Monday, May 20, 2024

15 Most Expensive College Majors (And If They’re Worth It)

Look before you leap 🧐

Choosing a college major is always tricky — but with incredibly expensive college majors on offer, your choice is also a massive investment. 💸

Should you follow your passion? Choose an in-demand profession? Study what your parents tell you to?

To get the most bang for your buck, here are the 15 most expensive college majors so you can know what they cost, what to expect, and how much you might earn after graduation. 🤩

1. Medicine 💊

It’s no secret that studying medicine at college comes at a great cost financially, mentally, and socially. 

Learning from experienced medical professionals, buying big-ticket items like textbooks, and working with expensive equipment (sometimes even real human organs) mean medicine is (unsurprisingly) one of the most expensive college majors. 🫀

Male doctor examines a patient during hospital residency
Doctors will always be in demand, thus making this expensive college major a solid choice. Photo: timeimage/Freepik

But, your efforts (and student loans) may just pay off once you’ve become a qualified physician working for a hospital or when you’ve set up your own private practice, making an average of $240,870 a year. 💰

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $9,229, out-of-state private: $53,070
📅 Years of study: Eight to 15 (four-year undergraduate degree, four years in med school, plus three to seven years of residency)
🏛️ Top schools: Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Stanford University

2. Film Studies 📽️

Bust out the next blockbuster by attending film school. But be warned: it takes a whole lot of time, hard work, innovation, and the right connections to get on the silver screen.

Film Studies is an expensive college major, and for good reason: film schools use expensive cameras and video recording equipment, editing software, and production studios to give students hands-on experience in film creation. 

Film students adjusting the video camera on set
Film majors nowadays have a wider market to earn back the money invested in their expensive college major: traditional cinema, TV advertising, and social media. Photo: Freepik

However, a degree is not enough. You’ll likely have to keep creating film projects for your portfolio paid out of your own pocket at first. 💸

Instead of working in Hollywood right after graduation, you’re more likely to find yourself working in media and advertising as a content creator or video editor for brands.

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $6,258, out-of-state private: $37,600  
📅 Years of study: Four 
🏛️ Top schools: American Film Institute, New York University, University of Southern California

3. Computer Engineering 🖥️

Fascinated by tech and solving puzzles? You’d do well as a computer engineer. 👨‍💻

In this expensive college major, expect to spend many hours in front of a computer or hunched over challenging tech projects, testing hardware and software. You’ll be guided by the practitioners and researchers in this fast-paced field, too.

Computer Engineering college student fixing computer parts
In the fast-growing digital age, computer engineers are paid a premium for their intellect and expertise in making things and processes more efficient. Photo: RF._.studio/Pexels

But before you short-circuit over the costs and effort of completing this degree, know that because of the increasing demand for this specialization across all industries, computer engineers earn an average of $78,552 per year. 🌐

💰 Average annual cost: Public in-state: $8,270; private out-of-state: $41,154
📅 Years of study: Four to five 
🏛️ Top schools: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley 

4. Fine Arts 🎨

Picture this: a paint-splattered artist hunched over a canvas or drawing tablet for hours, hoping for a huge break after spending five figures for formal Fine Arts training. 

Artists who want to go pro often invest thousands of dollars and hours toward honing their craft under renowned masters — resulting in one expensive college major. 🖼️

Fine Arts college student painting on a canvas in art school
Art school guides you on the best use of your tools and materials and opens up opportunities for valuable connections. Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Even worse, making art requires multiple tools and materials that can add up the expenses. But, despite all the money, time, and effort, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be the next Andy Warhol.

Artists who become household names are rare, but you can still climb your way to the top by working in art museums, advertising, or making commissions with your artwork.

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $8,835, out-of-state private: $39,995
📅 Years of study: Four 
🏛️ Top schools: School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Maryland Institute College of Art, Rhode Island School of Design 

5. Engineering 👷

Engineering student studying a diagram
Engineering students get diverse training in designing and constructing efficient infrastructures and technology, making this one of the most expensive college majors out there. Photo: ThisisEngineering RAEng/Unsplash

If you’ve got a knack for building and designing structures and systems (based on your impressive Lego creations from childhood), engineering is the college major for you. 👩‍🔧

Expect this major to cost an arm and a leg because keeping up with the latest engineering developments and maintaining a competent faculty is expensive. Plus, providing the necessary laboratories, software, and equipment for students is pricey for everyone.

With a degree in this expensive college major under your belt, entry-level engineers earn around $58,000 to $95,000 yearly. 🚀 

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $8,540, out-of-state private: $45,288
📅 Years of study: Four to five 
🏛️ Top schools: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley

6. Music 🎵

With some of the latest hits going viral via social media platforms, a college degree in music may not be the first idea of aspiring musicians.

But, this expensive college major may benefit those wanting to work behind the scenes in music production, combining passion with practicality.

College student guided by piano instructor in music class
Combining your instrument mastery with business know-how and valuable contacts sets you up for success in the music industry. Photo: Yan Krukov/Pexels

The tuition fees cover tutoring, facilities, recording equipment, and networking opportunities with industry shapers. 🎸

With this degree, you’ll find the best jobs for you in managing musicians, producing music, or becoming a session musician for an artist’s album recording or live concert.

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $7,593, out-of-state private: $36,000
📅 Years of study: Four 
🏛️ Top schools: The Juilliard School, Berklee College of Music, Curtis Institute of Music

7. Law ⚖️

Get ready for an emotional, mental, and financial rollercoaster when you enter law school. 

Your high tuition costs cover access to library collections, networking opportunities, and past or practicing lawyers as faculty members teaching you the theories and practices of different legal specializations. 🏫

Law student studying cases in the school library
Getting a law degree is undoubtedly expensive, but it’s an educational investment that pays off quickly and in the long run. Photo: RF._.studio/Pexels

You’ll spend many late nights reading cases and preparing for mock trials to shape you for defending clients and solving costly disputes for institutions and individuals. 

But because law practitioners are necessary in all industries, gear up for impressive paydays where lawyers earn a yearly average of $127,990 which can help you pay off your student debts fast. 😄

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $9,488, out-of-state private: $47,985 
📅 Years of study: Seven (four-year undergraduate degree plus three years of law school)
🏛️ Top schools: Yale University, Stanford University, Harvard University

8. Theater Arts 🎭

Taking up theater in college can properly shape you into an actor who is a tough act to follow. 🙌 

But, Theater Arts is an expensive college major because of the personalized attention required and dedicated rooms for bringing out your inner thespian. Despite the fees, you can’t expect to be the next movie star just because you have this degree under your belt. 

A group of seated theater college students listening to acting coach
Cementing your star power with this expensive college major can help you get a leg up in the acting industry. Photo: standret/Freepik

Instead, you might have more luck entering the film industry as a scriptwriter or theater manager. If Hollywood still strongly calls out to you, familiarize yourself with the industry practices and find your way by building the right connections first. ✨

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $8,704, out-of-state private: $37,457
📅 Years of study: Three to four
🏛️ Top schools: Tisch School of the Arts, Boston University School of Theatre, California Institute of the Arts

9. Culinary Arts 🍳

To become an iconic chef like Anthony Bourdain, you either work your way up, starting as a dishwasher in a fast-paced environment with not much space for teaching or get formally trained at culinary schools.👨‍🍳

Culinary Arts student sautés a dish for his class training
Mastering the art and science of food and business in culinary school sets you up for success in the industry. Photo: Kampus Production/Pexels

A four-year course in culinary school is expensive because your high tuition costs cover your instructors’ salaries, high-tech kitchen equipment, tools, ingredients, and insurance for potential kitchen disasters, as part of your intensive training in the ins and outs of efficiently running a kitchen.

But once you’ve earned your toque blanche (chef’s hat), you can work for hotels or cruise ships. You could even establish your own restaurant! 👌

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $3,727; out-of-state private: $17,603
📅 Years of study: Four 
🏛️ Top schools: Culinary Institute of America, Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Institute of Culinary Education 

10. Architecture 🗼

Structures that make you go “wow” were created by licensed architects who went through rigorous studying, training, and sleepless nights working on architectural drawings during college. 📐

Architecture student drawing a commercial building
Architects help ensure a stable structure with no room for error: that’s why they’re paid well! Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

In this expensive college major, you’ll be guided by actual architects and engineers who are paid a premium for their teaching services about building safety. You’ll also draw extensive diagrams on paper or use complicated Computer Aided Design software.

There are always buildings and other structures being erected, so expect to rake in an average salary of $106,772 per year. 🏘️

READ MORE: 21 Stunning US Colleges That Will Make You Say ‘Dayummm’

💰 Average annual cost: In-state: $10,003, out-of-state: $32,332 
📅 Years of study: Five to eight (five-year undergraduate degree plus three years of internships) 
🏛️ Top schools: Cornell University, Rhode Island School of Design, Syracuse University

11. Interior Design 🖼️

If your Pinterest board is bursting with rich ideas, picking this expensive college major will give you the skills and connections you need to take your designs from virtual to actual.

But, making aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces comes at a high cost. Interior Design is one of the most expensive college majors because of your professors’ expertise and the school’s editing software and studios aiding you.

Interior design students discussing a room's color palette
Interior designers can earn six figures by working with wealthy clients who seek aesthetic and high-quality pieces in their homes or businesses. Photo: roman-/Freepik

TIP: A license provided by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification in interior design is optional in some states to practice your craft. However, it might help you boost your expertise and help you reach out to a wider client base or secure employment at good firms.

Aside from school fees, your laptop, transportation and miscellaneous fees (from sourcing furniture and materials), books, and attached certifications can burn a hole in your wallet. 

But, these are necessary costs to build a unique brand that clients want to work with, especially in the hospitality and corporate sectors. 😊

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $7,070, out-of-state private: $33,248
📅 Years of study: Four to six (four-year undergraduate degree plus two years of on-the-job experience to get a license)
🏛️ Top schools: Savannah College of Art and Design, New York School of Interior Design, Parsons School of Design

12. Aviation ✈️

If you want to travel the world and bring home an impressive paycheck (not to mention fulfilling your childhood dream of flying), this expensive college major is for you. ✈️

A four-year degree in aviation is generally preferred by major airlines, and it can speed up your career progress as you’ll be learning from skilled instructors who are often retired pilots.

Aviation student smiling inside the cockpit
Being able to keep calm under pressure is one of the traits of successful pilots that you’ll hone with an aviation degree. Photo: DCStudio/Freepik

TIP: Airline pilots must pass annual physical exams. Failing one could make you lose your job, so practice taking good care of your health while you’re still a student.

Be prepared for high tuition fees covering the expensive procurement and maintenance of different aircraft, technology, and fuel for carrying people and cargo. 👨‍✈️

Luckily, pilots earn a high salary — around  $153,501 to $195,601depending on the aircraft and total flight hours. All this plus allowances and paid accommodation (especially if you’re flying internationally) makes this one of the most well-paid jobs. 💸 

💰 Average annual cost: $30,000 
📅 Years of study: Three to four
🏛️ Top schools: Ohio University, Purdue University, Western Michigan University

13. Fashion Design 💃

Fashion Design student sewing her latest collection for class
Securing a high-paying fashion design job requires a great eye for design, sharp business skills, and industry connections that a college degree in this field can bring. Photo: cottonbro/Pexels

Remember the reality TV show Project Runway? Despite the glamorous appeal of fashion, well-designed clothes are often the result of stress, hard work, and tons of cash. 💰

In fashion school, your expensive tuition costs go toward paying your instructors, school facilities, fabric, and equipment.

Your overall expenses can be even higher if your school is located in a major fashion capital, like New York.

The tuition fees and living expenses are the prices you pay to get close to the best connections and industry practices — vital factors that can fast-track you to becoming a designer, buyer, or celebrity stylist (and that could take a while). 👗 

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $9,336, out-of-state private: $35,257
📅 Years of study: Four
🏛️ Top schools: Parsons School of Design, Fashion Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute

14. Dentistry 🦷

Brace yourself, because choosing this expensive college major can be like pulling teeth (literally and figuratively) as you’re drilled on the knowledge that lets you become a dentist. 👩🏽‍⚕️

Although oral care is separate from the study of medicine, it still shares similarities in that the expensive tuition fees cover big-ticket dental equipment, the salary of certified practitioners sharing their expertise, and the costs of clinical rotations

Dental student checking for tooth decay and oral problems in a patient
Providing patients with the right treatments for good oral health makes dentistry a profitable career. Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Aside from your tuition, you also have to cough up cash for your dental tools (if it’s not provided by your school) and living costs, especially if you’re studying in a metropolis with plans to set up a clinic of your own later on. 

As long as people have teeth, your job will always be in demand, letting you earn anywhere from $168,000 to $214,000 per year. 🥳

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $8,886, out-of-state private: $44,970
📅 Years of study: Eight (four-year undergraduate degree plus four years of dental school)
🏛️ Top schools: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of California-San Francisco, Harvard University 

15. Anthropology ⚱️

Before you say it, no, anthropology is not completely about digging up skulls and dusting off old artifacts like Indiana Jones. 🦴

Instead, this expensive college major is about studying human societies across different locations and timelines, and that involves fieldwork, lots and lots of reading and writing papers, and the best equipment for intensive research. 📚

Four Anthropology students discussing a lesson outdoors
Anthropology programs tend to attract a small number of enrollees, so it bumps up the tuition to cover expenses. Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

This degree is not likely to make you rich and it’s heavily academic. So, most degree holders spend more to take up post-graduate studies to become a researcher or professor.

However, you could apply your lessons about human behavior for marketing or find a job assisting in forensics (but you’ll most likely have to take up a Master’s degree). 🧐

💰 Average annual cost: In-state public: $7,716, out-of-state private: $50,310
📅 Years of study: Four
🏛️ Top schools: Princeton University, Rice University, University of California-Los Angeles


Whether it’s cadavers to boost your anatomy knowledge or access to top chefs who can share their secret ingredients, honing your expertise in your chosen field at college doesn’t come cheap!

But no matter the cost, a college education will always be one of the greatest investments you can make in your future. The more you learn, the more you’ll earn! 🤑

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