The Best and Worst College Degrees by Salary

Last Updated Aug 14, 2009 6:16 PM EDT

Business administration is always a strong contender for honors as the most popular college major. This is no surprise since students think business is their entree to making big bucks.

But is business administration really as lucrative as students and their parents believe? Nope.

In a new survey of salaries by college degree, business administration didn't even break into the list of the top 10 or 20 most lucrative college degrees, according to the latest annual salary survey by PayScale, Inc. A variety of engineering majors claim eight of the top 10 salary spots with chemical engineering ($65,700) winning best of show for starting salaries.

Out of 75 undergrad college majors, business administration ($42,900) came in 35th, behind such degrees as occupational therapy ($61,300) and information technology ($49,400).

What I found equally fascinating were the college majors that lead to the most anemic paychecks. Here are the worst paying college degrees:

College Degrees Starting Salary Mid-career median salary
  1. Social Work $33,400 $41,600
  2. Elementary Education $33,000 $42,400
  3. Theology $34,800 $51,500
  4. Music $34,000 $52,000
  5. Spanish $35,600 $52,600
  6. Horticulture $37,200 $53,400
  7. Education $36,200 $54,100
  8. Hospitality/Tourism $37,000 $54,300
  9. Fine Arts $35,800 $56,300
  10. Drama $35,600 $56,600
Further reading. Want to learn more about college strategies? Read more of my posts:

The Best Colleges You've Never Heard Of

Graduate from Berkeley in Just 2 Years

4 Smart Ways to Boost Your SAT Score for Less

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