Study reveals top 5 lowest paying college degrees

Terre Haute South graduation.
Terre Haute South graduation.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Going to college promises the opportunity to further your education, meet new people, get a taste of independence and start a career after graduation.

Kiplinger, the publisher of business and finance forecasts, analyzed data for 215 popular college majors, looking at the typical starting and mid-career salaries expected from each. Also examined were recent online job postings seeking candidates with those majors, as well as long-term growth expectations for related jobs, to determine hiring demand in these fields.

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There are several college majors that tend to offer limited career opportunities and lower earnings potential. At number five is the study of anthropology. The projected job growth rate for anthropologists and archaeologists, who start at $39,000 a year, may be high, but the number of actual positions is low. Currently, there are 8,200 such workers in the U.S. and by 2025, those ranks are expected to grow by more than 1,500 spots. While that’s a big percentage jump, that still leaves relatively few openings for the more than 12,000 people who are studying anthropology in college and grad school. You would need a master’s degree or higher to become an anthropologist.

While the need for legal services is great, the field remains highly competitive as law firms continue looking to cut costs. Even while that results in a growing demand for paralegals, as those lower-paid workers are being entrusted with more responsibilities, paralegal jobs start at more than $36,000, but more than half, 51 percent, of paralegal studies majors report finding themselves under-employed.

Art is the third worst major when it comes to salary. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators, typically receive very little pay, earning a median income of about $23,800 a year. Demand for their work, after all, is dependent largely on people’s discretionary income, and fleeting tastes, and, when times are tough, purchasing art is left out of most household budgets.

While the number of photographers is expected to grow “faster than average” over the next decade, the demand doesn’t develop into a lucrative career. The median income for a photographer is just $30,715 a year. Plus, you can’t count on capturing a steady paycheck. Many companies are fulfilling their photographic needs with freelancers. Indeed, a whopping 61.7 percent of photographers are currently self-employed compared with just 6.5 percent of all workers.

Low pay, plus few job prospects are the recipe for a troubling career in culinary arts, the lowest paying job with a college degree. Chefs and head cooks can expect a median income of less than $40,000 a year, and you need five or more years of experience, making even less money, to become one. But if food is your passion, you might jump right into the field after high school and save your tuition money. Most jobs as a cook do not require a college degree.