15 Arts and Literature Majors with the Best Value

There is plenty of data to support the assumption that choosing a major in this field isn't akin to throwing your money away. While STEM-related majors show the best return-on-investment figures overall, there are myriad arts and literature majors that can lead to profitable and stable lifelong careers.

To help you decide which field of study to focus on, we crunched an array of data ranging from educational availability to future earnings and career growth for a wide range of careers. Before you sign up for a specific arts or literature major, read our rankings to find out which options could be the most fruitful in 2020 and beyond.

Methodology

For the purpose of our ranking, we compared 54 college majors belonging to the broader category of arts and literature. To make it to the next step of our ranking, 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

From there, each major had to be offered by at least 2 institutions at the associate or bachelor's level, have at least one program offered nationally, and award at least one degree in the subject.

Once we had a list of arts and literature majors, we scored each one 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. These include:

  • Educational Availability, based on the number of schools offering the programs at the associate's and bachelor's level, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
  • Educational Affordability, based on in-state undergraduate tuition and fees data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
  • Earnings Potential, based on average annual salaries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
  • Employment Opportunity, based on employment projections for growth rate and job openings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-28

Based on this information, here are our top-ranked arts and literature majors for 2020, as well as information on a highlighted career for each field of study.

1 English Language and Literature

iStock

English Language and Literature can be a smart major to pursue in 2020, but this is nothing new. English made our ranking of top arts and literature majors in 2016 as well, mostly due to this field's educational availability and job opportunity. For our 2020 ranking, our data shows that career prospects are exceptional in our spotlight career, and that pay can be high, too.

Major Overview: During this degree program, students may analyze literature in depth while examining the writing techniques used by authors. Through these important lessons, students can also work on honing their own writing and story-telling skills.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 1

Educational Affordability: No. 22

Earning Index : 43.3%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 98%

Spotlight Career: Secondary School Teachers

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • Average Salary: $64,340
  • Average Growth Rate: 7.5%

Learn more about the English major.

2 Drama and Dramatics/ Theatre Arts

iStock

Drama and dramatics had earned the No. 5 spot in our ranking of arts and literature majors in 2016, but it moved up since then due to exceptional employment opportunities and career potential. Note that, not only do actors and other creative workers thrive in this field, but various directors are needed to oversee and plan concerts, plays, and other theatrical events.

Major Overview: Drama majors may learn how to express themselves and accurately portray characters on stage. They can also learn the behind-the-scenes work required to create a high-quality production.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 3

Educational Affordability: No. 33

Earning Index : 86.7%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 77%

Spotlight Career: Producers and Directors

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • Average Salary: $89,840
  • Average Growth Rate: 12%

3 Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management

iStock

Arts, entertainment, and media management didn't make the cut for our last study, but this career has climbed the ranking for 2020 due to excellent employment and earning potential. Note that jobs are on the rise in this field of study, and that a variety of industries rely on media management professionals who have the training and experience to lead.

Major Overview: This career field typically allows students to combine their love of the arts with their passion for financial management, marketing, and basic business concepts. Not only will you learn important leadership skills, but you'll learn about labor relation for the arts, event promotion and marketing, and the importance of proper management.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 41

Educational Affordability: No. 10

Earning Index : 96.2%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 86%

Spotlight Career: Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Associate degree
  • Average Salary: $103,260
  • Average Growth Rate: 6.25%

4 Graphic Design

iStock

Graphic design has made our ranking in the past, but this major moved up to the fourth position this year due to earning potential and the potential for explosive growth in employment. This college major has also ranked well in terms of educational affordability, which is crucial for students hoping to escape school without crushing levels of student loan debt.

Major Overview: Graphic designers create visual concepts using computer software or their own hands. Their visual concepts are used for marketing materials, cartoons, video games and various businesses that rely on creative content to thrive and compete.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 6

Educational Affordability: No. 17

Earning Index : 73.5%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 73%

Spotlight Career: Graphic Designers

  • Average Salary: $79,166
  • Average Growth Rate: 7.5%

Learn more about Graphics Design major.

5 Music

iStock

Music moved up in our ranking for 2020 when compared to 2016, and it's easy to see why. This choice of major comes in a field with an explosion of job growth and educational affordability is also reasonable when compared to many other creative fields.

Major Overview: Students pursuing music major can learn how to play instruments of their choosing while diving into music theory and the constructs that create songs and other musical elements we love. You can use this degree to create music of your own or to teach others to follow their own musical dreams.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 2

Educational Affordability: No. 35

Earning Index : 43.3%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 98.1%

Spotlight Career: Secondary School Teachers

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • Average Salary: $64,340
  • Average Growth Rate: 7.5%

Learn more about a major in Music.

6 Cinematography and Film/Video Production

iStock

We chose to recommend this major in our 2020 list thanks to recent statistics on educational affordability and excellent career earnings potential. For the most part, this career field should see strong growth since visual storytelling is here to stay.

Major Overview: This program teaches students how to use video to capture stories and dramatic content in a compelling and unique way. You can transfer the skills you learn to the movie industry, advertising, and more.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 13

Educational Affordability: No. 13

Earning Index : 77.3%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 26.4%

Spotlight Career: Camera Operators for Television, Video, and Motion Picture

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2020 National Average Salary: $79,473
  • 2018-2028 Average Growth Rate: 11.56%

Learn more about the cinematography and film production major.

7 Art and Art Studies, General

iStock

While the study of art has made our ranking of the best arts and literature majors in the past, this dynamic degree field moved up a few notches in our ranking this year since its last appearance in the No. 14 spot in 2016. There are more careers in art to consider than ever, which is part of the reason employment opportunities are plentiful according to recent statistics. Art degrees also ranked high on the affordability scale this year, which helped them stand out.

Major Overview: A degree in art can help you learn the basics of drawing and design theory while you study the history of the most famous artwork humanity has produced.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 4

Educational Affordability: No. 28

Earning Index : 37.7%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 92.4%

Spotlight Career: Secondary School Teachers

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
  • 2020 National Average Salary: $61,355
  • 2018-2028 Average Job Growth Rate: 8.05%

Learn more about the Art major.

8 Games and Interactive Media Design

iStock

Games and Interactive Media Design is a new major to enter our rankings this year. This major ranks high in the affordability category based on recent statistics, and the earning potential for careers in this niche can range from decent to exceptional. Projected job growth is also expected to be high as more companies require design professionals to create games and other media using the newest software and design programs.

Major Overview: This unique college major helps design and gaming enthusiasts parlay their skills and enthusiasm into a new career. Students typically learn how to design and plan game designs and concepts using creativity and the most up-to-date software programs.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 20

Educational Affordability: No. 16

Earning Index : 71.6%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 24.5%

Spotlight Career: Multimedia Artists and Animators

  • 2020 National Average Salary: $78,230
  • 2018-2028 Average Job Growth Rate: 10.4%

Learn more about the Games and Interactive Media Design Major.

9 Drawing

iStock

While many art and design professionals do the bulk of their work using computer software these days, there is still a demand for drawing and illustration. This college major made our ranking due to the strong potential for employment opportunities as well as relatively high pay in related careers.

Major Overview: Majoring in drawing and illustration will help you hone your artistic talents and harness the power of pen and paper to create magnificent illustrations and statement pieces.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 38

Educational Affordability: No. 1

Earning Index : 49%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 71.6%

Spotlight Career: Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators

  • 2020 National Average Salary: $68,300
  • 2018-2028 Average Growth Rate: 9.5%

10 Fashion and Apparel Design

iStock

Fashion and Apparel Design is yet another major for our rankings this year, but it's easy to see why it made the cut. This career field performed well in our study in terms of earnings potential and affordability. Educational availability for this major is also high considering the number of schools offering this type of degree.

Major Overview: Majoring in fashion and apparel design can help students learn to harness their creative talents to make clothing, shoes and other types of apparel consumers buy and wear.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 19

Educational Affordability: No. 6

Earning Index : 84.9%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 16.9%

Spotlight Career: Fashion Designers

  • 2020 National Average Salary: $87,610
  • 2018-2028 Average Growth Rate: 3.1%

11 Writing

Liberal Arts

Writing is an important component of nearly any type of business, which could be the reason this college major remains popular. This major also performed well in our ranking in terms of educational affordability and attainability -- both important considerations for anyone considering an arts and literature major and career.

Major Overview: Pursuing a major in writing can help you learn to use your talents and skill to write in a creative, concise, and even persuasive way. You can learn the history of writing and study some of the world's most popular literature along the way.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 27

Educational Affordability: No. 20

Earning Index : 64.1%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 52.8%

Spotlight Career: Editors

  • 2020 National Average Salary: $72,690
  • 2018-2028 Average Growth Rate: 6.26%

Learn more about the Writing major.

12 Children and Adolescent Literature

iStock

Children and adolescent literature is another college major that made our ranking for the first time this year. This unique field of study performed extremely well in our ranking in terms of educational affordability, which makes it considerably easier to find a college in your area or even online that you can actually afford.

Major Overview: This major introduces you to the unique concepts that apply when you're writing literature for children and young adults. You can learn how to create compelling stories young people love, as well as the history of literature and writing work for children.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 52

Educational Affordability: No. 5

Earning Index : 52.8%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 60.3%

Spotlight Career: Teachers, Writers, and Editors

  • 2020 National Average Salary: $71,285
  • 2018-2028 Average Growth Rate: 4.1%

13 Rhetoric and Composition

Rhetoric and Composition

Rhetoric and Composition made our ranking of the best arts and literature majors in 2016, yet it moved back a few spots to No. 13 this year (from the previous 11th spot). Yet, this major still deserves a spot in our ranking due to strong educational affordability and considerable availability considering this is such a niche field.

Major Overview: A degree in this field can help you perfect your writing and speaking skills. You can also learn how to make a sound argument on nearly any topic.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 25

Educational Affordability: No. 18

Earning Index : 55.1%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 61%

Spotlight Career: Editors

  • 2020 National Average Salary: $71,000
  • 2018-2028 Average Growth Rate: 4%

14 Commercial and Advertising Art

iStock

This college major made our ranking for the first time this year, and this is mostly due to the broad range of schools that offer a degree in this field of study. However, Commercial and Advertising Art also ranked highly in our study in terms of educational affordability.

Major Overview: This degree can help you learn how to leverage your artistic skills and talents to create meaningful and persuasive advertising campaigns in nearly and industry.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 12

Educational Affordability: No. 29

Earning Index : 39.6%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 84.9%

Spotlight Career: Graphic Designers

  • 2020 National Average Salary: $63,055
  • 2018-2028 Average Growth Rate: 4.85%

15 Interior Design

iStock

Finally, don't forget to consider a major in interior design. Although it slipped in the rankings slightly when compared to the previous years, interior design made our list of best value arts and literature majors three years in a row. This creative major performed well in our study in terms of educational availability, meaning there are many schools who offer a broad range of degrees in this major. Further, degrees in interior design tend to be more affordable than many other arts and literature majors we compared.

Major Overview: An interior design degree can help you turn a keen eye into a professional talent for creating beautiful interiors using furniture, art, and other aesthetically pleasing features.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: No. 9

Educational Affordability: No. 15

Earning Index : 16.9%

Employment Opportunity 2018-28: 22.6%

Spotlight Career: Interior Designers

  • 2020 National Average Salary: 59,120
  • 2018-2028 Average Growth Rate: 4.9%

Learn more about Interior Design Major.

2016 Ranking Data
Arts and Literature MajorsEducational AvailabilityEducational AffordabilityEarning IndexJob Opportunity2016 Rankings
Liberal Studies98.894.152.996.51
Foreign Languages and Literatures74.191.864.798.82
Digital Communication and Media74.168.296.592.93
English97.667.162.497.64
Drama95.365.975.378.85
Technical, Business and Scientific Writing65.997.687.154.16
Humanities84.777.641.296.57
Graphic Design91.88090.631.88
Music96.574.170.668.29
Cinematography and Film Production76.554.189.470.610
Rhetoric and Composition67.195.381.247.111
Interior Design87.185.984.722.412
Music Performance89.475.349.458.813
Art92.984.725.955.314
Public Relations63.564.798.844.715
2015 Ranking Data
Arts and Literature MajorsEducational AvailabilityEducational AffordabilityEarning IndexJob Opportunity2015 Rankings
Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies84.485.766.294.81
Graphic Design90.994.848.180.52
Visual and Performing Arts41.680.598.788.33
Game and Interactive Media Design70.189.655.8874
Fine/Studio Arts83.163.698.754.55
Drama and Dramatics/Theater Arts96.181.853.259.76
Art/Art Studies94.851.962.379.27
Interior Design89.666.224.793.58
Rhetoric and Composition80.555.844.290.99
Digital Arts57.190.948.168.810
Fine and Studio Arts Management63.696.16144.211
Commercial and Advertising Art77.945.544.296.112
Music97.441.645.563.613
Fashion/Apparel Design71.489.66.576.614
Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing68.854.520.883.115
Article Sources
Article Sources

Sources

  • 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov
  • Art Degree Requirements, Dallas Baptist University. Accessed February 19, 2020. https://www3.dbu.edu/fine_arts/art_cr.asp
  • Apparel, Merchandising and Design, Iowa State University. Accessed February 19, 2020. https://www.aeshm.hs.iastate.edu/find-majors/apparel-merchandising-design/?utm_medium=ppc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=ISUadmissionsFY20&utm_content=apparel%20&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyeCTscXe5wIVhsVkCh3J4gTMEAMYASAAEgI7X_D_BwE
  • Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Design and Development, DeVry University. Accessed February 14, 2020. https://www.devry.edu/online-programs/bachelors-degrees/multimedia-design-and-development.html
  • Cinematic Arts, Liberty University. Accessed February 14, 2020. https://www.liberty.edu/cinema/?acode=R27341&subid=cinematography%20degree&tfn=8554078280&kwid=43700049010489669&device=c&devicemodel=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxKXViazR5wIVk8DACh2KDwlqEAAYAiAAEgL18PD_BwE
  • Concentration in Games and Interactive Media Design, College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Accessed February, 19, 2020. https://comartsci.msu.edu/academics/academic-departments/media-information/undergraduate/concentration-game-and-interactive
  • Department of Rhetoric and Writing, The University of Texas at Austin. Accessed February 19, 2020. https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/rhetoric/undergraduate/careers.php
  • Graphic Designers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2018-28. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed February 14, 2020. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Interior Design, The Art Institute of Dallas. Accessed February 19, 2020. https://www.artinstitutes.edu/dallas/academics/interior-design/interior-design-degree-program
  • Music Major and Minor, Goshen College. Accessed February 14, 2020. https://www.goshen.edu/academics/music/?
X