Most Meaningful College Majors

Money isn't everything. Some majors lead to more meaningful jobs than others. If you want to change the world with your education, check out the most meaningful college majors (and we'll tell you the earning potential as well). [Read More]

When it comes to choosing a career and picking a college major that will help you achieve your goals, money isn't everything. Job meaning counts for a lot too. That's why PayScale asks everybody who takes our survey if they feel like their job makes the world a better place. This list ranks 319 college majors by the percentage of graduates in each major who answer that question with a resounding "yes."

Majors That Lead To The Most Meaningful Jobs

Careers that involve directly helping people are generally perceived as the most meaningful, so majors that prepare students for a career working with people to improve lives rank highest on this list. The major that leads to the most meaningful work is medical laboratory science -- 97 percent of workers studied this subject say that their work makes the world a better place. If you look at our study of the Most and Least Meaningful Jobs, you also see that jobs in the health sector generally feel that their jobs are very meaningful.

Another job type that leads to a high sense of job meaning is Community and Social Service. So it makes sense that 91 percent of workers with a bachelor's degree in pastoral ministry say that their work definitely makes the world a better place. Graduates who chose this path definitely sacrifice income potential for good karma, since the median mid-career salary for pastoral ministry majors is only $49,600.

Meaningful Work vs. High-Paying Jobs

That doesn't mean that all meaningful majors lead to low salaries. Many of the health-related majors on the top of this list have high earning potential as well as job meaning. Workers who majored in subjects like Medical Laboratory Science, Respiratory Care, Clinical Laboratory Science, Nursing, Dental Hygiene and Diagnostic Medical Sonography make our list of the 10 most meaningful majors and have salaries above $60,000. And people with the highest-pay major on our list, petroleum engineering, don't seem to feel like they've sold their souls for a high income - 71 percent of them report high job meaning.

The Least Meaningful Majors

Which majors rank as the least meaningful? Unfortunately, many majors with a creative bent have low rankings for job meaning. Fashion design, illustration and creative writing (30 percent each) don't lead to very meaningful work, nor do graphic communication (25 percent), film production (24 percent) nor communication design (21 percent) round out the bottom of the list. And even though statistics majors report a high median mid-career salary of almost $100,000, only 29 percent say that their work is meaningful.

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