The 5 most (and least) valuable college majors for getting a job

What is the most valuable college major? The answer, according to a new in-depth study from Bankrate, is actuarial science.

The study examined three factors for 162 majors using data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey: annual salary, unemployment, and how high a graduate could go without grad school. Bankrate weighted the factors 70%, 20%, and 10%, respectively.

Actuarial science majors, who averaged $108,658 in income, had 2.3% unemployment and had just 22% of current workers holding higher degrees than a bachelor’s. Actuaries use math and statistical models to assess risk for financial services firms, insurance companies, or any other entities that examine risk.

Zoology followed actuarial science with a higher income ($111,889) and lower unemployment (1.4%), but a strong majority (68%) went to grad school to reach these numbers. 

RELATED: Take a look at the highest-paying jobs in America, according to Glassdoor: 

25 PHOTOS
25 highest-paying jobs in America, according to Glassdoor
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25 highest-paying jobs in America, according to Glassdoor
1. Physician
Median Base Salary: $195,842
Number of Job Openings: 3,038
2. Pharmacy Manager
Median Base Salary: $146,412
Number of Job Openings: 2,009
3. Pharmacist
Median Base Salary: $127,120
Number of Job Openings: 2,534
4. Enterprise Architect
Median Base Salary: $115,944
Number of Job Openings: 1,097
5. Corporate Counsel
Median Base Salary: $115,580
Number of Job Openings: 693
6. Software Development Manager
Median Base Salary: $108,879
Number of Job Openings: 1,064
7. Physician Assistant
Median Base Salary: $108,761
Number of Job Openings: 8,616
8. Software Engineering Manager
Median Base Salary: $107,479
Number of Job Openings: 1,105
9. Nurse Practitioner
Median Base Salary: $106,962
Number of Job Openings: 14,931
10. Software Architect
Median Base Salary: $105,329
Number of Job Openings: 1,130
11. Engineering Manager
Median Base Salary: $105,260
Number of Job Openings: 4,738
12. Applications Development Manager
Median Base Salary: $104,048
Number of Job Openings: 360
13. Plant Manager
Median Base Salary: $103,892
Number of Job Openings: 1,182
14. IT Program Manager
Median Base Salary: $102,969
Number of Job Openings: 218
15. Solutions Architect
Median Base Salary: $102,160
Number of Job Openings: 5,899
16. Financial Planning and Analysis Manager
Median Base Salary: $102,155
Number of Job Openings: 108
17. Data Architect
Median Base Salary: $101,900
Number of Job Openings: 1,472
18. Strategy Manager
Median Base Salary: $101,754
Number of Job Openings: 2,641
19. Systems Architect
Median Base Salary: $100,984
Number of Job Openings: 1,146
20. Scrum Master
Median Base Salary: $98,239
Number of Job Openings: 1,876
21. Consulting Manager
Median Base Salary: $97,154
Number of Job Openings: 1,536
22. Attorney
Median Base Salary: $96,678
Number of Job Openings: 903
23. Cloud Engineer
Median Base Salary: $96,449
Number of Job Openings: 1,077
24. Tax Manager
Median Base Salary: $96,175
Number of Job Openings: 3,690
25. Data Scientist
Median Base Salary: $96,116
Number of Job Openings: 4,986
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Nuclear engineering chalked up third place, followed by health and medical preparatory programs in fourth, and applied math majors in fifth. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) grads performed strongly across the board.

Petroleum engineering raked in the most cash, but it has high unemployment at almost 8% — the second-worst of the 162 ranked, which knocked it to 18th on the list. Other degrees had similarly high salaries, but the an expectation for grad school bumped them down the list.

The least valuable majors were visual and performing arts, cosmetology services and culinary arts, clinical psychology, and composition and speech. Miscellaneous fine arts came in dead last. These majors on average make $40,855 and have an unemployment rate of 9.1%. (Only 13% go to grad school.) Most clinical psychology grads (74%), who make on average $51,022, went to grad school.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a four-year degree costs $16,757 from a public institution and $39,011 from a private one, on average. Student debt in the U.S. is over $1.5 trillion.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, retail, personal finance, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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