13 College Majors In Which The Pay Goes Nowhere

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By Jacquelyn Smith

When deciding on a college major, students are encouraged to think about a few things: what they love to do; what they want to do; what jobs they imagine themselves in; and what the earning and growth potential is like for those careers.

For instance, they would probably want to know ahead of time that human services majors see their annual pay increase by only about $7,500, or 22%, over the first 10 years of their careers, compared with the average American worker, whose salary grows by about $25,000, or 60%, in that time.

That's according to Payscale, the creator of the world's largest compensation database with more than 40 million salary profiles. It recently looked at the difference between starting (less than five years of experience) and mid-career (10 or more years of experience) pay by college major, and it determined the 13 majors with the smallest salary growth.

"We're not trying to discourage students from pursuing these majors - we're simply offering information so that students can make informed choices and get the most out of their degree, whatever major they choose," says Kayla Hill, a research analyst at Payscale.

Among the majors, child development has the lowest starting salary ($32,200) and mid-career pay ($36,400) while showing the least amount of growth in the first 10 years ($4,200, or 13%).

"Human support service majors tend to be paid less across the board," Hill says. "Child development workers in particular may see less growth over time because it is a field that tends to be undervalued by society. Additionally, childcare workers may not have the same opportunities for advancement as more technical jobs, where learning new skills can lead to a pay bump or promotion."

Human services majors had the second-lowest salary growth between starting and mid-career, while early childhood and elementary education had the third-smallest.

"People in support service jobs tend to find a high level of meaning from their jobs despite the lower pay," Hill says. "For many of these workers, the satisfaction and fulfillment they receive from helping others outweighs the lack of pay growth."

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13 Lowest-Paying College Majors
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13 College Majors In Which The Pay Goes Nowhere

Common job: Chaplain 

Starting median pay: $36,800

Mid-career median pay: $51,600

Difference: $14,800 / 40%

Common jobs: Mental health therapist; social worker; nonprofit program manager 

Starting median pay: $32,800

Mid-career median pay: $46,600

Difference: $13,800 / 42%

Common jobs: Nutritionist; dietitian 

Starting median pay: $41,700

Mid-career median pay: $56,400

Difference: $14,700 / 35%

Common jobs: Horticulturist; landscape manager 

Starting median pay: $35,200

Mid-career median pay: $47,700

Difference: $12,500 / 36%

Common jobs: Intervention specialist; secondary school teacher; behavior analyst 

Starting median pay: $34,500

Mid-career median pay: $46,800

Difference: $12,300 / 36%

Common jobs: Activities director; recreation therapist

Starting median pay: $35,800

Mid-career median pay: $47,100

Difference: $11,300 / 32%

Common jobs: Laboratory manager; clinical laboratory technologist 

Starting median pay: $47,800

Mid-career median pay: $60,200

Difference: $12,400 / 26%

Common job: Athletic trainer

Starting median pay: $35,000

Mid-career median pay: $45,900

Difference: $10,900 / 31%

Common job: Pastor

Starting median pay: $36,300

Mid-career median pay: $46,000

Difference: $9,700 / 27%

Common jobs: Clinical laboratory technician; clinical laboratory scientist 

Starting median pay: $48,000

Mid-career median pay: $59,900

Difference: $11,900 / 25%

Common job: Elementary school teacher

Starting median pay: $32,300

Mid-career median pay: $40,400

Difference: $8,100 / 25%

Common jobs: Administrative assistant; medical case manager; nonprofit program coordinator

Starting median pay: $33,800

Mid-career median pay: $41,300

Difference: $7,500 / 22%

Common jobs: Daycare teacher; preschool teacher; nanny

Starting median pay: $32,200

Mid-career median pay: $36,400

Difference: $4,200 / 13%

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