18 Educational Courses or Degrees With Questionable ROI

Higher education comes with an increasingly hefty price tag, so it’s now more crucial than ever to weigh up the return on investment of college degrees and courses. While a degree does tend to open doors to better career opportunities, not all educational paths offer the same financial payoff. Click to discover 18 degrees that may not give you the financial reward you’re looking for.

Fine Arts

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Creative souls who end up with degrees in fine arts often find themselves in careers such as museum research workers and graphic designers. While the ROI can be good in certain positions, fine arts majors are notable for being “starving artists.” Nevertheless, the ROI is said to be better for those studying at public colleges.

Education

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In the pursuit of learning to teach and better the next generation, those who study education at a higher level typically end up becoming teachers or daycare workers. It’s a noble profession, but unfortunately, it’s underpaid in most places. As stated by Salary.com, the average range is between $48,154 and $70,341 for teachers, though starting salaries can be lower.

Theater

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A theater degree or education course can be expensive, especially when you consider the potential earnings of a career in the industry. Most graduates go on to get jobs involving acting, directing, teaching, or stage management—all highly competitive and often with irregular employment.

Sociology

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Unfortunately for those who find sociology interesting, pursuing this in higher education often leads to careers in social work or corrections, which have relatively low median salaries. According to Comparably, the average sociology major ends up earning $41,450 a year, though this can increase based on location and position.

Photography

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A photography degree will cost you a pretty penny, and the returns aren’t typically that great. A degree can cost anywhere from $25,910 to $45,920 per year, according to Intelligent, but graduates unfortunately face low starting salaries and a declining job market. There’s a high debt-to-income ratio for photography graduates.

Religious Studies/Theology

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Those who choose a degree in religious studies or theology often end up in roles such as religious educators or chaplains. While they may get generously rewarded spiritually, the financial rewards could be better. The ROI for this degree ranges from 22% to 96%, however, so the financial outcomes can vary widely​​.

Hospitality/Tourism

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Degrees in hospitality and tourism prepare students for roles like event planners or hotel managers, jobs that often involve lots of hard work behind the scenes that unfortunately don’t always translate into high financial returns. The ROI is said to be slightly better for public college graduates, which is something to think about.

Media

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With the media landscape evolving rapidly, students picking degrees in this field face declining job opportunities. Journalism students at Auburn University, for instance, face bills of $128,000 and make about $35,000 annually after graduation, according to Fox News. Those who go on to try for jobs in radio and TV may also receive moderate salaries.

Culinary Arts

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Aspiring chefs and bakers who study culinary arts typically find jobs that involve cooking, food preparation, and restaurant management. Culinary training has high initial costs, and the industry itself is known for challenging work conditions and moderate pay unless you make it big.

Criminal Justice

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Despite the popularity of criminal justice degrees, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find a job in the field after graduation. According to Fox News, even at community colleges, graduates can accumulate around $40,000 in costs, making the ROI questionable given the average salary of just over $31,000.

Philosophy

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A degree in philosophy itself requires intelligence, critical thinking, and analytical skills, but in order to get a high-paying job, most students have to go on to do a master’s—increasing their student debt. The limited direct career paths in this field can also negatively affect the ROI of a philosophy degree.

Publishing/Writing/Editing

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This industry is facing annual declines in job opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, the employment of editors is expected to decline by 4% by 2032, which is not very promising for those currently studying. The cost of a degree also often outweighs the initial earnings.

Communications

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Communications is a wide-ranging field with varied opportunities but often requires more than a bachelor’s degree for advanced pay rates, which increases the amount of debt students must pay back. The competitive job market can make it hard to recoup the educational investment, despite the field’s flexibility and vast opportunities.

Anthropology

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A degree in anthropology, focusing on human societies and cultures, typically leads to academic or research-oriented careers. However, the high educational costs combined with limited job prospects in this field can result in a questionable ROI for graduates.

Art History

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Art history courses involve the study of historical and contemporary art and often lead to jobs in museums, galleries, or academia. While fascinating as a career, the job market can be challenging and tends not to offer the highest salaries. As shared by Indeed, those who have art history degrees can make from $33,000 to $120,000 and upwards on rare occasions.

Music

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Music degrees lead to careers in performance, education, and production, and often come with high costs for specialized training and instruments. The industry’s competitive nature and variable income potential, however, can significantly impact the ROI of these degrees.

Liberal Arts

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Liberal arts degrees provide broad, interdisciplinary skills but often lead to non-specific career paths. For example, according to Crimson Education, a liberal arts degree can lead to work in education, media, tech, healthcare, public administration, social services, and business. Any of these careers can offer a high ROI over time, but the initial financial return is typically slow.

Fashion Design

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Fashion design is a creative field that has significant costs associated with education and the development of a career. The industry is known for its challenging work conditions and moderate pay, making it difficult for graduates to achieve a high ROI on their educational investment unless they manage to make it big.

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