December 9 2012

The Worst College Degrees for a Return on Investment

Vicki E. Alger

Under-water basket weaving? Crocheting for post modernists? Some college degrees are obviously not a good return on investment, but Salary.com’s list of the eight worst ROI degrees might surprise you.

Coming in at #8 is sociology: “People who enter the field of sociology generally are interested in helping their fellow man. Unfortunately, that kind of benevolence doesn't usually translate to wealth.” But the most likely resulting careers barely top a $47,000 annual salary. Then there’s #7, fine arts, which didn’t do much better.

At # 6 education majors’ annual salaries will likely be just over $50,000, as will the salaries of #5 religious studies/theology majors.

The associated careers of next two majors, #4 tourism/hospitality and #3 nutrition, can top $60,000, but #2 psychology and #1 communications slip back down to the barely $50,000 mark.

Those salaries certainly do vary—and boy, when you’re in school five-figure salaries like those seem too terrific to believe. But those potential future earnings must be weighed against what you’ll have to spend now for a college degree—not just tuition but the net price, which includes tuition, fees, room, and board (TFRB).

According to the College Board, the average annual net price of a public, four-year institution is more than $12,000; and nearly double at private, four-year institutions.

That means prospective undergraduates and their families need to consider the fact that they’ll be spending anywhere from $48,000 up to $96,000 on average for a degree—so how much do you really love Italian Renaissance literature?

I was shocked my major wasn’t on Salary.com’s list (political philosophy), but in the end it’s what you do with the degree you’ve earned that counts.

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