Going to college is a wonderful life experience. However, it’s also expensive. In order for this experience to be worth its cost, it is important to be able to use your degree after you graduate. Unfortunately, there are a lot of college degrees that just don’t offer a good return on investment (ROI). You spend a lot of money getting them, and then either there aren’t jobs available in the field, or there are jobs but they don’t pay very well.

College Degrees

College degrees with a poor ROI

Be aware that this is a common problem for people who get the following college degrees:

  1. Culinary degree. OnlineDegrees reports that you can do almost every job a trained chef can do without getting a degree in the culinary arts, resulting in a very poor ROI for this degree.
  2. Social Work. This is a really wonderful field for people who want to work hard helping others in need. Unfortunately, it’s a field that doesn’t pay very well. WalletPop reports that the average starting salary is less than $33,000 and only climbs to slightly more than $41,000 by mid-career.
  3. Child and Family Studies. This specific degree pays even less than the broader degree in social work. Yahoo! Finance reports that the starting pay for this degree in 2010 was less than $30,000 per year and by mid-career you’re still earning less than $40,000 annually.
  4. Management. You can actually earn a lot of money in certain management positions. However, you can earn that income without getting a college degree so choosing to get a degree in management is a waste of your money. Wealth Pilgrim reports that storage and distribution managers, transportation managers and non-retail sales managers are among the top high-income jobs that don’t require a college degree.
  5. Criminal Justice. This is another degree that doesn’t have a good ROI in large part because you can earn a good income in many of its related fields without spending four years (and a fortune) in college. Wealth Pilgrim’s article notes that some of the high-earning jobs in this field that don’t require a degree are police ID and records officer, police detective, criminal investigator, special agent and investigator in child support, missing persons and insurance fraud cases.
  6. Liberal Arts. This degree simply doesn’t have a lot of value in the real world. One person in the Motley Fool community reports that her undergrad liberal arts degree cost her about $17000 in school loans but only increased her annual pay by ~$2000. The situation is obviously worse for people who pay significantly more for their liberal arts degrees (which is unfortunately common since private colleges are popular among liberal arts majors). Plus you have to think about what work you’ll be doing with this degree. OnlineDegrees says that the best salary for people with liberal arts degrees comes if they work as funeral directors! Incidentally, you don’t even need a degree to become a funeral director.
  7. Horticulture. The four years that you spend getting a degree in this field of plant sciences isn’t likely to result in a high salary. By mid-career you’ll still be earning less than $54,000 annually according to a WalletPop report. And that assumes that you’ll even be able to find a job as a horticulturist!
  8. Real Estate. The real estate market has taken a huge hit in recent years. Even though the market will rise again eventually, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a college degree in this field. That’s because in a good market you can earn a high wage in this field without getting a college degree according to Christian Personal Finance.

Factors affecting the value of your degree

Note that there are many factors that can affect the true ROI of your college degree. Some of those factors include:

  • The level of your degree. Although it costs more to get a graduate degree, the ROI can jump considerably in some fields for people who invest in this higher education.
  • The cost of your school’s tuition. The ROI for a degree in some fields is a lot higher for people who pay low costs at a state school in comparison with the high price of a private college education. This depends, though, because the value of a name brand education is worth something in some fields.
  • How much you actually pay for college. If you are able to get a significant number of scholarships and therefore don’t pay a lot for college, then it’s a lot easier to get a good ROI on your degree.

Do you feel like you are getting a good ROI on your college degree?



San Francisco based blogger for businesses and writer for the web. 10+ years of professional writing experience across a diverse range of different interests.