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These Are the 7 Least-Paying Jobs That Require a Degree



College graduates with student loans owed an average of $25,250 in 2010, an all-time high and a 5 percent increase, according to a recent report. What makes matters worse is that students graduating in 2010 faced unemployment of 9.1 percent, the highest annual rate on record, according to the Project on Student Debt’s report.

Given the grim figures facing college graduates, researchers at 24/7 Wall St. reviewed wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the seven occupations that require at least a college degree and pay the least.

Jobs that pay poorly and require a college degree or higher have at least one thing in common: the wrong industry. Some industries, including those in mental health, academic research, the arts and publishing tend to pay poorly. The entry level jobs in these fields and on this list do not pay well. Reporters, for instance, usually start out making less than $20,000 per year.

Many of the people employed in the jobs on this list will have a hard time paying off their student loans. The occupations on the list earn less than $40,000 annually. In every case, the jobs paid far less to start. A quarter of the people employed as survey researchers, for example, earn less than $24,000 annually.

24/7 Wall St. examined wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics Database, to identify the major occupations that make less than $40,000 annually. BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook was used to identify educational requirements and long-term job prospects. O*Net Online, an independent career research and advisory site, was used to determine the percentage of people in each occupation with a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD. The seven occupations on our list required a bachelor’s degree or more from most employers.

7. Recreational Therapists

Median income: $39,410

Bottom-tier income: $24,640

Number employed: 20,830

Pct. With at least a bachelor’s degree: 71 percent

Projected change in jobs (2008 – 2018): +15 percent

Recreational therapists work with sick or disabled individuals to help reduce depression and “maintain the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their clients,” according to the BLS. Most recreational therapists have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 15 percent have a master’s degree. The number of positions available is expected to increase by 15 percent between 2008 and 2018 as the elderly population, one of the largest group of clients, grows. The median wage for a recreational therapist is just $39,410 per year, and the bottom 10 percent make less than $25,000 per year.

6. Biological Technicians

Median income: $39,020

Bottom-tier income: $24,930

Number employed: 72,940

Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 83 percent

Projected change in jobs (2008 – 2018): +18 percent

Biological technicians, the BLS explains, “work with biologists studying living organisms. Many assist scientists who conduct medical research–helping to find a cure for cancer or AIDS, for example.” Despite the important work, the median wage for a technician in the field is just $39,020 per year. About 83 percent of the people working in this field have a bachelor’s degree. The number of biological technicians is projected to grow by 18 percent from 2008 numbers by 2018.

5. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Median income: $38,600

Bottom-tier income: $25,210

Number employed: 119,960

Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 98 percent

Projected change in jobs (2008 – 2018): +20 percent

There are several lucrative positions in the field of mental health. The median income for psychiatrists, for example, is around $165,000 a year. At the other end of the spectrum are mental health and substance abuse workers. These individuals work with the sick, the depressed and the addicted to help restore health and well-being. Despite the often stressful conditions under which these specialists work, as well as the fact that one in four has a master’s or doctorate, the median annual wage for this position is just $38,600. The bottom 10 percent makes $25,210 or less each year.

4. Museum Technicians and Conservators

Median income: $37,310

Bottom-tier income: $24,440

Number employed: 10,390

Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 80 percent

Projected change in jobs (2008 – 2018): 26 percent

Museum conservators employ advanced technology to maintain the quality of the artwork and artifacts on display and in storage. Success in this position requires proficiency using different laboratory techniques, such as x-ray, to determine the best way to treat a piece. Some can get the job with just a bachelor’s degree, but most museums look for a least a master’s in the study of conservation. The median income for museum conservators is $37,310 per year, and the bottom tier makes less than $25,000.

See the top three here.

(Michael B. Sauter--24/7 Wall St./The Blaze)

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