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16 Majors That Leave Grads Struggling to Earn $40,000

Gene Isenko /

A college degree is often the key to a long and lucrative career. But some majors leave people struggling financially for much — or all — of their working lives.

Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York identified the college majors that result in the lowest salaries for new graduates.

These rankings focus on the median wage that graduates can expect to earn during the early part of their career. In addition, all wage data applies to those who earn a bachelor’s degree but do not pursue higher levels of education.

With those factors in mind, here are several college majors that can leave you struggling to earn a mere $40,000.

Liberal arts

senior college student
Monkey Business Images /

Median wage among graduates who have a bachelor’s degree in this major and are in their:

  • Early career: $38,000
  • Mid-career: $65,000

Those who major in liberal arts and sciences receive a broad education that helps them to think more critically. However, that doesn’t always translate into higher pay.

Performing arts

Woman playing the violin
Minerva Studio /

Median wage among graduates who have a bachelor’s degree in this major and are in their:

  • Early career: $38,000
  • Mid-career: $64,000

A love of the arts is usually a passion that endures throughout a person’s lifetime. Majoring in performing arts can lead to a fulfilling career, but it is unlikely to result in riches.

Theology and religion

Young pastor of a church
voronaman /

Median wage among graduates who have a bachelor’s degree in this major and are in their:

  • Early career: $38,000
  • Mid-career: $56,000

Money is probably the last thing on the mind of those who choose to major in religion or theology: They are responding to a higher calling. Still, it can be a struggle to survive on the salary you will make after earning this degree.

Other majors with low-earning grads

A therapist with a client
Prostock-studio /

All of the following majors are likely to lead to a career that only pays around $40,000 to new graduates. Here are the early career and mid-career salaries for those with the following degrees:

  • Leisure and hospitality: $39,700/$67,000
  • Anthropology: $40,000/$65,000
  • Early childhood education: $40,000/$48,000
  • Elementary education: $40,000/$52,000
  • Family and consumer sciences: $40,000/$59,000
  • Fine arts: $40,000/$68,000
  • General social sciences: $40,000/$70,000
  • History: $40,000/$70,000
  • Miscellaneous biological science: $40,000/$68,000
  • Nutrition sciences: $40,000/$65,000
  • Psychology: $40,000/$65,000
  • Social services: $40,000/$56,000
  • Treatment therapy: $40,000/$67,000

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