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EDUCATION RANKINGS
 
 
Most VALUABLE Arts Majors
2014

Students who are considering an arts or literature major but are concerned about their job prospects after graduation should take heart: There are lots of opportunities for successful careers in these fields. Although STEM-related majors continue to show some of the best return-on-investment figures overall, there are still many arts and literature majors that carve out their own niche in the job market.

This trend is holding strong, as we discovered in our latest ranking of arts and literature majors. For the second year running, we have crunched the data to determine the best arts and literature degrees for prospective students in 2016. Here is more information on the data used for this latest installment:

Methodology

For this analysis, we ranked 85 majors belonging to the broader category of arts and literature. To be included in the rankings, the National Center for Education Statistics had to include the major in one of the following categories:

  • Communication and journalism
  • Foreign languages, linguistics and comparative literature
  • English language and literature
  • Liberal arts and humanities
  • Visual and performing arts

We scored each major on four categories of data using a 25-point scale and then added the scores from all categories, for a total of 100 points possible.

  • Educational Availability, based on program availability data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  • Educational Affordability, based on tuition data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  • Earnings Index, based on salary and training data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, and tuition data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  • Job Opportunity, based on employment projections for growth rate and job openings, 2014-24, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Most Valuable Arts and Literature Majors and Related Careers

Here are our top-ranked arts and literature majors for the year 2016, as well as information on a related career for each field of study.

1 Liberal Studies

Liberal Arts

This major leads the pack for the second consecutive year, due to high rankings in several categories. Liberal studies ranked first in educational availability, third in job opportunity and fifth in educational affordability. With an average in-state tuition of $12,454 in 2014, liberal studies is one of the most affordable degrees on our list.

Major Overview: A liberal studies degree gives students a conceptual understanding of multiple academic fields, from the natural sciences to the arts, in preparation for careers in education, business, government and more.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 98.8

Educational Affordability: 94.1

Earning Index: 52.9

Job Opportunity: 96.5

Spotlight Career: College Professor

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Doctorate
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $74,040
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 9.3%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $12,454

Learn more about the liberal studies major.

2 Foreign Languages and Literatures

Foreign Language

Foreign languages and literatures, which came in No. 2 overall, is our rookie degree of the year, as it is the highest-ranking major that is new to our list in 2016. It is no surprise that the foreign languages major received such a high score considering it ranked first in job opportunity and seventh in educational affordability. The affordability scores reflect that schools offering this degree have a low average in-state tuition of $12,774 in 2014.

Major Overview: This degree is devoted to the study of language, commonly focusing on one or more modern languages. Part of that language study includes a deep dive into literatures that provide an essential representation of that language.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 74.1

Educational Affordability: 91.8

Earning Index: 64.7

Job Opportunity: 98.8

Spotlight Career: Interpreter/Translator

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $49,320
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 28.7%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $12,774

Learn more about the foreign languages and literatures major.

3 Digital Communication and Media

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Digital communication and media is another new degree to this year's top 15 ranking. Its third place ranking in the earnings index category and sixth place ranking in the job opportunity category brought it up to No. 3 overall. These are especially important categories for those focused on earnings after college.

Major Overview: This degree gives students expertise in multiple forms of media, from computer programming to graphic design to video production. Graduates of this degree will also know the ins and outs of the business of media, including marketing, distribution and copyright law.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 74.1

Educational Affordability: 68.2

Earning Index: 96.5

Job Opportunity: 92.9

Spotlight Career: Digital Communications Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: High school diploma
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $51,440
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 10.3%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $15,595

Learn more about the digital communication and media major.

4 English

English

Though English-related degrees, such as rhetoric and composition, made our list last year, the study of the English language is new to our list in 2016. It made the roster due to its second place ranking for both educational availability and job opportunity. Our data shows that not only is this an easy-to-find degree, but it also has vast applications for employment after graduation.

Major Overview: This degree goes way beyond reading books, although there is certainly a lot of that! Students will analyze literature in-depth and examine the writing techniques used by authors. The history and structure of the English language is also explored.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 97.6

Educational Affordability: 67.1

Earning Index: 62.4

Job Opportunity: 97.6

Spotlight Career: High School English Teacher

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $59,330
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 5.8%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $15,605

Learn more about the English major.

5 Drama

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The drama major moved up one slot in our rankings compared to our 2015 list, where it ranked No. 6. It held strong in all four ranking categories this year, but the major shone especially bright in educational availability where it ranked fourth. Many schools offer this major, and the degree can also result in solid employment offerings after graduation, as the 18th place ranking in the job opportunity category indicates.

Major Overview: While drama school teaches one how to be an actor or actress, a drama degree takes a wider, more theoretical approach. Students study script-writing, theater design, acting and directing.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 95.3

Educational Affordability: 65.9

Earning Index: 75.3

Job Opportunity: 78.8

Spotlight Career: Producer/Director

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $90,300
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 9.1%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $15,900

6 Technical, Business and Scientific Writing

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This degree moved up from No. 15 last year to No. 6, in part because it ranked second in education affordability and 11th in earnings index. Our data shows that a technical, business and scientific writing degree is relatively inexpensive to attain; this major had the lowest average in-state tuition out of the degrees that made the top 15. However, students should note this particular career may require some on-the-job training before reaping the benefits of the high earnings index score.

Major Overview: This degree gives students expertise in writing a variety of technical documents, from instruction manuals to training guides and business reports.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 65.9

Educational Affordability: 97.6

Earning Index: 87.1

Job Opportunity: 54.1

Spotlight Career: Technical Writer

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $71,950
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 10.3%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $12,055

Learn more about the technical, business and scientific writing major.

7 Humanities

iStock

Humanities is another rookie degree on our list of 2016 best value arts and literature majors. It made the cut by virtue of its third place job opportunity ranking and a solid ranking of 13th in educational availability. There's a reason humanities degrees are widely available, and that's because there are a variety of fields seeking graduates with this degree.

Major Overview: Humanities is the study of various cultures, and the languages, literature, art, religion and music which represent those cultures.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 84.7

Educational Affordability: 77.6

Earning Index: 41.2

Job Opportunity: 96.5

Spotlight Career: Curator

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Master's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $56,690
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $15,062

Learn more about the humanities major.

8 Graphic Design

iStock

Graphic design is on the list for the second year running. This year's data gave the major high marks for the degree's availability and earnings; it ranked seventh for educational availability and eighth for earnings index. It also scored solidly for educational affordability.

Major Overview: Graphic designers learn how to use images to make clear, concise and persuasive statements. Computer software programs are a primary tool used in the creation of these images.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 91.8

Educational Affordability: 80.0

Earning Index: 90.6

Job Opportunity: 31.8

Spotlight Career: Graphic Designer

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $50,670
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 1.4%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $14,868

Learn more about the graphic design major.

9 Music

iStock

Music moved up in our ranking this year from No. 13 in 2015 to No. 9 in 2016. The availability and variety of music degrees kept it high on the list; it ranked third for educational availability this year. The flexibility of this field means that graduates can find jobs in educational niches, such as coaching or tutoring budding musicians.

Major Overview: Students of this degree learn about the history of music, as well as composition and music theory. Typically, students gain performance-level ability on one or more instruments.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 96.5

Educational Affordability: 74.1

Earning Index: 70.6

Job Opportunity: 68.2

Spotlight Career: Music Teacher

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $59,330
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 5.8%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $15,317

Learn more about the music major.

10 Cinematography and Film Production

iStock

This art major is new on our best value list in 2016. Cinematography and film production is a major with strong degree availability and high earnings potential after graduation. Cinematography and film production ranked ninth for earnings index and 20th for educational availability, putting it No. 10 overall.

Major Overview: This program teaches students how to communicate dramatic information through the medium of film and video. It covers everything from film theory to camera operation and film editing.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 76.5

Educational Affordability: 54.1

Earning Index: 89.4

Job Opportunity: 70.6

Spotlight Career: Film/Video Editor

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $75,090
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 17.6%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $16,880

Learn more about the cinematography and film production major.

11 Rhetoric and Composition

Rhetoric and Composition

This major made the cut for the second year running due to its relative affordability and solid earnings for graduates. In fact, rhetoric and composition came in fourth in the educational affordability category and 16th on earnings index. It is one of the most affordable degrees on our top 15 list.

Major Overview: Students of this degree learn effective speaking and writing techniques. These techniques can be applied in classroom or professional settings.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 67.1

Educational Affordability: 95.3

Earning Index: 81.2

Job Opportunity: 47.1

Spotlight Career: Author

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $67,870
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 2.3%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $12,242

Learn more about the rhetoric and composition major.

12 Interior Design

iStock

Although it slipped in the rankings slightly compared to last year, interior design made our list of best value arts and literature majors two years in a row. It had strong rankings in all categories, but the major pulled ahead in the educational availability category where it ranked 11th. It also scored well for educational affordability, ranking 12th. Graduates can attain a relatively affordable degree with lots of applications after college, even if competition in the field remains high.

Major Overview: Those with an eye for good lighting and use of color will most likely do well in these programs, where students learn to create indoor environments that are attractive and practical.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 87.1

Educational Affordability: 85.9

Earning Index: 84.7

Job Opportunity: 22.4

Spotlight Career: Interior Designer

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $54,850
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 3.8%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $13,295

Learn more about the interior design major.

13 Music Performance

iStock

Though music was featured in last year's roundup, music performance is a new degree for our 2016 list of best value arts majors. It made lucky No. 13 with a high educational availability ranking of ninth place and a solid educational affordability ranking of 21st place. This major sets itself apart from the others due to its highly specialized curriculum.

Major Overview: In the course of a music performance program, students will learn a variety of specialized skills, such as ear training and performance style, but more than anything they will practice, practice, practice!

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 89.4

Educational Affordability: 75.3

Earning Index: 49.4

Job Opportunity: 58.8

Spotlight Career: Music Director

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $55,230
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 3.2%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $15,301

Learn more about the music performance major.

14 Art

iStock

Art degrees are widely available and relatively affordable, which is what put this degree on the list for a second year. In 2016, it ranked sixth for educational availability and 13th for educational affordability, bringing it to No. 14 overall. Indeed, an average in-state tuition of $13,356 makes an art degree that much more attractive to financially-conscious students.

Major Overview: Students in an art degree program study art history and try their hand at a variety of art mediums, from photography to sculpture.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 92.9

Educational Affordability: 84.7

Earning Index: 25.9

Job Opportunity: 55.3

Spotlight Career: Artist

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $51,120
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 3.1%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $13,356

Learn more about the art major.

15 Public Relations

iStock

Rounding out our list at No. 15 is public relations, a new addition to our list of arts and literature majors with the best value. It ranked first for earnings index, which is what solidified its place on the list. Public relations specialists made some of the highest national average salaries of the careers we examined, and because it only requires a bachelor's degree to enter the field, students can feel good about their potential return on investment with a public relations major.

Major Overview: Public relations majors learn how to craft a positive image of an individual, business or organization.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 63.5

Educational Affordability: 64.7

Earning Index: 98.8

Job Opportunity: 44.7

Spotlight Career: Public Relations Specialist

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2014 National Average Salary: $64,050
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 6.2%
  • 2014 Average In-State Tuition: $15,982

Learn more about the public relations major.

Sources

May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed Jan. 25, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

Employment Projections, 2014-24, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed Jan. 25, 2015, http://data.bls.gov/projections/occupationProj

Student Charges for Academic Year Programs: 2014, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed Jan. 22, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/DataFiles.aspx

Awards/Degrees Conferred by Program: July 2, 2013 to June 30, 2014, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed Jan. 22, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/DataFiles.aspx

Bachelor of Liberal Studies, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bachelor_of_Liberal_Studies

Major: Arts, General, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-fine-studio-art-arts-general

Major: Digital Communications and Multimedia, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/communication-journalism-digital-communications-multimedia

Major: English, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/english-language-literature-english

Major: Foreign Languages and Literatures, General, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/languages-literatures-linguistics-foreign-languages-literatures-general

Major: Graphic Design, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-design-applied-arts-graphic-design

Major: Humanities, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/liberal-arts-sciences-general-studies-humanities-humanities

Major: Interior Design, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-design-applied-arts-interior-design

Major: Music, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-music-music

Major: Music Performance, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-music-music-performance

Major: Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/english-language-literature-professional-technical-business-scientific-writing

Major: Public Relations, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/communication-journalism-public-relations

Major: Rhetoric and Composition, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/english-language-literature-rhetoric-composition

"What to do with a degree in drama studies," The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/may/14/drama-studies-degree

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