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Worst masters degrees for future jobs

The pursuit of higher education can never be deemed futile. In its most essential form, higher education enables an individual to deepen his depth of knowledge in the field. A Master’s degree opens up doors to specializations under the umbrella of a broad career. However, there are certain practical aspects, to be taken into consideration, before plunging into a scholastic venture worth more than a few dollars and a life span of a couple of years.

Interest, and passion, aside pragmatism plays a crucial role in deciding whether a Masters degree will broaden, or narrow, your opportunities in the future of your career. Here are the typical reasons why an MS might be worth it.

  • You want to seek out a Masters to gain a deeper insight, perhaps experience the field through research.
  • You want to go beyond a Masters and follow your career into hard core academia.
  • There are better job prospects after an MS degree.
  • Employers pay MS graduates more than Bachelor’s in the same field.
  • You can get hired at a higher grade, increasing your chances of a quicker career growth.
  • And finally, you want to use an MS degree to change the course of your career, perhaps even change it altogether.

What makes an MS worth it, may be all, or a combination of the above factors. Contrary to what might seem logical, though, an MS in some fields may in fact bring in quite a negative return on your investment (RoI). After all, any Masters degree requires two things that a student will recognize as a limited resource – time and money. Most MS degrees are not funded with a readily available teaching / research assistantship, like PhD degrees often do.

With a price tag ranging around $30,000 to as high as $120,000, it becomes difficult for many to aimlessly walk into a graduate lecture hall. The two years, spent in getting an MS degree, is also a big chunk of time not spent otherwise gaining work experience.

For instance, while most STEM field MS degrees have a good RoI, with an ever growing demand for graduates, a STEM field like Petroleum Engineering, on the other hand, actually has a negative salary impact, from a Bachelor’s to a Masters title change. The reason probably being that on-the-job experience, there, counts for far more stars than the extra merit letters on your resume. Here are some more enlightening thoughts about Masters degrees.


Worst Masters Degree

In this article, we have collected a list of graduate programs that bring back little by measure of rewards for the extra academic work, spent in getting a Masters. We call these the “worst” MS degrees based on a homegrown ranking system factoring in popularity (number of students interested/enrolled), the median salary upon graduating with an MS, the percentage change in the median salary expected from a Bachelor’s in the same field, and finally the job prospects as a percentage change, in expected employment demand, from 2014 to 2024, all normalized.

For the same, we have used a study conducted by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, named the Economic Value of College Majors, enrollment statistical data from the National Center for Education Statistics, and employment growth data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To be absolutely fair to all MS degrees, under the sun, the list below indicates some of the worst “returning” MS degrees purely in relative terms based on a highly constraint set of and to the best of our knowledge. Which essentially implies that there could be more, far worse MS degrees, unknown to us while collating data for this article. And the measure of “worseness” is an indication of pains from the point of view of employment, and salary, alone, upon putting in the extra effort of enrolling in graduate school.

If the love of the field is alive and good, and the care for revenues is little to none, you can simply ignore this article all together.

Here’s the list.

Some of the Worst MS degrees with low RoI and Declining Job Prospects

MS Major Median Salary
(Age 25-29 years)
Employment Change % from 2014 to 2024 % Change in Salary from Bachelor’s
Communications, Mass Media and Journalism $67,000 -8.5% 24%
Film/Drama/Theater and Photographic Arts $60,000 2% 27%
Sociology $65,000 -0.7% 27%
Botany $66,000 -0.4 27%
Commercial Art and Graphic Design $63,000 1.4% 24%
Fine Arts $60,000 3.1% 22%
Visual and Performing Arts $56,000 0.4% 33%
Music $61,000 3.5% 24%
Metallurgical Engineering $109,000 1% 11%
Criminology and Criminal Justice $71,000 -0.7% 31%
Geography $78,000 -1.6% 34%
Advertising and Public Relations $65,000 7.1% 20%
Aerospace Engineering $112,000 -2.3% 24%
Electrical Engineering $112,000 1% 20%
Petroleum Engineering $128,000 9.8% -6%
Anthropology and Archaeology $66,000 3.8% 35%
Education: Teaching All Levels $57,000 5.8% 36%
Human Resources and Personnel Management $75,000 8.8% 29%
Human Services and Social Work $54,000 11.4% 32%
Ecology $66,000 10.7% 29%
Hospitality Management $69,000 9% 33%

As mentioned before, the list is an assessment based on data gathered from multiple sources, all with possible different survey methods. And the list is neither a warning nor a beware signpost for individuals actually interested in pursuing an MS in those majors. There could be also be other majors that haven’t found a place in this list, but may deserve a mention nevertheless. We welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Meanwhile, do check out Guide to MS Degree, and the Best MS Degrees for your career, to get a better insight into all things MS.

Good luck and may you make the best choice for your career.

Also read
Is a college degree worth the cost or not?
Liberal arts degree worth it or useless?


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5 thoughts on “Worst masters degrees for future jobs”

  1. Interesting.

    Nice to see a Master’s in Urban Planning is not listed in Worst Category list

    How do people feel about this Master’s?

  2. Hello sir,
    I’m joining mba in sep 2018.
    I’m a fresher without any job experience.

    I have 2questions.
    I’m thinking of Coventry university,university of greenwich,de montofrt university,Glasgow Caledonian university,Anglia ruskin university (all the 5 in London campus) and Cardiff university in wales.
    Which among these will be the best ? Which I should go for ? Or do you have any better suggestions ?
    What is the scope of mba in international fashion management ? Is it a good idea going for it ? Coventry university in London offers this.

    Please help me with the same and it will be very helpful for me and I’ll b really great ful to you.

    Thank you,

  3. I have my BS in Criminal Justice but I’m not too happy now I want to do MHA (healthcare admin) but I read most of those jobs are for nurses that choose to go into management…. So would it be a bad idea?


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