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The 5 Most Meaningful Majors, According to Grads

Topics: Data & Research

Money is only one factor in job satisfaction. That’s why PayScale’s survey asks respondents whether their job makes the world a better place. That’s also why PayScale’s recent College Salary Report looks not only at majors that pay you back, but those that lead to jobs with high meaning.

The biggest surprise: many of the most meaningful majors lead to jobs with decent earning potential — especially majors in healthcare-related fields.

Per the report:

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.

That said, many of the most meaningful majors lead to jobs with lower earning potential than other degrees. But if job meaning is important to you, and you’re choosing a major, it’s worth it to consider one of these majors that give back.

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The Top 5 Most Meaningful Majors

1. Secondary & Middle School Mathematics Teacher Education

High Job Meaning: 80 Percent

Math teachers with this degree earn a mid-career median annual salary of $63,300 — not exactly millions for a job that generally requires a master’s degree, as well as state licensure. But these grads do have the highest job meaning in our list. Teaching math requires creativity as well as organization and a strong foundation in mathematics.

meaningful majors
Ian Schneider/Unsplash

2. Elementary Special Education

High Job Meaning: 79 Percent

Grads with this degree earn median mid-career annual pay of $57,100, and like math teachers, generally must have master’s degrees and licensure. But what this major lacks in earning potential, it makes up for in job meaning.

3. Political Science/Public Law

High Job Meaning: 77 Percent

A relatively high-earner for the top of our meaningful majors list, Political Science/Public Law grads earn a median mid-career income of $77,300 per year. One possible career path: Regulatory Administrator, a job that helps companies stay in compliance with local, state and national laws.

4. Early Childhood Education

High Job Meaning: 77 Percent

The lowest-earning major in our top five ranking and one of the lowest earners overall, Early Childhood Education is not a path to riches. But it does offer high job meaning for grads, as well as the chance to shape young minds right at the very beginning.

5. Nonprofit Management

High Job Meaning: 76 Percent

Grads with a degree in Nonprofit Management go on to earn a median mid-career annual salary of $53,800. Common jobs include Operations Manager and Project Management Director.

For more on majors and schools that pay you back, read PayScale’s College Salary Report.

Tell Us What You Think

Did you choose one of these meaningful majors? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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