These Are the Most (and Least) Valuable College Majors


College is great because you get to feel like an adult without having to act like one. You learn what it's like to have independence, juggle responsibilities, and to compromise your values for money, but the stakes are lower and it's socially acceptable to wear sweatpants. But the choices you make there do matter, especially your choice of major.

All that is to say, when you're picking a major, remember that you'll have to live with it after college. This ranking from Bankrate of the value of 162 degrees will help you make a more informed decision. Looking for work in the right cities and applying to companies that will actually pay you money will help you get a good job, but a musical theater degree may not get you through the door. (But you'll also be the most popular person at karaoke, and that has its perks too.)

Here are the five most valuable majors

5. Applied Mathematics
Average income: $105,679
Unemployment rate: 2%

4. Health & Medical Preparatory Programs
Average Income: $130,308
Unemployment rate: 2.3%

3. Nuclear Engineering
Average income: $108,591
Unemployment rate: 1.8%

2. Zoology
Average income: $111,889
Unemployment rate: 1.4%

1. Actuarial Science
Average income: $108,658
Unemployment rate: 2.3%

Here are the five least valuable majors 

5. Visual & Performance Arts
Average income: $43,996
Unemployment rate: 4%

4. Cosmetology & Culinary Arts
Average income: $42,362
Unemployment rate: 4.7%

3. Clinical Psychology
Average income: $51,022
Unemployment rate: 4.8%

2. Composition & Speech
Average income: $44,211
Unemployment rate: 4.9%

1. Miscellaneous Fine Arts
Average income: $40,855
Unemployment rate: 9.1%

In assembling this study, Bankrate consulted the most recent data available from the U.S. Census and used weighted data to see what employment status and income prospects were like in the past 12 months for a study for people 162 degrees. Only majors with labor forces of at least 15,000 were included, and the study also took into account how many of these graduates went on to obtain master’s and doctoral degrees.

Unsurprisingly, the top 10 spots were taken by business, science, and math degrees. But the most valuable major was actuarial science. It may not get as much lip service as tech degrees do these days, but people with this major make an average salary of over $100,000 a year -- without needing an advanced degree. The same can't be said for other top majors. Graduates often go on to jobs like budget analyst, cost estimator, and statistician. Those gigs may not sound terribly sexy, but having a job objectively is, so it'll balance out.

Miscellaneous fine arts -- defined here as "basically any fine arts degree that doesn’t fit cleanly in the art history, music, drama and theater or other major buckets" -- landed at the bottom slot. Anyone is taking this degree who thinks job prospects are great should find a new advisor and also consider the 9.1% employment rate. That being said, there are some jobs to be had here, and graduates going on to be art teachers, music contractors, craft artists, and illustrators. But it's definitely not a safe bet and the average income is $40,855. In fact, all fine arts degree were in the bottom of this ranking. You might, however, retain a sense of dignity, which is supposedly priceless.

We're not saying you should immediately switch to actuarial science. We're just suggesting you make an informed decision (and ideally a whole bunch of money).

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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.