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).

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Major 
Degree Type 
Early Career Pay
 
Median salary for alumni w/degrees in this subject; 0-5 years work experience
% High Meaning
 
% alumni who say their work makes the world a better place
Mid-Career Pay
 
Median salary for alumni w/degrees in this subject; 10+ years work experience
ManagementBachelors$48,00047%$80,700

Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$48,000
% High Meaning47%
Mid-Career Pay$80,700
Communication Studies & JournalismBachelors$41,80047%$80,000

Communication Studies & Journalism
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$41,800
% High Meaning47%
Mid-Career Pay$80,000
Information Technology (IT) & SystemsBachelors$57,10047%$92,300

Information Technology (IT) & Systems
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$57,100
% High Meaning47%
Mid-Career Pay$92,300
Political ScienceBachelors$46,90047%$89,000

Political Science
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$46,900
% High Meaning47%
Mid-Career Pay$89,000
Hotel & Restaurant TourismBachelors$41,80046%$71,700

Hotel & Restaurant Tourism
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$41,800
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$71,700
Agricultural BusinessBachelors$49,40046%$74,000

Agricultural Business
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$49,400
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$74,000
Professional WritingBachelors$40,70046%$69,200

Professional Writing
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$40,700
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$69,200
Art HistoryBachelors$43,80046%$67,900

Art History
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$43,800
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$67,900
AnthropologyBachelors$42,70046%$70,100

Anthropology
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$42,700
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$70,100
Theatre & Drama StudiesBachelors$39,50046%$74,300

Theatre & Drama Studies
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$39,500
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$74,300
LawBachelors$50,80046%$77,700

Law
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$50,800
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$77,700
Interior ArchitectureBachelors$44,00046%$77,400

Interior Architecture
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$44,000
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$77,400
Professional & Technical WritingBachelors$45,10046%$78,100

Professional & Technical Writing
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$45,100
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$78,100
English LanguageBachelors$41,90046%$75,000

English Language
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$41,900
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$75,000
Public Relations & CommunicationBachelors$43,00046%$76,400

Public Relations & Communication
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$43,000
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$76,400
Theatre/Theatre Arts ManagementBachelors$43,60046%$60,800

Theatre/Theatre Arts Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$43,600
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$60,800
Culinary ArtsBachelors$35,20046%$58,600

Culinary Arts
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$35,200
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$58,600
Baking & Pastry ArtsBachelors$35,60046%$46,600

Baking & Pastry Arts
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$35,600
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$46,600
CeramicsBachelors$38,70046%$54,000

Ceramics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$38,700
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$54,000
Office ManagementBachelors$36,00046%$54,100

Office Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$36,000
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$54,100
Mass MediaBachelors$37,60046%$64,700

Mass Media
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$37,600
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$64,700
TheaterBachelors$41,80046%$67,500

Theater
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$41,800
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$67,500
Forensic PsychologyBachelors$40,10046%$67,100

Forensic Psychology
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$40,100
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$67,100
Computer Engineering (CE)Bachelors$72,90046%$120,000

Computer Engineering (CE)
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$72,900
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$120,000
Actuarial MathematicsBachelors$63,30046%$135,100

Actuarial Mathematics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$63,300
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$135,100
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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 college majors by the percentage of graduates in each major who answer that question with a resounding “yes.”

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. 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 a high percentage 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 quite low.

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 have salaries above $60,000. And people with one of the highest-paying majors on our list, petroleum engineering, don’t seem to feel like they’ve sold their souls for a high income; the majority of them report high job meaning.


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