The Five Lowest-Paying Majors (From MSN)

Thought this was interesting: 5 Lowest-Paying Majors, And What You Can Do About it.

Their list:

• Social work

• Special education

• Elementary education

• Home economics

• Music and dance

Okay, so they are low-paying. Big deal. As long as you know this information going in, you can make adjustments to your lifestyle expectations.

For starters, if you know that one of the above careers is for you, I wouldn’t be saddling myself with a lot of student loan debt. Going to college and choosing a career is a business decision and it makes no sense to saddle yourself with $60,000 or more in college debt in order to take a job that pays $30,000 per year.

You should also realize that you most likely will never be rich from working in those fields. In addition, you shouldn’t be trying to live like a rich person with an income from those fields. No fancy cars or expensive clothes for you. Living within your means (which includes putting money back for retirement as well as some savings) will require some sacrifice but if you love what you are doing, you’ll be able to accept that.

It’s not all bad though. I know several families in which both the husband and wife are teachers and they seem to do okay. It can be done.

20 thoughts on “The Five Lowest-Paying Majors (From MSN)”

  1. I think it is important to ‘specialize’, no matter what field you are in. The lowest paid jobs are normally low skilled roles that practically anyone can fill. You want to separate yourself from that crowd and carve out a niche based on the personal talents and traits that you uniquely have.

    That MSN list undoubtedly has specialties paying $100k+ for the same majors.

  2. I have a question about this, and one to which I genuinely ignore the answer. The subjects listed are jobs where society certainly needs folks to invest their time and effort. These efforts are certainly more efficiently invested if the individuals are qualified, which means an education obtained by paying the fees referred to in the post. This highlights a contradiction between a goal and the means to achieve that goal: the job isn’t one that pays well, but the price of getting the job is so expensive that it’s just about unaffordable. To put it differently, if we changed the terms of the current arrangement only slightly, and we asked for a $100,000 payment and a large investment of one’s time so that one were allowed to enter a low paying job, the endeavor would be considered fiscal suicide. Further to the point, the idea would be considered a failure without the need for any deeper consideration. Nobody would bother to examine whether the costs could be somehow amortized because the preliminary cost to benefit ratio makes no sense at all.

    My question is this: why isn’t there any outrage over the prices of education in these sectors? Why are people rationalizing these outrageous deals that wouldn’t otherwise withstand the most mindless accountant’s inquiry? Why do we assume that this arrangement is somehow reasonable when it is obvious from even a cursory examination that the deal is a rotten one?

    There has been a recent spate of posts on a few blogs that pointed to an education bubble. Is this the kind of bubble that we can afford to let unravel on its own, or is there some solution that can make education a bit more affordable without necessarily regulating higher education? I’m not looking to replace the educational system, but if my son asked me whether he should go to college or not, I would turn pale with distress. It’s quite the damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of situation.

  3. Elementary education? Start at 23-years old making $38,000 a year, work 9-months out of the year and receive steady pay raises? I have teacher friends making north of $75,000 a year at the top of the line at the union. They have supreme job security, safe working conditions and a pension plan when they retire. $75,000 for 9-months of work after putting in 15-years? Extrapolated that is six-figures a year!

  4. YES, they may be making $75,000 a year and it might be for nine months of work, but they are getting paid in July for what they did in March. If they happen to live in a state that allows teachers unions then they are luckier than most.

    Here in Texas that is not allowed and they certainly do not get paid that much after 15 years. Top salary in the school district in my city is $58,000.

    Personally, I believe that teachers should start at about $100,000 for the work and time that they put in. There are not many occupations that you have to pay for most of your supplies and do not get reimbursed or that you don’t get paid overtime for staying after at meetings or to help students with their work.

    No, I am not a teacher, but I am related to several and have seen them have to work weekends and nights to get the work done that they need. They are subjected to being critized by parents, if their precious children don’t make the grade. It is always the teahcers fault don’t you know. Also, in our “glorious” district the superintendant “rules” over the teachers and staff with the threat of reprisal if anything is said or done against him or his policies.

    Teaching has to be a calling for anyone that does it. I do not know anyone in their right mind that would do this thankless job for the money. The vacations are ridiculous. Yes, you might be off during the summer but most of the really good teachers that I know are planning for the next school year, getting training or doing summer school for these dear little angels. Yes there are those that take the position so that they can be off all summer long but they are hopefully in the minority.

  5. AMEN Greg! Very well said!
    I am an Education major at the University of Texas at Austin. My dream is to work with underprivileged children. I highly doubt I will start out making $38,000. The teachers I know that have graduated from UT are making well below that, and they have terrible benefits. Please give us a break!

  6. Employees in a lot of professions put in extra time outside of 9 to 5 to keep up and get ahead. I don’t see why teaching or social work would be any different.

    I certainly respect teachers, social workers, etc. They are honorable professions, as are accountants, doctors, and lawyers (well, maybe not lawyers). The latter just usually get paid more.

    I believe some of the reason is basic supply and demand. The higher paid professions usually have greater barriers to entry in the form of more difficult educational and training requirements. These barriers create less supply and shift wages higher. This of course has nothing to do with the societal value of a caring and dedicated teacher.

    On the notion of unionization: I can only speak for California. The education unions and lobbies are VERY strong here and that has created some of the highest paid teachers in the nation. I personally can’t wait until my wife finishes school and starts teaching so we can get on her health insurance and retirement package.

  7. AFA teachers feeling they don’t get paid enough well, that may be true , but generally teachers have an excellent retirement program. Whenever teachers start whining about low pay and long hours they neglect to talk about their retirement program.

    Finally to all teachers that are unhappy with their choice I say “Stop teaching and get another job”. To all those who say teachers got it easy I say “become a teacher!”. Ya gotta love capitalism, let the market decide.

  8. Craig,

    I have a theory that teachers’ unions are actually acting to hold down teacher pay because competition is not allowed to work.

    If parents were allowed to send their kids to private school with some sort of tax credit on state and local taxes, more parents would do so and private schools would be more successful in recruiting teachers away from public school by being able to offer higher pay packages due to increased enrollment.

    I understand what Greg is saying but I still don’t think teacher pay is that bad, considering the time off that teachers get throughout the year. Yes, they may have to work from home, but lots of jobs require that.

    The worst thing I can think of with regards to being a teacher is dealing with bratty kids, whose parents think they can do no wrong.

  9. Todd, not all teachers have SAFE working conditions. I have a friend who was substituting in a suburban junior high school and had to be escorted to her car by security because of threats made to her but the student didn’t get in trouble because she was a sub and it was a he said/she said situation.

    Plus teaching anymore can be such a controversial profession to get into. You have one camp that says they are overpaid for the amount of time they “work” and the camp that says teachers are underpaid and underappreciated. Plus every state has different standards and different pay. Even areas within a state can have great differences in pay because of the dependence of funding using property taxes. Our school this year is making such great cuts because of less state funding that my daughter’s teacher paid for most of her own materials so that she could keep her teaching standards up. One reason for good pensions (which some are cutting out) is to keep teachers from leaving.

  10. Did I hit a vein? You can always tell there is “something” there when people get so defensive. Teachers in my state put in 30-years and get an 80% pension. They simply can’t be fired. They work 50% of the time! Most people would work 250-days a year for $75,000! Teachers get to work 185 (or so days). Some local towns in my community pay upwards of 90% of HEALTH CARE! Need I go on? If you put in 10-years, get your Masters and show up, you are UN-FIREABLE! To put it bluntly, teachers have it quite good and better than most!

  11. I must agree w/Todd #12 as that seems to be how it is in IL–very good pay and benefits once you’re several years into the career.

    Also re: the supplies, teachers can deduct up to $250 on their 1040. At our school our PTA allocates several hundred dollars per grade for the teachers’ discretionary use.

    One of my (many) pet peeves is when teachers’ web pages or notes home have poor grammar (its vs. it’s; too, to, vs. two; they’re, their, vs. there, etc.) or misspelled words. Makes me want to scream! So maybe there is something to be said for the supply vs. demand argument. If you don’t need to be that bright to earn a teaching position, perhaps you shouldn’t be paid as much as another professional would be.

    Also, when my sons haven’t been taught the trick for remembering how to spell “GEOGRAPHY”(Go East On Gravel Road And Paint House Yellow) or that if the sum of the digits of a number can be divisible by 9, then the number can be divisible by 9…(234=2+3+4=9 so 234 can be divided by 9)well that just irritates the crap out of me. Are teachers too young that they themselves, were never taught this or is everyone just plain ol’ stupid & clueness now? I’m grateful for the nuns and other teachers (and my parents!!) who prepared me so well for my life. Now I just try to help my sons when I see deficiencies…

    PS I’d take a career in teaching over accounting any day. However, I’d be fired within a week b/c I wouldn’t be tactful re: the lousy parenting I’d be sure to encounter. So my hat’s off to teachers for that burden they have to bear…along w/ the generally good job they do. There’s only so much you can do w/what you’re handed…

  12. What? Teachers are supposed to teach tricks & shortcuts? So the next time you stand at an ATM, you have to hop on one left and spin around to remember the rule to determine if you’ve overdrawn your account? Or you crouch down and recite a Beatles song backwards to determine the recipe for apple pie? What is this? Voodoo school of teaching?

    How about kids just continually fail until they get into their heads to put some effort in understanding the subject matter. It’s ludicrous to expect volumes of volumes of tricks to be stuffed inside a kid’s head to understand BASIC material.

  13. Mossy, I don’t think the 2 tips I cited are anywhere close to “voodoo school of teaching” rather it’s going back to the basics. Ask most older people and they’d probably know what I’m talking about right away. And no, expecting this it isn’t “ludicrous” but your comment was.

  14. Seriously? Instead of teaching kids how to break down the words to learn the phonetics and assigning enough reading to run into the words — you are suggesting teachers teach a trick to learn to spell “geography”? And then there’s a trick to spell “democracy”? And then another trick to spell “capitulation”? And then another trick to spell “ludicrous”?

    Give me break. Totally catering to lazy kids who won’t put in the effort to learn.

  15. I’m over 40 and have never heard of that Geography trick or the divisble by 9 thing and I managed to get a free ride in college. Wonder how I did it?

  16. @Deanne–guess you were lucky

    @Mossy, can we agree that we’re going to disagree? There will always be employees who do “enough” to get by and those who go above and beyond the minimum required. Giving kids tips to learn how to be better students must obviously be in the category of going above and beyond the minimum since it appears no one else was ever taught these shortcuts. And rather than thinking the “9” rule is worthless drivel, when you’re teaching your children how to find the factors of a number to find the least common factor, etc., you will find this rule quite helpful.

  17. @ Stacey

    Im sorry I’m going to have to agree with Mossy here. Teaching tricks to spell and do all these things.. while sometimes useful.. are not always necessary. I may not be as old as you but when learning to spell.. I never needed all these little tricks… i used phonics… “geography” amongst other words do not need tricks to help you remember how to spell them. they aren’t even tricky. So if your kids havent been taught that.. then you should be thankful they aren’t being taught useless tricks that take up extra time instead of just learning how to spell the word.
    That said, the math concept (its actually 3 not 9), is very useful and I myself used it. But it would not taught in school, it was something I picked up along the way from an uncle or someone. I understand that you feel teachers should go above and beyond to help students learn, but where would you draw the line between teaching and helping, and just making students lazy and relying on tricks and shortcuts to do everything instead of just learning how to do it??

  18. #7 @thecase is absolutely right.

    In case you’ve all forgotten, we live in a free society. Every teacher who is overworked and underpaid should seek their opportunity elsewhere. Yet teachers aren’t leaving the profession in droves which tells me that the benefits continue to outweigh the (perceived) negatives.

    #9 @craig makes a great point.

    When it comes to killing your baby freedom of choice is a good thing but if you want to educate that same child…

    School choice (competition) will solve most of our education issues and create a true market value for excellent teachers.

    Why is the NEA fighting school choice? It proves that parental involvement is the most important factor in determining your child’s success in school.

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