Money

The 10 worst college majors to choose if you want a high-paying job

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More than 44 million Americans have taken out student loans to help pay their college tuition. Their debt totals more than 1.4 trillion. And the cost of college keeps rising.

One priority, post-degree, is paying down that debt, as most federal loan companies require payments starting only six months after graduation. With private loans, you may even have to start paying while you're still in school.

But not all college majors lead to jobs that make paying back loans easy, or even possible.

In fact, "the difference in lifetime earnings between the highest-paying college majors and lowest-paying majors is a whopping $3.4 million," reports the business forecast and personal finance advice website Kiplinger, drawing from a 2015 report from Georgetown University.

After it analyzed salary data for 126 majors, Kiplinger found low reported starting and mid-salaries for these 10 fields, which it calls "the worst" for launching you into a lucrative career.

The numbers don't mean you shouldn't pursue your dreams, the site adds. But you should do so with your eyes open.

Paralegal studies

Starting salary: $35,100
Mid-career salary: $56,400

Law firms looking to cut costs have driven down the demand for paralegals, according to Kiplinger. Prospects for lawyers aren't too rosy, either.

The site points out that, "if you hope to go to law school eventually, you can do so with a wide range of majors that won't pigeonhole you and limit your career opportunities. For example, you might study something like finance, one of the best college majors for your career, and still pursue a career in law."

Exercise science

Starting salary: $36,600
Mid-career salary: $54,500

While the health industry is in need of physical and occupational therapists, employers don't often seek workers with an exercise science major. Annual job postings total only 1,521.

Art

Starting salary: $37,000
Mid-career salary: $59,600

19 percent of those who majored in the subject have dropped out of the workforce.

Not all educational experiences are created equal, so, if you do want to major in art, choose your school wisely. Kiplinger advises that "students committed to studying art can make their degrees pay off better if they pick the right school to attend. Based on 20-year net 'return on investment' calculations from PayScale, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Cornell University and UCLA are the top-ranking schools for arts majors (including fine arts, drama, music, industrial design and more) living on campus and receiving financial aid."

A woman views a painting by Diego Rivera entitled 'Dance in Tehuantepec' in the Royal Academy of Arts on July 2, 2013 in London, England.
Getty Images
A woman views a painting by Diego Rivera entitled 'Dance in Tehuantepec' in the Royal Academy of Arts on July 2, 2013 in London, England.

Music

Starting salary: $38,200
Mid-career salary: $63,300

Only about 12 percent of music majors go on to become full-time musicians and related workers. Kiplinger suggests, "You might also consider working part-time, as 22.8 percent of music majors are doing, so you have time for your music while pulling in some income elsewhere."

Religious studies

Starting salary: $38,300
Mid-career salary: $62,100

If you're spiritually inclined, "consider majoring in philosophy instead," says Kiplinger. "A hefty 2.1 million online job postings over the past year sought out candidates who had studied philosophy. And that demand results in higher pay potential: Philosophy majors report a median starting salary of $44,800 a year and mid-career salary of $85,100 a year."

Photography

Starting salary: $38,600
Mid-career salary: $56,500

Many companies fill their photographic needs with freelancers, but the need for photographers is expected to expand 12 percent by 2027. The average for all jobs is 9 percent.

Radio and television

Starting salary: $38,600
Mid-career salary: $64,100

Only 7,300 students completed a degree in these fields, but radio and television majors can expect a 10 percent decline in positions in the next decade.

Courtesy KidZania London

Graphic design

Starting salary: $40,200
Mid-career salary: $61,700

Of all commercial art and graphic design majors, only 65 percent have gone on to work full time. About 15 percent are no longer seeking work.

Anthropology

Starting salary: $40,500
Mid-career salary: $63,200

For anthro majors, competition is high and demand is low. More than 12,000 people completed their degrees in the subject in 2016, but the number of annual online job postings directed at them was a relatively tiny 733. That makes the subject "a pretty popular major for students, but not so much for employers," Kiplinger reports.

Art history

Starting salary: $41,100
Mid-career salary: $65,400

Among those with art history degrees, "20 percent have dropped out of the workforce. Those who have found work aren't earning much," reports Kiplinger. On the plus side, though, "the projected growth rate for related jobs is actually above average."

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