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Lowest Paying Education Majors

Lowest Paying Education Majors


Not all teachers are paid the same. Of course, there are differences depending on where in the country you work, how many years you have been teaching, if your school is public or private, etc. But did you know there are pay differences that can be traced to your college major? 

Going to college to become a teacher in New York, I had to major in either elementary education or secondary education with a concentration in my subject area. However, many schools offer a college major where the entire focus is on teaching that specific content (such as history education). And some end up getting paid a whole lot less than other teachers.

A major study from 2023 surveyed 3.5 college graduates and over 8,000 bachelor’s degrees and ranked the 50 lowest-paying majors based on the jobs these degrees tend to lead to. The majors are ranked by mid-career median salary, or what a person earns after working in the field for over ten years. “These earnings include the base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime, and other forms of cash earnings.” 

Of the 50 lowest-paying college majors, 10 are related to the education field. Those majors are listed below in order of lowest to highest paid, with the average starting and median salary. Keep in mind that these salaries are only for people with a Bachelor’s Degree, not a Master’s Degree, which undoubtedly would increase their salary. 

1. Outdoor Teacher Education

– Early-career pay: $37,400

– Mid-career pay: $46,300

While some people who major in outdoor ed. go on to work for governmental organizations, many become outdoor education teachers. A public school system sometimes employs teachers but they work for small non-profit organizations more often.

2. Religious Education

– Early-career pay: $38,700

– Mid-career pay: $53,200

While the lower pay may not surprise many, that is because religious education doesn’t happen in public schools. A degree in religious education prepares students to work for religious organizations or other religious private schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58% of those majoring in philosophy or religious disciplines earn their master’s degrees. That’s probably to get a pay raise or open up other career opportunities.

3. Child development

– Early-career pay: $43,400

– Mid-career pay: $56,500

Students who major in child development usually work at a childcare facility. Childcare workers have an average hourly wage of just $14.60. Many people, including some politicians, have emphasized the need to pay these workers at least $15, which is still kind of insulting.

4. Counseling

– Early-career pay: $45,100

– Mid-career pay: $59,600

Counselors are in high demand, including in schools, but many who need their help cannot afford it, and dealing with insurance companies for reimbursement is challenging at best. That might be why many students who major in counseling choose to work in a public school.

5. Social work 

– Early-career pay: $43,300

– Mid-career pay: $61,300

Although social work jobs do not pay well, they are very much in demand, especially in public schools. 

6. Educational psychology

– Early-career pay: $45,900

– Mid-career pay: $61,800

Educational psychologists study how people learn, which can inform various teaching methods and classroom strategies and, ideally, improve academic outcomes. However, as many schools struggle with shrinking budgets, professionals in this field are either unaffordable or underpaid and are often expected to work beyond a reasonable capacity.

7. Special education

– Early-career pay: $46,400

– Mid-career pay: $62,700

Though some special education majors become residential managers or “direct support professionals,” most become teachers. Special education teachers are in very high demand since more students need help than ever, and many teachers are leaving the profession. However, their pay remains the same.

8. Elementary education

– Early-career pay: $45,800

– Mid-career pay: $65,700

While some students who major in elementary education become guidance counselors, juvenile correction officers, or preschool teachers, most teach at an elementary school. 

9. History teacher education

– Early-career pay: $49,200

– Mid-career pay: $66,700

Those who major in history teacher education usually go on to teach the subject in elementary, secondary, or postsecondary schools. For reasons that are not explained, history teachers, in particular, tend to be paid less than teachers of other subjects. 

10. Music/theatre Education

-Early career pay: $47,700

-Mid-career pay: $69,800

While some people who major in this might intend to go into the acting or music industry, many become teachers. Unfortunately, in some places, arts electives teachers make less than teachers of mainstream classes.

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Jane Morris

Jane Morris is the pen name of an ex-teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is worried awful administrators will come after her for spilling their dirty little secrets. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in Writing and Literature from an even fancier (and more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh through the tears.

She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.