Best and Worst Paying College Degrees

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It’s been my experience that blog posts that include words like,”Best and Worst ….” or “10 Hottest….” or “20 Tips to….” will generate more traffic to your site.

That’s certainly been the case with my college blog over at CBSMoneyWatch. During the past year, the most popular blog post that I wrote for  the network’s financial website was this one:

Best and Worst College Degrees by Salary

I wrote this post in 2009 based on Payscale, Inc.’s extensive career data. If you type “best college degrees” into Google ranks, it ranks No. 3 on the search engine’s list — right under Payscale’s listings.

So I was wondering when Payscale released their latest survey college degrees by salary, if this popular post would get knocked down. It didn’t, but even better the posts that I wrote this past week on the best and worst college degrees also did really well. It’s nice to be loved by Google.

Here are last week’s posts for CBSMoneyWatch:

20 Worst-Paying College Degrees in 2010

Top  20 Best-Paying College Degrees

I personally don’t believe that you should choose college majors just because of potential pay. I think the Americans who are happy and successful in their careers are the ones who are passionate about their fields.

And as a practical matter, when you see the best-paying college degrees, they require deep math skills. I couldn’t have majored in petroleum engineering or physics even if I had wanted to make the top bucks.

Here’s one other interesting observation about the latest best-paying degree list:  While business administration is the most popular college degree, it’s nowhere to be found near the top of the best-paying college degree list. Business limps in at spot No. 56. Fashion design, history and philosophy (!) all do better.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also write a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch and US News. Follow her on Twitter.

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14 Responses to “Best and Worst Paying College Degrees”

  1. Jagan says:

    every Asian professional who has emigrated to the U.S. knows that 90% of the ‘degree’ courses offered here are B.S. (bull….). In India, where I hail from, the best engineering schools, IITs, are the toughest in the world to get into, and for a good reason. Folks who graduate from those IITs get offers in the USA, UK, etc, while in their 3rd year (4TH yr is the final yr) and at a pay that starts around 150 K. That is ‘cos their brain power is what is making them successful. Turning to the US of A, most majors and 4 yr degree (scams) courses are a joke, propagated on a supposed merit of giving students ‘a whole variety of courses to choose from’. Well, OF COURSE, THEY DON’T PAY SQUAT for THOSE WHO GRADUATE ! DO WE NEED RESEARCH TO SHOW THAT ? WANT TO KNOW OF ANOTHER SCAM ? WHY IS COLLEGE EDUCATION SO EXPENSIVE HERE ? Why do they have 4 yr undergrad degrees ? WITHOUT A DOUBT, EDUCATION IS THE BIGGEST SCAM THERE EVER WAS.

    AJR, MD, PhD

  2. Jimmy Jones says:

    You say teaching is one of the worst paying jobs of 2010. Well, you need to add that when retirement age is reached it is one the best jobs you could have had-great retirement income and outstanding insurance. Also, your retirement income is secure. Besides, as a retired teacher, I never complained about my salary. To work about 9 months out of the year and make that kind of pay-no problem with me.

  3. believerinhope says:

    Not everything is about the money. I am 57 yrs old, so I do have “life perspective”. Young people often do not consider the lifestyle they wish to live when they decide on a career. There are many things to consider- countrylife vs citylife, living where one wants to live, vs living “where the jobs are”, how much time one wants for family, stress levels, does one want to work with people or “things”. Plus, it’s not always about how much you make, but how you spend it. My ex (IT guy) makes a lot of money, but has little to show for it. My sister is an LPN, has a house paid off, and money in the bank.

  4. Patricia Hartel says:

    Lynn forgets that not everyone on the planet bases their job choice by the pay scale. As a Realtor I work with many people who have various earning capacities. I can tell you many of those who earn quite a substantial income HATE their jobs! Attorneys in large law firms who have to meet quotas, Department Heads of Human Resources, Vice Presidents of corporations engaged in the climb to success, are some I can remember distinctly. However, I have never met an unhappy chemical, electrical or structural engineer or architect. They seem to enjoy their work and the daily challenges they meet. And, teachers seldom complain about their jobs. And in most sections of the USA today they are well paid and compensated with benefits. So it’s not always the money you earn that counts.

  5. Melissa A says:

    Hmmm…. the last time I checked my paystub at the end of the year, I sure did not see $44,000 dollars on there. I saw more like $72,000 as an elementary educator. Which, I agree, is still not enough for what I do on a daily basis. Where are you getting your information from? Maybe you should do a little more research on payscales of certain school districts.

  6. Mack says:

    Are these degrees with a B.A., B.S., Masters, or a Phd? Most of the time the higher the degree the better the pay. Not that pay should be your driving force in a career path. Passion should be your driving force otherwise you wind up hating your job and doing it for a paycheck and you are miserable when you just work for a paycheck!

  7. Sara says:

    Well, Jagan, you may have high level technical degrees but you have obviously failed logic. College is not intended to be trade school. Yes, there are colleges in the USA that are no more than scams but most of them are not. A college education is more than learning an occupational skill and if that is all you got out of it, then I would say you are owed some money back….or maybe you aren’t as smart as you think you are. I do agree that college in the US has gotten overly expensive and needs to be better than it is. That doesn’t mean it is a scam in general; many people choose a profession(such as teaching or working with children) on the basis of love of the work itself, rather than the money they make. The US has tried to make education available to everyone who wants it; no, we aren’t always successful, but I would point out that India, the world’s largest democracy, only educates about a tenth of her people. Nine hundred million of India’s billion-plus population are poor and mostly illiterate. If your engineers are so fantastic, why aren’t you and the rest of the highly educated members of your society doing something to improve the lot of your own people instead of complaining about our educational system? India has an ancient and fascinating history and was the cradle of some of the earliest civilizations. And where did I learn this? IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES!! I have a number of Indian friends and colleagues and so far, none of them have been the complainer you are. I would be interested to know what you are doing with that fancy education besides making money…are you contributing anything at all other than hot air and gripes? If you don’t like the system, do something to make it better or go back home and do it there instead of wasting what you did learn by complaining.

  8. Christine says:

    What data are you using to compile your “lists”? I have a two year culinary degree and I have always been very well compensated. You are using a broad brush to paint a picture that may not true. Your lists suggest you may be using faulty data.

  9. Michael says:

    You forgot about Feminism. You forgot about Liberal Arts. You forgot about Ethnic Studies or General Studies degrees. Ok you only focused on the degrees that actually are careers. This is silly. There is no way a General Studies degree pays more than an Education degree or probably any of the others that you mentioned. Prehaps why General Studies are not on the list is because someone who get one has to then go get a masters degree or some other type of degree to get a job.

  10. Nicole says:

    Tv News should have been #1…I started out in this business in 2003 making $7 an hour (with a college degree)…and now, 8 years into my career, I still make less than $29,000 a year.

  11. Anet says:

    As a teacher, after 20 years in, I make around $70000 per year. In NY state elementary teachers all teachers are paid on the same pay scale so there is no difference in pay between a secondary Ed teacher, middle school teacher and elementary teacher as far as years ( only extra education and duties affect this. For working 10 months a year I make great money, love my job and enjoy going to work every day. By the way, not everyone works in cities where high salaries are the norm. In rural areas $45000 is excellent money. Choose a career by your love of what you’ll do not by e amount of cash you’ll pocket. Think of all those finance majors who are now on the unemployment lines!

  12. David says:

    I think it’s interesting that despite years (forever?) of Democratic control of California, and now with arguably the most left-leaning federal administration ever, that the three lowest-paying degrees are in children/family studies, elementary education, and social work. Aren’t the Democrats the ones who typically trumpet their collective social consciousness?

  13. Hala says:

    as for teaching,i have to add a fundumental point which is whenever teachers retire they have the previliged to be a substitute teacher over other candidates ..

  14. Real NurseRN says:

    Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, her Best and Worst wasn’t a great eye open-er. Registered Nurses (RN’s) should have been put under the worst pay>> fresh out of college. No wonder there is a constant shortage of nurses. Who wants to deal with the blood, vomit, and other bodily fluids not to mention the family feuds and immature adult patients and doctors we deal with on a daily basis. We do what most Americans can’t even grasp with maturity, vomiting up themselves.

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