Thursday, May 27, 2010

Guest Post: Five College Degrees to Avoid in a Recession

The following is a guest post submitted by Alexis Montgomery. I hope to have a post of my own up by the end of the weekend, if not sooner.

All of us want to believe we are the next Pablo Picasso, Steven Spielberg, or J.K. Rowling. But how many of us can reasonably expect to pick up a paint brush, a camera, or a pen and even come close to making a living (much less reaching the top of our field)? More likely you’ll be that guy on the street corner with dreadlocks, a dog, and a sign that reads, “Will work for food”. Okay, the reality of the situation is not that bad, but with the economy in the toilet, it’s more important than ever to choose a course of study that leads to a lucrative career (or at least allows you to pay for your shoe-box apartment and the Pinto you bought off your grandma). So here are a few college degrees that are best avoided if you want any hope of paying off those student loans.
1. Teaching – I know you’ve been told that the median salary for teachers is upwards of $40,000 per year, but I don’t know how this can be true (unless the numbers factor in private schools and universities). Most teachers barely make a livable wage, and considering how much time they have to spend outside class doing course prep and grading papers, you really won’t get your money’s worth from this degree. Plus, with state and federal budget cuts across the board, even tenured teachers may be seeking alternate employment soon.
2. Social Work – You may want to give something back to the world, but don’t give it up for free! You’re likely to work long hours for very little pay, not to mention the stresses of trying to help low-income families with almost no resources at your disposal. This job is hard on you physically, mentally, and emotionally, so unless you’re a saint, you’re better off going for a degree in nursing (an expanding field) where you might actually get to help someone (and get paid to do it).
3. Horticulture – The science of plants is one that doesn’t pay. For one thing, it’s hard to find jobs, unless you want to work as a florist or in a nursery. You’re more likely to find contract work, and infrequently at that. It begs the question, who on earth chooses this degree in the first place?
4. Performance Arts – Actors and musicians, take note. Unless you are very good or very lucky, you will be hard pressed to earn a living in this field. Sometimes even talent and luck aren’t enough to get you through. So instead of blowing your parents’ hard-earned money (or taking out student loans) for this degree, opt for something behind the scenes that will afford you a chance to actually make a living.
5. Hospitality – Who knew you needed a degree to work in a hotel? Well, you don’t need one to clean the rooms or man the front desk, but if you plan to manage a posh hotel, you’d better have a degree in hospitality. Or not, as the case may be, since this job does not pay very well. In addition, people who don’t have the money to pay their mortgage are certainly not planning to stay at your pricey hotel. Save your tuition and put a down payment on some rental properties instead. With all the home foreclosures, rental units are doing quite well.

Alexis Montgomery is a content writer for Online Schools, where you can browse through various online degree programs to find a college that suits your needs.


  1. I'd like to add one to the list - fashion merchandising. That't what my degree's in & I am now going back to school for nursing.

  2. teacher and reader of this blogMay 28, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Alexis. You are an idiot.

  3. I basically disagree with all of this: get a degree in what you're passionate about, regardless of the economy. Besides that, there are plenty of jobs in all of those fields that pay well and are rewarding in satisfaction if you make it happen. I think these are good suggestions for anyone who is looking to be a professional student and stay in college their whole lives... other than that..

  4. holla for healthcare. love working in that field :D

    twin xl- maybe you should create better nurse scrubs

  5. It's really unfortunate that teaching & social work are 2 of the hardest jobs, but are woefully underpaid :(

  6. It is really important to understand the economy we live in when choosing a job. That's not to say that everyone has to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers—but still, those majoring in performing arts may have an... interesting time of it.

    I know someone who is a super-dooper-senior majoring in hospitality. I wish him the best, but it may be rough.