Graduates throw their caps in the air.

Graduating is one thing, but what your degree is in has a huge impact on your chances to get a job. Image source: Getty Images.

A college degree can open up the path to a better life. In many cases, that little piece of paper unlocks better jobs, higher earning potential, and a better life.

Not all four-year degrees are created equal. There are majors where graduates earn more money and most certainly ones where people earn less. Anyone deciding what to study -- and how much you are willing to borrow in order to earn your diploma -- should at least consider that earning power varies greatly based on what you study.

That's very important to consider when a moderate college budget (including tuition, fees, room, and board) had an average cost of $24,610 at a moderate public college in the 2016-17 school year, according to the College Board. A moderate private school costs roughly twice as much at $49,320, numbers that are both high enough to make students (and their parents) at least consider whether the eventual graduates course of study makes economic sense.

A new report from The Cashlorette examined median incomes and unemployment rates for U.S. adults with only a bachelor's degree across 173 different majors. It ranked which ones were most valuable and which paid off the most poorly for graduates. Here are the top five most-valuable degrees followed by the worst five.

A large ship in front of an oil platform

Naval engineers help keep ships running. Image source: Getty Images.

5. Naval Architecture/Marine Engineering

Median Income:  $103,695

Unemployment rate: 2.78%

These are the people who design, build, and maintain ships of all types. While the two degrees are related, they aren't exactly the same.

"Marine engineers are primarily responsible for the internal systems of a ship, such as propulsion, electrical, refrigeration, and steering," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Naval architects are primarily responsible for the ship design, including the form, structure, and stability of hulls."

Two people are talking at a mine.

Mining engineers operate mines. Image source: Getty Images.

4. Mining/Mineral Engineering

Median Income: $104,557

Unemployment rate: 2.7%

Mining and mineral engineers are the engineers behind the science of extracting and processing minerals taken out of the Earth. Many people in this occupation work in the field, overseeing mining, examining potential sites, and more.

A mountain overlooks sand

Geophysical engineers help find things hidden in the Earth. Image souce: Getty Images.

3. Geological/Geophysical Engineering

Median Income:  $99,029

Unemployment rate: 1%

"Geophysical Engineering is the scientific method behind locating and extracting different natural resources from the earth, including ores, minerals, precious gems, water, or gases," according to

Working in a field that's closely related to mining, geophysical engineers identify sites where needed material can be found. They also strive to improve extraction techniques.

A pharmaceutical representative talks to two doctors.

A pharmaceutical science degree qualifies you to be a sales rep. Image source: Getty Images.


2. Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences/Administration

Median Income: $116,642

Unemployment rate: 2.67%

This isn't the degree that lets you be a pharmacist. That requires a doctor of pharmacy degree. With this undergraduate degree, recipients have the knowledge to work as pharmaceutical reps, or in other related fields that require deep medical knowledge.

An oil platform

Petroluem engineers help get oil out of the ground. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Petroleum Engineering

Median Income: $134,841

Unemployment rate: 2.38%

"Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth's surface," according to the BLS. "Petroleum engineers also find new ways to extract oil and gas from older wells."

It's worth noting that four of the top five jobs involve finding ways to extract materials from the planet. All are related and in very high demand probably at least in part because for many materials, the easy-to-extract finds have already been exploited.

A palette of paints and brushes

Earning an art degree is a challenging way to make a living. Image source: Getty Images.

169. Studio Arts

Median Income: $42,231

Unemployment rate: 5.38%

Studio arts is exactly what its sounds like -- learning how to create art in a studio. That can involve a variety of mediums, but it's easy to see why this might be a tough degree to turn into a profitable job.

A health worrker holds an older woman's hand.

Home health worker is one possible human services job. Image source: Getty Images.

170. Human Services/Community Organization

Median Income: $41,478

Unemployment rate: 5.45%

Doing work that helps others can be rewarding, but mostly not in the financial sense. This degree does cover a lot of professions, but generally workers in the field serve people in need, helping them improve the quality of their lives.

A person types at a laptop.

There are lots of jobs in writing, but a composition degree does not directly prepare you for any of them. Image source: Getty Images.

171. Composition/Rhetoric

Median Income:  $45,595

Unemployment rate: 6.58%

This a degree in writing and speaking. In theory that can lead to a lot of things, but it's not a direct path to any one job. This is a writing degree that's not a journalism or even a creative writing certification.

Paintbrushes and art tools on a wooden table background

Studying art does not generally lead to a career path in the field. Image source: Getty Images.

172. Miscellaneous Fine Arts

Median Income: $47,051

Unemployment rate: 7.46%

Studying fine arts does not offer great career prospects. In fact, the most likely career for a person with this degree, is retail salesperson, according to Basically there's very little work that ties directly to getting a miscellaneous fine arts degree, making it not a very valuable degree for those that hold it.

A smiling therapist with a patient

An undergraduate degree in clinical psychology does not qualify you to practice psychology. Image source: Getty Images.

173. Clinical Psychology

Median Income: $43,093

Unemployment rate: 8.06%

The problem with a degree in clinical psychology is that it does not qualify you to be a clinical psychologist. To do that, you need a doctoral degree. So essentially, if you don't intend to get one of those, this is a diploma that does not lead to a job.