BAKERSFIELD, Calif (KGET) — A college degree is often seen as a pathway to success. But college graduates can also find themselves poorly paid or unemployed.

Everyone’s definition of success varies, but depending on their chosen major, some students might have to put passion ahead of a livable wage.

These are the majors with the most and least earning potential at California State University, Bakersfield.


Agricultural Business

With Kern County being one of the biggest agricultural exporters in the state, there is plenty of opportunity for students with an agricultural degree to secure a job in the agriculture sector right here in central valley.

Although the agriculture industry is facing its fair share of problems with the drought, Director of Agricultural Business at CSUB John Deal said companies continue to grow given the obvious and perpetual need for food.

According to Deal, the chances of an agricultural business student securing a job after college are excellent with most students securing a job before graduation.

Every student must complete an approved internship, which often turns into job offers. Students have gone on to work for banks for agricultural lending, the Wonderful Company, and Grimmway Farms.

Another reason students get hired so quickly is the network connections they get from their professors. A lot of the courses are taught by people currently working in the industry.

However, the appeal of CSUB students does not stop with who they know. CSUB’s curriculum emphasizes the importance of data analysis. By the time they graduate, students have better data skills than those at the company, Deal said. He said the more data intensive the role is, the higher the pay goes.

While entry-level roles can start in the $50,000 or $60,000 range, it is possible to get into the six-figure range. Deal said some graduates with bachelor’s degrees have gone on to make more than the professors with Ph.Ds.


Often unsung heroes, nurses are the backbone of the medical industry.

The profession faces a shortage due to a lack of potential educators, high turnover and inequitable workforce distribution. More registered nurse jobs will be available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States, according to the American Nurses Association.

The need for registered nurses has translated into bigger salary. The Wall Street Journal reported the average nursing salary rose 4 percent in 2021 to almost $82,000. That figure only includes a base salary, not taking into account any bonuses. Michigan-based company Beaumont Health offered new nurses a $15,000 sign-on bonus as COVID-19 tore through their hospitals.

Nursing can be even more lucrative for travel nurses as they are in high demand as permanent staff leave their positions. Some contracts seen on Linkedin in Bakersfield offer travel nurses up to $4,500 a week for 13 weeks. Shifts are 12 hours long, three days a week.

CSUB has a 98 percent passing rate of the state licensure exam for registered nurses.


Whether a student wants to get into medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, pharmacy, or physical therapy, the pre-med program at CSUB will set students up to apply to these professional schools.

Like nursing, medicine is also facing a shortage of physicians. A report from the Association of American Colleges projects that the United States will face a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033.

Despite a desperate need for more doctors, the application process for medical school and residency is grueling. Students can go to school for four years of undergraduate studies and four years of medical school only to find out they did not match into a residency program. If they end up matching into a residency program, they spend years being underpaid to become a fully accredited physician.

According to ZipRecruiter, a resident physician only makes about $50,000 a year in California. But it might be worth it in the end. The average salary for a doctor in California is $190,000, according to ZipRecruiter. The Bureau of Labor statistics said the pay is among the highest of all occupations.

Electrical Engineering

Technology rules the world.

With our dependence on everything digital, electrical engineers are integral part of society and jobs in are plentiful and well-paid.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the sector will grow 7 percent before 2030. The field is expected to add more than 200,000 jobs in the next decade. BLS reported the average salary for an electrical engineer in 2021 was $100,000 on average.

Since the major is so broad, students can find jobs in a variety of industries including research and development, engineering services, manufacturing, telecommunications, and the federal government, according to BLS.



At CSUB, communications includes journalism, digital media and public relations.

Those looking to get into journalism might have to do it for their passion, not the money. BLS reported those working in radio and television broadcasting made an average of $50,000 a year. Those that worked at newspapers or book publishers faired even worse, raking in less than $40,000 a year.

Those who were among the lowest 10 percent of earners took home less than $30,000 a year.

People working in public relations faired better. On average, public relations specialists made nearly $70,000 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,000 per year. This is higher than what the average college graduate earns with a bachelor’s degree.

Additionally, the industry is growing fast. Nearly 30,000 jobs openings for PR specialists are expected each year for the next eight years.

The average salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree makes nearly $65,000 a year, according to Northeastern University.

Those looking into some sectors of communications like journalism will likely become some of the lowest earners with bachelor’s degrees.


People with theatre degrees can go into a broad range of industries. But many of those studying theatre hope to get into the entertainment industry, specifically acting.

Acting can be one of the most lucrative professions if you are among the top earners in the industry. High-profile celebrities, such as Scarlett Johansson and Leonardo DiCaprio earn millions of dollars for their projects. Even those without any star power, but still among 10% of earners, can earn about $62 an hour, according to BLS.

However, the average hourly wage for an actor in the United States is about $23 an hour, amounting to about $45,000 a year, assuming they worked five days a week consistently over the year. The lowest 10% of earners earned less than $11 an hour.

The bigger problem in earning potential lies in the frequency of work. A lot of actors audition for work endlessly, only to go weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime without booking a role. According to a 2012 Huffington Post article, the unemployment for actors hovered above 90 percent.

Going into acting is a big gamble, and even when it works out, the pay can be low and can disappear instantly.

Small Business Management

Small business management is for people who have a great idea that will serve a group of people without having the ability to scale. It can be a great way for people to pursue their passion while also making a nice living.

But the costs of running small businesses and trying to grow them can eat significantly into profits. If most of the money made goes into keeping the company afloat, there is not much left to pay the employees.

According to payscale, someone with a degree in small business management earns an average of $44,000 a year.

Child, Adolescent and Family Studies

This major is diverse and broad enough for students to enter a variety of fields, including schooling counseling, social work, family advocacy, non-profit work and therapy.

More than half of graduating students, go into teaching, according to Professor Alexander Reed.

Teachers in Bakersfield are paid in the $50,000 to $60,000 range to start their careers, according to Reed, which is not far from the average salary of bachelor’s degree holders.

The graduates making the least amount of money are the teachers who did not get a credential to teach K-12 students. Instead, they are permitted teachers and allowed to teach students in preschool, transitional kindergarten, or childcare facilities, Department Chair Elaine Correa said.

Permitted teachers make as little as $38,000 a year, Reed said.

To make sure graduates get paid appropriately for their work, Reed teaches a professional development class so that students can negotiate for higher salaries and advocate for themselves and their worth.

Correa said community organizations often reach out to the department seeking volunteers in exchange for experience, but she wants students to be recognized for their work by being paid.

“Although we love it, it shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t get paid for it,” she said.

However, a shift might be coming. Correa said Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to allocate more money into improving the major and paying those in the field more. She said the pandemic changed people’s attitude on the work these teachers do, and solidified the sentiment that not everyone can do it.