacher and educator instead. These can be great jobs, but might pay much lower than becoming a cop.

Make Your Money Work for You

After paying for a degree, the starting pay for a criminal justice major is only $47,000. If you live anywhere near a big city, this income (unfortunately) won’t stretch very far. Add in the cost of paying back student loans, and this degree might not be the best choice for getting out of debt.

Psychology (General) Degree

Average earning after four-year degree: $43,409

While counselors and psychologists can earn a great income, to become a licensed counselor you typically need more than just a four-year degree. Careers in clinical counseling or social work typically require a master’s degree, while becoming a fully-fledged licensed psychologist may require a Ph.D. This might mean taking on even more school debt to get to the high hourly rate.

Without the prospect of high-paying counseling jobs, those with a four-year general psychology degree can only expect to earn about $43,000 once graduated. This is the equivalent of about $20 per hour, which isn’t much higher than minimum wage in some counties. Pair that with high student loan bills, and it may be difficult to survive with just this degree alone.

Communications and Media Studies Degree

Average earning after four-year degree: $48,829

Getting a job in media would seem like an excellent career path. With the rise of social media and online marketing, there are definitely some high-paying jobs to be had in the field. Unfortunately, simply getting a degree in communications and media studies does not guarantee a great job.

Make Your Money Work for You

In fact, the average starting salary out of college is only about $49,000 per year. This is due to the relatively modest pay in career fields like journalism, public relations and television writing. As a new graduate, these fields have a lot of competition, making it difficult to climb the career ladder. Over a long enough career, you can definitely earn a good income, but as a graduate with student loan expenses, this career may be difficult.

Biology (General) Degree

Average earning after four-year degree: $48,628

Getting a degree in biology can be a great starting point for a career in medicine and research, but most of those jobs require a more advanced degree. Simply getting a four-year degree in general biology might come with disappointing job prospects and a low starting pay. While you can get entry-level jobs as a technician at a biotech firm or medical research facility, the better-paying jobs are typically reserved for graduates with Master’s degrees (or higher).

The average starting salary of graduates with a Biology degree is about $48,000 per year, which isn’t much more than some trade jobs you can get out of high school. And while earning $4,000 per month may feel like a lot compared to your previous jobs, with taxes, living expenses, and student loan repayment, the money can disappear quickly.

Health and Physical Education Degree

Average earning after four-year degree: $46,820

Teaching P.E. class is a great career that can help young kids learn about health and exercise with their peers, but unfortunately it doesn’t pay a lot. Getting a degree in health and physical education is a worthwhile pursuit that can have a positive impact on people, but you might also need to supplement your income to get ahead.

Make Your Money Work for You

Starting jobs out of college include becoming a physical education teacher, fitness instructor, or an athletic coach. These jobs average about $47,000 per year, which might feel miniscule, especially compared to your debt load and living expenses. If you can supplement your day job with private health or fitness coaching, or building an online program to sell, it can help you pay off your debt quicker.

Bottom Line

Getting a college degree can still be a great starting point for your career, but you need to carefully weigh the costs of college, your student loan debt totals, and the average earnings of your major before signing up. If you choose the wrong career, it could make you feel financially stuck.

Instead, research online to find the best paying jobs that you would actually enjoy, and work toward a degree that pays well and has a career path you could see yourself sticking to.

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