If you’re in or headed towards college you may be like 12 million other Americans and have to borrow money to finance your education. You certainly won’t be alone as there are about 37 million student loan borrowers that have outstanding loans today. But before you join this crowd you need to take a hard look at what you’d like in the way of a career after you graduate vs. what would be a good-paying career. The problem is that the two often don’t go hand-in-hand.
It is still true that the average college graduate earns a lot more over his or her lifetime than a high school graduate but this is just an average. The fact is that what you major in will have a huge impact on your lifetime earnings. For that matter it can have a major impact on whether you will even be able to get a job in your field of study. One recent study revealed that 2012 graduates are having a tough time and many have been forced to take jobs for which they are overqualified or even accept low-wage or part-time work – often because they chose the wrong major.
It’s an investment
You might feel passionate about a particular subject but before you decide to major in it, you need to evaluate it as you would any investment. The College Board has reported that the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2013–2014 school year for state residents that went to a public college was $8,893 and $30,094 at private colleges. Multiply that $8,893 by four years and you’d be looking at a total investment of at least $35,572. Given this, plus the fact you that you’ll probably have to borrow all or a good part of that money, it’s important to choose a major that will turn out to be a good investment.
What not to invest in
Just as there are stocks that perform well and generate a good ROI (return-on-investment) and bad stocks that don’t, there are also college majors that won’t return as good an ROI as others.
The five worst
A study was done recently on college majors in terms of which are the “worst” and which are the “best” in terms of a career. The fifth worst is Art History with a starting annual salary of $36,400 and a mid-career salary of just $54,000. Plus its mid-career unemployment rate is 8.3%. No matter how passionate you are about art history, you’d be better off majoring in a related field such as art education with its unemployment rate of just 3.9%.
The fourth worst major in terms of a career is Early Childhood Education. You might feel strongly about working with pre-K and kindergarten kids but the starting salary for this job is only $29,200 and its mid-career salary is $37,600. While it’s believed that the demand for preschool and kindergarten teachers will rise rapidly, you might be better off getting other specialized education training in elementary or middle school teaching.
Third on our list of majors with a poor career outlook is social work. You might be committed to helping people in need but your starting salary will be only $33,100 with a mid-career salary of $45,300. However, the demand for healthcare social workers is expected to increase 33.5% through the year 2020 or more than double the national average. Another field you might explore related to social work is public administration. Majors in this area sport a lower 6.2% mid-career unemployment rate and a higher pay grade as it begins at $41,500 a year.
Fine Arts comes in as the second worst major in terms of a potential career as it has a starting salary of just $31,800 and a mid-career salary of $53,700. Fields related to fine arts where you would do better in terms of a career, especially after you have a few years of experience, is film, video and photographic arts. Majors in these areas start at $37,500.
Number one on our hit parade of bad majors is Human Services and Community Organization. The starting salary for these people is just $32,900 with a mid-career salary of $41,100. And its mid-career unemployment rate is 8.1%. If you are really passionate about human services and community organization, try for the managerial ranks. This has a projected 10-year growth rate of 26.7% and an annual median pay of $59,970. Another related area that would be good is business administration. It has a mid-career unemployment rate of just 5.6%.
If you can think of your major as a steppingstone to a good career, there are five that hold the best potential. The first is Nursing. Its starting salary is $54,100 and its mid-career salary is $70,200. Even more important, nursing’s mid-career unemployment rate is just 2.3%. If the idea of becoming a nurse interests you, you should take many science courses including chemistry, microbiology, nutrition and anatomy. And you will have to pass the National Council Licensure examination to get your license.
Fourth best major according to a recent study is Information Systems Management. The starting salary in this career is $51,600 and its mid-career salary is $88,600. If you get a major in Information Systems Management this can lead to many different kinds of computer related careers but the best seems to be information systems manager. This is the highest paid of all computer specialists with a median salary of $120,950 a year.
The third best major is Civil Engineering. The starting salary for civil engineers is $53,800 and its mid-career salary is $88,800. Civil engineering’s mid-career unemployment rate is just 4.0%. If the idea of majoring in civil engineering appeals to you, be sure to take courses in statics, fluid mechanics, structural analysis and design and thermodynamics.
Computer science is the second best choice for a major. Its starting salary is $58,400 with a mid-career salary of $100,000. The mid-career unemployment rate in computer science is just 4.7%. In addition to having an estimated above-average growth in demand for computer scientists, the median pay for this job is $102,190 year.
Here comes a surprise. The top rated major for career growth is Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science. The starting salary in this field is $42,100 and the mid-career salary is an excellent $120,000. Even better, the mid-career unemployment rate in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is just 2.5%. If you would like to become a pharmacist, you’ll need a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which you can earn with or without a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. If the idea of working as a pharmacist behind the counter in a CVS store doesn’t appeal to you, a bachelors in pharmacy can also get you work as a medical scientist doing research to design and develop drugs. The median annual pay for medical scientists is $76,980. So, the few years of graduate training you would have to undergo to become a medical scientist could make this worthwhile.
Finally, here is a short video courtesy of National Debt Relief with more information about hot careers of the future.
The long and short of it is that you may decide to major in something you know won’t lead to a great career in terms of money but you’re willing to accept that because you’re passionate about the work. If so, go for it. Being happy in what you do for 40 or 50 years can be more important than how much you would earn. Plus, you can always change your mind once you get out in the work world and try something entirely different as do many people.