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College students weigh several factors when they’re deciding which major they want to pursue. Some focus mainly on their interests, others on their skills, while still others just want to make as much money as possible.

Parents and peers, however, tend to be much more single-minded on the subject, predominantly encouraging students to follow tried-and-true routes to high-paying careers. Thus, while being pre-med or earning a degree in engineering or computer science is often seen as a good monetary investment, majors such as art, history, or theater are frequently seen as wasteful.

But as it turns out, many “useless” degrees can still lead people on the path to lucrative careers. I don’t just mean jobs that want any college diploma regardless of major, either. Some high-income careers specifically seek out candidates with art, music, and so forth that are considered a better fit for hobbies than employment.

Today, I’m going to review some of the highest-paying jobs you can land with “useless” degrees. 

Well-Paid Jobs That Love Your “Useless” Degree

well paid job holding money salary

Have any of your friends made fun of your degree? Did your parents ever express worry that you’ll become a “starving artist”? Well, you can put that talk to bed. All of the jobs on this list pay higher than the mean annual wage for all occupations—$65,470, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—and you can land them with various degrees often deemed lesser by left-brained types.

All the wages listed, estimates for the number of people employed in each position, and projected employment growth rates come from the BLS’s May 2023 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, which is the most recent data available.

Professions are listed in order from lowest mean annual wage to highest.

10. Curators

classical painting museum art masterpiece
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $70,870
  • 2023 employment: 12,510

Curators acquire collections through purchases and exchanges, store them, and exhibit them. They’re also expected to handle some administrative tasks, help with educational programs, and research projects. Some curators also research, authenticate, and categorize everything in a collection.

At a minimum, curators typically need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as history, art history, museum studies, or archaeology. For smaller museums, this educational level can be sufficient. However, at larger museums, curators frequently need a master’s degree. 

It’s a financially rewarding job, too. The 2023 mean annual wage for curators was $70,870, per BLS data. Better still? The BLS estimates that overall employment of curators will increase by 11% between 2022 and 2032—much faster than the average for all professions.

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9. Camera Operators, Television, Video, and Film

film television video camera operator job
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $71,890
  • 2023 employment: 23,940

This job title is pretty self-explanatory. Camera operators record scenes or images for video, television, or film productions. This is a behind-the-scenes role in the entertainment industry, but a vital one nonetheless.

Camera operators usually have a bachelor’s degree in film, broadcasting, or a connected fine and performing arts field. They need to know about both digital cameras and editing software. Once hired, they likely will be trained in whichever specialized editing software the employer prefers. 

According to BLS data, the mean annual wage for this type of work is $71,890. The BLS projects that employment for camera operators for television, video, and film will grow 3% between 2022 and 2032, which is on par with the average for all occupations.

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8. Historians

vanity degree historian job library teacher
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $76,120
  • 2023 employment: 3,040

Historians find, analyze, and interpret historical information. Based on their findings, they might write reports or articles, create educational programs or presentations, or archive and preserve important artifacts. Historians are hired by governments, businesses, historical associations, and other types of organizations.

As you likely guessed, historians often start with a bachelor’s degree in history. While this might qualify a person for some entry-level positions, historians usually need to earn a master’s degree or Ph.D. in history, museum studies, historical preservation, or related subjects. A Ph.D. is usually necessary for research positions in the federal government. 

While the high level of education takes time and money, historians earn a higher-than-average salary. The mean average wage for historians is $76,120, according to BLS data.

Unfortunately, this is a fairly small profession with just a few thousand jobs nationwide. Looking forward, the BLS expects historian employment will grow 3% from 2022 to 2032, as shown by BLS numbers.

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7. Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

vanity degree cartographer maps job
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $78,810
  • 2023 employment: 12,330

Put simply, cartographers and photogrammetrists make maps. To create or update maps, they must collect and analyze geographic information from land surveys, satellite images, and various technologies. The maps can be used for urban planning, marketing, navigation systems, and more.

Usually, cartographers and photogrammetrists hold a bachelor’s degree in geography, cartography, geomatics, surveying, or a similar field. They might also need licensing, which can vary by state and employer. When possible, internships are recommended. 

The mean annual wage for this work is $78,810, per BLS data. And BLS projections have employment in this field growing a better-than-average 5% between 2022 and 2032.

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6. Music Directors and Composers

baton conductor high paying jobs
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $87,840
  • 2023 employment: 10,770

Music directors and composers work with vocal or instrumental performers, such as bands, choirs, or orchestras. Music directors (aka conductors) select musical arrangements and lead performers during rehearsals, recording sessions, and performances. Composers create original music, rearrange existing music into different compositions, and work with musicians recording music. They also might write scores for television shows or movies, or even write commercial jingles.

Creativity and musical knowledge are essential for these roles, plus these professionals must excel at active listening and work well with others. 

Depending on which of these positions you desire, your path might be a bit different. Typically, choir directors have a bachelor’s degree, commonly in education or fine arts and performing arts. Directors in public schools might need a teaching license or certification.

Employers generally prefer applicants for conductor or classical composer positions to have a master’s degree in conducting, music theory, or music composition. Composers who want to write popular music are judged more by their recording samples than their formal education. 

According to BLS data, these occupations earn a mean annual wage of $87,840. The BLS projects the employment of music directors and composers to show little or no change from 2022 to 2032.

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5. Fashion Designers

creative jobs fashion designer
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $97,030
  • 2023 employment: 19,940

Your outfit, shoes, and any accessories, were all developed by fashion designers. These creatives stay up-to-date on the latest trends, create designs, choose fabrics, present their ideas in meetings and trade shows, and ultimately market their designs to retailers or consumers.

Usually, fashion designers hold a bachelor’s degree in fashion design, fashion merchandising, or another fine arts or business field. During their education, fashion designers can develop a portfolio that highlights their skills and style. It’s common for fashion designers to get a foot in the fashion industry door through an internship or working as an assistant designer.

While you probably won’t be a Tom Ford or Giorgio Armani overnight, even the average pay—of $97,030, according to BLS data—isn’t shabby. And according to BLS projections, employment of fashion designers could grow by 3% between 2022 to 2032, which is approximately as fast as the average for all occupations.

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4. Sociologists

statistician occupation graphs
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $106,710
  • 2023 employment: 2,890

Sociologists research society and human behavior. They collect data through interviews, polls, observations, and more, then analyze the results. Insights are then shared through presentations, reports, or articles. This information can be valuable to lawmakers, educators, and anyone seeking to solve social issues.

The first step to becoming a sociologist is a bachelor’s degree in sociology or a related field. Those who stop their education there tend to find positions in connected fields, such as social services, public policy, or education. To become a full-fledged sociologist, you typically need to earn a master’s degree or Ph.D. 

The sociology degree is frequently lampooned in sitcoms and other media, but if you actually become a sociologist, you can do quite well. The mean annual wage for this progression is $106,710, based on BLS numbers.

The biggest problem is the lack of positions—fewer than 3,000 people were employed as sociologists according to the BLS’s latest data. On the upside, between 2022 and 2032, the BLS projects that employment in the field will grow by 5%.

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3. Producers and Directors

creative jobs film producer director
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $107,170
  • 2023 employment: 154,470

Producers and directors are responsible for creative and business choices about productions such as movies, television shows, and stage performances. Producers focus on financial and business decisions including raising money and setting budgets. They hire the director and crew, and they sometimes have a say in the cast members. 

Directors focus more on creative decisions, such as choosing cast members and helping them bring their characters to life. In this job, you work closely with set designers, art directors, location scouts, costume designers, and editors to bring the production from concept to finished product.

Generally, producers and directors obtain a bachelor’s degree in cinema studies, film, theater, or a related field. Before reaching these roles, people usually work several years on set as actors, cinematographers, editors, theater managers, or other relevant roles. As a director or producer becomes more well known, they can land more high-profile projects.

While you shouldn’t expect Steven Spielberg-sized paychecks at the onset, the mean annual wage for people who make it in the industry is an impressive $107,170, per BLS data. And the field should grow—the BLS sees employment of producers and directors jumping by 7% between 2022 and 2032.

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2. Special Effects Artists and Animators

jobs for introverts special effects animator
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $109,630
  • 2023 employment: 29,940

Special effects artists and animators make special effects or animations for media such as movies, commercials, and computer games. Says the BLS: “Special effects artists and animators often work in a specific medium. Some focus on creating animated movies or video games. Others create visual effects for movies and television shows.” Some of these workers mainly use computer software, while others prefer to draw or paint by hand before translating their work into computer programs, and still others work in physical mediums where their work is never digitized.

These professionals usually need a bachelor’s degree in animation, computer graphics, fine arts, or a related field. Some schools offer specialized degrees in topics such as game design or interactive media. Additionally, candidates should have a strong portfolio, which can be developed while earning a degree.

The mean annual wage for this occupation is $109,630, per BLS data. Projections from the BLS suggest that employment for special effects artists and animators may grow 8% from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average for all professions.

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1. Art Directors

fun jobs art director
  • 2023 mean annual wage: $125,920
  • 2023 employment: 51,200

Art directors manage the work of other artists and designers who create images for magazines, television, film, newspapers, product packaging, and more. These leaders are the ones ultimately responsible for the overall visual style and the message it sends to consumers. 

Typically, art directors have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, a design subject, or a related field. Some earn a master of fine arts. Additionally, the majority of art directors have at least five years of work experience in a relevant occupation, such as graphic design or photography.

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for this job is $125,920. Between 2022 and 2032, the employment of art directors is expected to increase by 6%, which is quicker than the average for all occupations, according to BLS projections. 


Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper has been a professional writer since 2016 and has worked with Young & the Invested since 2019.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, she was still immersed in words through previous roles as a library specialist and teacher. Her background in education helps her take complex topics and turn them into easy-to-understand text.

Hannah holds a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. When she isn’t writing, Hannah is usually found playing with her niece and nephew, traveling, or brewing more coffee.