New report: The most and least valuable college degrees


College graduates typically earn more than workers who only obtained a high school diploma, but which college degrees are the most valuable?

According to a new ranking, Actuarial Science is the #1 most valuable college major.

These are the most and least valuable college majors 

To determine the most valuable degrees, looked at the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey and ranked 162 majors based on several factors:

  • Average annual income — 70% of the ranking
  • Unemployment rate— 20% of the ranking
  • Likelihood of schooling beyond bachelor’s degree — 10% of the ranking

“While it’s important to pursue your passion, students also need to look down the road and consider their long-term earning potential, the job market and the reality that certain professions require additional schooling,” said analyst Adrian Garcia. “In the end, it’s up to the individual to find the right balance based on what is most important to them.”

Those with an Actuarial Science degree earn an average annual salary of $108,658, which is 50% more than the overall average. The unemployment rate is low and the field has a low percentage of advanced degree holders.

Most valuable college majors

Rank Degree Average Income Unemployment Higher Degree Holders
1 Actuarial Science $108,658 2.3% 22%
2 Zoology $111,889 1.4% 68%
3 Nuclear Engineering $108,591 1.8% 48%
4 Health and Medical Preparatory Programs $130,308 2.3% 78%
5 Applied Mathematics $105,679 2.0% 51%

Meanwhile, Miscellaneous Fine Arts is the least valuable college major. People who earn that degree have the second lowest average salary at $40,855 and face a 9.1% unemployment rate.

Least valuable college majors

Rank Degree Average Income Unemployment Higher Degree Holders
158 Visual and Performing Arts $43,996 4.0% 23%
159 Cosmetology Services and Culinary Arts $42,362 4.7% 8%
160 Clinical Psychology $51,022 4.8% 74%
161 Composition and Speech $44,211 4.9% 26%
162 Miscellaneous Fine Arts $40,855 9.1% 13%

To learn more about the findings, head over to and see where your college major ranks on the list of 162 that were part of the study.

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