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These are the best and worst college majors for earning potential right now

In a new Bankrate analysis, 159 college majors were ranked based on factors such as median income and unemployment rate.

These are the best and worst college majors for earning potential right now
[Source images: winvic/iStock; designer491/iStock]

Whether you attend in person or online, a college degree still costs a pretty penny. The average cost of a four-year education is $35,720 per student per year, and the average student loan debt is now north of $37,500. So it makes sense to choose a career path wisely while you’re still an undergrad. No surprise that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects scored high. But the bottom majors may surprise you.

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According to a recent analysis from Bankrate, the top five “most valuable” majors were:

Rank College Major Median Income Unemployment Rate Higher Degree Holders
1 Architectural Engineering $90,000 1.3% 29.3%
2 Construction Services $80,000 1.0% 12.1%
3 Computer Engineering $101,000 2.3% 39.7%
4 Aerospace Engineering $100,000 1.9% 50.7%
5 Transportation Sciences and Technologies $86,000 1.8% 21.1%

Clinical psychology proves to be a science that doesn’t score high points, most likely because those with only undergraduate degrees are in low-paying social work positions, many at nonprofits. Arts degrees round out the bottom ranks with their traditionally low pay and high unemployment rates—especially over this last pandemic year.

Rank College Major Median Income Unemployment Rate Higher Degree Holders
155 Clinical Psychology $49,000 3.8% 78.1%
156 Composition and Speech $42,000 4.9% 30.4%
157 Drama and Theater Arts $41,000 4.5% 31.4%
158 Miscellaneous Fine Arts $38,000 5.6% 16.7%
159 Visual and Performing Arts $35,500 3.6% 28.7%

To get these rankings, Bankrate analyzed the most recent data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and scored 159 college majors based on three factors. Each was weighted: median income (70%), unemployment rate (20%), and the percentage of people with an advanced degree (10%).

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Check out the full list here and see how your major stacks up.

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a staff editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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