5 Grad Degrees That Don’t Pay Off

With the rising cost of tuition, cuts in higher education funding, and some career industries still being affected by the recession, it’s no surprise that students are thinking twice before heading off to graduate school.  Numerous careers still require employees to hold a master’s degree, but some of these degrees may cost too much to earn and just aren’t worth the pay off. While many graduate degrees will qualify students for higher paying jobs and higher ranking professions, others just may not be worth the time and money students put into them.

  • Liberal Arts: Getting a graduate degree in liberal arts is likely to cost a lot without having too much pay off. According to an article posted in The New York Times, 60% of graduate degree students rely on student loans to earn their graduate degrees, and on average, leave graduate school with about $37,000 in student loan debt. With Payscale reporting that entry level employees with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies earn between $32,686 and $50,868 annually, the degree and the time spent may not seem worth it.
  • Social Work: While social work can be extremely rewarding in other areas, financial payoff is not one of them. Earning a master’s degree in social work can surely rack up some school loan debt while most of the salaries offered in social work may not be so appealing. According to Payscale, the annual salary of employees with a master’s degree is between $29,479 and $49,132.
  • Arts: While some jobs that require a master’s degree of arts can offer competitive salaries, many of the jobs in this field that require master’s degree do not pay as well. With many of the jobs in this field paying salaries of less than $35,000 annually, it may be hard for graduate students who have racked up large amounts of student debt to be able to pay that amount off in a timely manner.


  • Zoology: A love for and working with animals may make zoology a dream for some, but most zoology graduates are likely to earn less pay annually than what some zoology students rack up in student debt. Many zoos require that employees only have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to qualify for zoo jobs and the average yearly wages of animal caretakers in zoos was $21,550, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


  • Theology: According to Payscale, most jobs that require a theology degree do not pay very well. Payscale reported that employees in entry level jobs with a master’s degree in Theology on average earned $30,500 annually. When you factor in accumulated student debt with the modest salary of most jobs in the field, which generally pay under $35,000 annually, the financial payoff isn’t very much.


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