Report: The 10 Most and Least Valuable Degrees

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Getting a college degree has been the first step to a high-paying career for countless numbers of Americans.

Finance site recently released a report that shows top college majors based on value.

STEM Degrees Are Tops; Arts Degrees Are at the Bottom

Bankrate’s report uses the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey as well as the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS), the world’s largest individual-level population database.

Here are some key findings from the report:

  • Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors are the most valuable.
  • Eight of the top 10 spots have engineering degrees in common, with median incomes ranging from $80,000 to $107,000.
  • With a median income of $35,500, art majors are the least valuable.

As its methodology, Bankrate says it analyzed bachelor’s degree holders in the labor force with 159 different majors. To construct its ranking, Bankrate says it “examined three factors (weightings in parentheses): median income (70 percent), unemployment rate (20 percent) and the percentage of people with an advanced degree (10 percent).”

Let’s take a look at the degrees that are the most valuable, then we’ll look at the least valuable from Bankrate.

Which Degrees Are the Most Valuable?

% With
Advanced Degrees
Architectural Engineering$90,000 1.3% 29%
Construction Services$80,0001.0%12%
Computer Engineering$101,0002.3%40%
Aerospace Engineering$100,0001.9%51%
Transportation Sciences and Technologies$86,000 1.8% 21%
Electrical Engineering$107,0002.3%46%
Materials Engineering and Materials Science$97,5002.0%45%
Civil Engineering$90,0001.9%38%
Mechanical Engineering$96,0002.2%38%
Chemical Engineering$100,0002.3%48%

In addition to their higher salaries, STEM jobs are projected to grow 8% by 2029, compared to the average of 3.7% for all occupations.

Now let’s take a look at the degrees that are the least valuable, according to Bankrate.

Which Degrees Are the Least Valuable?

% With
Advanced Degrees
Visual and Performing Arts$35,500 3.6% 29%
Miscellaneous Fine Arts$38,0005.6% 17%
Drama and Theater Arts$41,0004.5% 31%
Composition and Speech$42,0004.9% 30%
Clinical Psychology$49,000 3.8% 78%
Counseling Psychology$41,0002.6% 73%
Studio Arts$36,000 2.9% 30%
Music$40,000 2.9% 45%
Fine Arts$41,0003.6% 26%
Film, Video and Photographic Arts$43,000 4.8% 19%

With median incomes below $45,000, fine arts, drama and theater arts majors round out the bottom of Bankrate’s list.

You can read’s complete report here.


Final Thoughts

While this report helps show the value of a college degree, there are other factors to consider. Money expert Clark Howard delivers a commencement address every year on his podcast for the latest class of graduates. And while he acknowledges that money is a very important factor in your life, he says it’s not everything.

“Throughout your working lifetime, try to always do what you love. Don’t be in a job that you’re miserable going to,” Clark says. “Our time on Earth is short and precious. In a fulfilling way, you want to get as much joy out of life that you can.

“Money should not be worshipped, but money is certainly appreciated for the work you do. Money does not create joy or satisfaction in your life. It’s the relationships that create it. If your work brings you pleasure and relevance, then it’s great. People who really pursue a passion do so much better mentally and emotionally over time.

Your graduation day is only the start of your education, not the end.”

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