Best and Worst College Majors, According to Researchers

best and worst college majors

Key Takeaways:

  • Engineering, computer science, business, health, and math and science majors offer the best return on investment.
  • Education, psychology, social work, and arts majors are among the worst-paying majors according to the study.
  • The study aims to guide students in making informed decisions and highlights the importance of considering career interests and purpose.

There’s been plenty of discussion lately about the value of a college degree. With talk of six-figure tuition expenses and falling enrollment numbers, the question is a valid one. Still, it ignores the nuance in higher education. The truth is some degrees are more valuable than others.

According to a new study published in the American Educational Research Journal, earnings amongst college graduates can vary widely depending on their chosen major. Researchers compared the earnings of nearly six million college and high school graduates and found that the best majors according to average return on investment are engineering, computer science, business, health, and math and science:

Related: 20 Best College Majors

Best College Majors by ROI:

  1. Engineering
  2. Computer Science
  3. Business
  4. Health
  5. Math and Science

Worst College Majors by ROI

  1. Education
  2. Psychology
  3. Social Work
  4. Arts

The purpose of the study is not to dissuade students from pursuing any one major, but to provide data points to encourage informed decision-making. The authors note, “The results of this study could help facilitate communication among students and their families, colleges and universities, and policymakers regarding the allocation of private and public resources”.

They also point out that some of the so-called worst majors like education and social work, for instance, are the same fields of study that are pivotal to a thriving society. The report suggests policymakers consider righting some of the obvious wrongs here, perhaps by increasing wages or awarding more financial aid to students in these crucial majors.

Of course, wage returns are just one motivator for students looking to earn a college degree. A student’s interests, skills, and sense of purpose are equally legitimate reasons for studying a particular field.