These 25 bachelor’s degrees earn graduates less than those with a high school diploma

The average median salary for these programs is less than $37,024, the average yearly earnings of a high school diploma-only student.

President Joe Biden proposed a ruling last Wednesday to clamp down on schools that saddle students with insurmountable debt and poor returns on a college education. The proposal examines all academic offerings at for-profit colleges and non-degree credentials at traditional universities, threatening to cut federal funding for those that cannot guarantee that at least half its graduate cohort earn more than working adults with only a high school diploma. While Biden’s proposal excludes degree credentials at non-profit institutions, college leaders may want to be wary about bachelor’s programs that foretell no significant future earning power.

Utilizing data from the Department of Education and compiled by The HEA Group and College Scorecard, four years after graduating with one of these 25 bachelor’s degree programs students earn less than $38,000 on average, or just about what an employee with a high school diploma makes, according to Indeed. Almost 900 non-profit institutions offer one of these bachelor’s degrees.*

More from UB: Why higher education must be reinvented to suit the new generation of students

Low-earning degrees

All in all, 867 institutions offer such bachelor’s degree programs.* Programs in drama and stagecraft, the fine arts and music were the most prevalent degrees in this category. Seven of the 25 degrees on the list are related to theological study, accounting for 62 institutions in total.

Degree Avg. median earnings 4 years post-graduation # of institutions with program
1. Fine and Studio Arts $31,666 275
2. Drama/Theatre Arts and Stagecraft $28,582 194
3. Music $29,615 138
4. Film/Video and Photographic Arts $32,154 65
5. Dance $27,094 32
6. Visual and Performing Arts, General $29,566 27
7. Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences, General $33,142 25
8. Zoology/Animal Biology $33,215 19
9. Bible/Biblical Studies $33,973 18
10. Religion/Religious Studies $26,806 17
11. Pastoral Counseling and Specialized Ministries $33,231 15
12. Business Operations Support and Assistant Services $20,663 8
13. Religious Education $34,306 7
14. Culinary Arts and Related Services $33,645 6
15. Agricultural and Domestic Animal Services $31,253 5
16. Religious/Sacred Music $33,521 3
17. Teaching English or French as a Second or Foreign Language $29,779 3
18. Crafts/Craft Design, Folk Art and Artisanry $32,017 2
19. Alternative and Complementary Medicine and Medical Systems $31,663 2
20. Theology and Religious Vocations, Other $30,574 1
21. Classical and Ancient Studies  $34,228 1
22. Communications Technology/Technician $19,196 1
23. Philosophy and Religious Studies, Other $28,228 1
24. Archeology $34,960 1
25. Intercultural/Multicultural and Diversity Studies $29,103 1


* Note: Some institutions offer more than one of these academic programs listed. For example, Adelphi University offers “Fine and Studio Arts,” “Drama/Theatre Arts and Stagecraft” and “Dance.” This overlap reduces the number of non-profit institutions offering such bachelor’s programs.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

Most Popular