Worst-Paying College Degrees of 2012

By Alida Moore, PayScale.com
In these days of rising tuition costs and ballooning student debt, some students choose college majors that will put them on a path to earning a high salary once they graduate. But not every major leads to a big paycheck, and not every student chases monetary rewards.

Based on data in its “2012-13 College Salary Report," online salary database PayScale.com compiled the following list of the worst-paying degrees of 2012. Why would anyone pursue one of these degrees if salaries are notoriously low in these fields? “According to our research, people in these majors typically believe their work makes the world a better place,” says PayScale’s lead analyst Katie Bardaro.

Curious as to which majors fall to the bottom for salary but often pay back in instrinsic rewards? Take a look:

Child and Family Studies
Median Annual Salary: $37,700

Many families are struggling in our current economy. Parents working multiple jobs to stay afloat financially might require assistance to ensure their children get the best opportunities in school. A child and family studies major often works as an advocate for such families, providing parents with the resources they need to help their children succeed.

Find child life specialist jobs.

Social Work
Median Annual Salary: $45,300

Social work is a major for those who care deeply. A career in this field, while not necessarily lucrative, offers a wide variety of workplace choices, including schools, nursing homes, hospitals and government agencies. This major is ideal for those who are champions for social justice.

Find social worker jobs.

Elementary Education
Median Annual Salary: $46,000

Many have called teaching one of the most rewarding professions of all. It’s no secret, however, that teachers do not pull in the highest salaries. However, if you’re considering majoring in elementary education, location matters. “Elementary school teachers can earn more than the national median salary for teachers of $40,600 depending on the state in which they work,” Bardaro says. “Typically, teachers in California, Massachusetts and New York earn median annual salaries of around $65,000.”

Find elementary education jobs.

Human Development
Median Annual Salary: $47,800

Human development majors spend much of their time studying the growth and developmental changes that occur across the human life span. Students who major in this field can go on to careers in counseling, public policy.

Find jobs in human development.

Special Education
Median Annual Salary: $48,900

“It takes a special kind of heart to work in special education,” says Lindsey Childress, guidance counselor at a north Texas middle school. Special ed majors typically work with students who have severe developmental disorders or learning issues, a job that can be both taxing and highly rewarding. According to PayScale’s research, 83 percent of people who major in special ed believe their current work makes the world a better place. Could that reward be priceless?

Find special education jobs.

Culinary Arts
Median Annual Salary: $49,700

The scent of a delicious dinner can bring people together and relax them in a way that few other things can. Those in the culinary arts get the opportunity to create that experience for people again and again. Whether you want to do the cooking yourself or own your own restaurant, majoring in the culinary arts offers you some heart- and belly-warming career options.

Find culinary arts jobs.

Athletic Training
Median Annual Salary: $49,800

Have you ever been to a sporting event where an athlete gets injured and a group of people rush over to help? One of those people is likely to be an athletic trainer, the person who diagnoses, treats and works to prevent athletic injuries. While many athletic trainers work in high schools or colleges, others are employed by professional sports teams, physicians’ practices or the military.

Find athletic trainer jobs.

Source: Salary data provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Salary figures are for bachelor’s degree holders in a given major with at least 10 years of experience. “Job meaning” percentages are for all graduates with a bachelor’s degree in a given major. Salaries include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing. Education data is from PayScale.com.

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