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Hot Career Fields That Aren’t Worth the Student Loan Debt

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 4 minute read

Going to college can be a great investment, but only if you choose to go into the right career field. Sure, you may not be pursuing the career of your dreams just for the money, but still, you want to make sure the money you spend on your degree is worth what it will bring to you in the future. A person with a bachelor’s degree is likely to make upward of 65% more than a person with only a high school diploma. However, with a large majority of student loan debtors finding themselves delinquent on their payments, it is more important than ever before to ensure your degree can lead to a job that helps you get out of debt as quickly as possible. Let’s take a look at hot career fields that aren’t worth the student loan debt.

Exercise Science

Sure, spending your days in and out of the gym may seem like a great career to have, but when it comes to exercise science you won’t find a lot of employers looking for a person with a degree in this field of study. In fact, you will likely need to start your own business if you wish to excel very far. The starting salary for a person with a degree in exercise science is only $35,200 annually. The average mid-career salary is about $56,000. If you are passionate about sports and want to earn a degree in exercise science, you may want to consider going to school for an extra three years to become a physical therapist; this line of work offers a much more promising future.


A degree in religion isn’t going to lead to a job with great monetary value. The average starting salary for someone with a degree in this field is only about $37,800. Yes, that is better than the starting salary of someone with a major in exercise science, but the average mid-career salary is only $56,300. To earn a higher salary for going into the field of religion, you should consider earning a degree in philosophy. Those with a degree in this field often make upward of $85,000 once they achieved their mid-career salary.


Earning a degree in photography isn’t the most rewarding in regards to earning a hefty paycheck. Many of the most successful photographers run their own companies and do not have an actual employer. If you get a degree in photography, you can expect a starting salary of $37,300 and a mid-career salary of only $56,200. To earn a higher salary you should consider getting a degree in visual communications rather than photography. Those with a degree in visual communications have a mid-career salary of $62,500. Over a thirty-year time period, this is an extra $189,000 when compared to the mid-career salary of a person with a degree in photography.


The legal field is a booming industry, but a degree in paralegal studies isn’t going to reap you the best rewards. The starting salary for a paralegal is under $37,000 and the mid-career salary is only $55,800. The good news, however, is that you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to become a paralegal, meaning you won’t graduate with a massive amount of student loan debt. Still yet, two years of study at $23,000 a year will take you at many years to pay off considering your income will be limited when you graduate.


With an expected 18.2% job growth rate expected through the next few years, anthropology may seem like an excellent field to dive into; however, being that the starting pay is under $40,000 annually, you may want to reconsider. In fact, considering a degree in history will likely be a better fit. The average mid-career salary for a person with a degree in history is a comfortable $74,200. An anthropology mid-career salary is only $59,600. Over a thirty-year career time span, your earnings with a history major can earn you $438,000 more than a degree in anthropology can.

Graphic Design

You won’t find a very attractive salary with a degree in graphic design, especially if you opt to go into a field of graphic design that focuses on print publications as these career fields are facing major cutbacks due to the popularity of the virtual industry. With a degree in graphic design, you will have a starting salary of about $39,300 and a mid-career salary of around $59,600. If you choose to earn a degree in multimedia and web design, your mid-career salary will likely top out at $63,000. Even better is that this degree can help you land a job as a web developer, which has an expected growth rate of more than 24 percent through the year 2025.

Radio and Film Production

Sure, the radio and film production industry can be a lot of fun to work in, but you won’t earn a very high salary with a degree in these studies. Your starting salary will be around $39,600 and your mid-career salary may reach up to $66,500. However, earning a degree in these studies tends to take at least four years and you will need to go to a reputable — most likely expensive — school to earn your degree. If you absolutely want to work in the radio and film industries, you should consider earning a degree in English literature. You can end up with a mid-career salary of $75,300; this is an extra $264,000 over the period of 30 years.

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