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Here Are the 5 Most Valuable — and 5 Least Valuable — College Majors

Liao Pan | China News Service | Getty Images

If you are looking to get the best return on your investment in a college degree, you may want to consider a major in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

In fact, the most valuable major is architectural engineering, according to a analysis by Bankrate. Degree holders make a median annual income of $90,000 and have an unemployment rate of 1.3%.

Bankrate ranked 159 college majors and weighed several factors, including median annual income, unemployment rate and career paths that don't demand schooling beyond a bachelor's degree.

The company looked at the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, based on interviews of more than 2 million Americans and analyzed bachelor's degree holders who were in the labor force and either employed or seeking work.

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"The purpose of a list like this isn't to dissuade someone from choosing a career they are passionate about, but informing them of the steps that they need to take in order to succeed in the career that they choose," said Bankrate analyst Sarah Foster.

That could mean attending a less expensive college or being conservative with student loans if your chosen field doesn't give you a good return on your investment.

"It is really about striking a balance between your passion and your finances," Foster said.

Top 5

Professionals with degrees in architectural engineering enjoy an employment rate of 98.7%, according to Pew Research.
mihailomilovanovic | E+ | Getty Images
Professionals with degrees in architectural engineering enjoy an employment rate of 98.7%, according to Pew Research.

STEM degrees dominated the top of the rankings. It's an area of study that's already been gaining popularity. In fact, the growth in STEM degree recipients has outpaced that for all degrees, according to Pew Research.

The number of STEM bachelor's degrees awarded grew by 62% from 2010 and 2018, the most recent data available, Pew said. In comparison, all degrees saw 20% growth.

1. Architectural Engineering

Median annual income: $90,000; unemployment rate: 1.3%

2. Construction Services

Median annual income: $80,000; unemployment rate: 1%

3. Computer Engineering

Median annual income: $101,000; unemployment rate: 2.3%

4. Aerospace Engineering

Median annual income: $100,000 ; unemployment rate: 1.9%

5. Transportation Sciences and Technologies

Median annual income: $86,000; unemployment rate: 1.8%

Bottom 5

155. Clinical Psychology

Median annual income: $49,000; unemployment rate: 3.8%

156. Composition and Speech

Median annual income:$42,000; unemployment rate: 4.9%

157. Drama and Theater Arts

Median annual income: $41,000; unemployment rate: 4.5%

158. Miscellaneous Fine Arts

Median annual income: $38,000; unemployment rate: 5.6%

159. Visual and Performing Arts

Median annual income: $35,500; unemployment rate: 3.6%

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