10 Cool College and Advanced Degrees That Lead to Fun, Lucrative Jobs

weird degrees
Chris Gilmore under Creative Commons

A master’s degree in medieval and renaissance studies? What were you thinking?

OK, maybe you joined the Society for Creative Anachronism years ago and started dressing up in a suit of armour to attend every renaissance festival within a hundred miles — and you even add the traditional “u” to “armor.”

In other words, maybe this is what you want to do, even if the job opportunities are limited.

Sure, some degrees don’t lead to riches. But not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or to pursue the most popular degree, the MBA. So what are your other, more interesting options?

Some of these cool degrees can lead to fun jobs, and a few might result in a decent paycheck, too.

1. Beatles Music

At Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, England, you can get a Master’s Degree in the Beatles, Popular Music & Society.

The university says, “This MA will examine the significance of the music of The Beatles in the construction of identities, audiences, ethnicities and industries, and localities…” The 73-word single-sentence description goes on, making the coursework sound less and less interesting, but you probably get to listen to some good music.

What’s a degree like that worth? Who knows, but the college says it’s good for you if you’re “working in the fields of popular music studies, cultural studies, social anthropology, politics, gender studies and musicology, among others.” In other words, plan on teaching.

2. Game Design

Want a better video game and a better job? Get paid to design your own games.

You might design for game consoles like Xbox or PlayStation, or you could create products for computer and mobile users. Either way, you’ll work with a team of engineers, programmers and artists.

Many colleges offer the necessary education. If you want to get your degree from home, look over reviews of the best online video game design degree programs.

Average annual pay for video game designers is close to $57,000, according to Payscale. The top 10% average $95,000 per year. And sometimes you’ll be getting paid to play games.

3. Scuba Diving

If you enjoy diving, you might love this degree from Florida Keys Community College in Key West. The college says the Associate in Applied Science Degree: Diving Business & Technology is a “pathway to” these possible jobs:

  • Divemaster
  • Scuba instructor
  • Commercial diver
  • Public safety diver
  • Research diver
  • Underwater photojournalist

Salary statistics for some of these positions are difficult to find, but the BLS says the median annual wage for commercial divers is $45,890, and that rises to $84,370 for the top 10% of divers. Are you ready to dive into a new career?

4. Puppetry

To get a master’s degree in puppetry from University of Connecticut, you’ll study “Advanced Rod Puppet Theatre” and “Trends in Contemporary American Puppet Theatre,” and take dozens of other courses with “puppet” in the title.

Classes in puppet arts started at UConn in 1964, so this is a well-established program. You’ll put on shows at the college and around the country.

Where will you put your degree to work? UConn says graduates “appear in, build for and manage internationally recognized television programs (such as Between the Lions) and films, write books, design toys, teach children, and direct prominent schools and museums.”

But be sure you love the work; Indeed says the average salary of a professional puppeteer is just $28,000.

5. Adventure Education

Here’s what Plymouth State University says about their Bachelor of Science in Adventure Education:

Surrounded by New Hampshire’s rivers, lakes and mountains, you will have the opportunity to explore skills in wilderness expedition, ropes courses, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, mountaineering, backpacking and winter camping.

What jobs can you get with this degree and how much will you make? The university suggests you can find “careers in outdoor/adventure leadership, outdoor/adventure education, state and national park outdoor education, therapeutic adventure, environmental education and recreation.” Check out this list of outdoor jobs for some ideas.

There’s no good data on wages, but if there are no job prospects, you’ll at least be ready to survive in the wild.

6. Animation

The odds are good you can already draw better cartoon characters than those on South Park, so you might be ready for a career in animation.

A number of schools offer this degree. For example, Regent University in Virginia offers a Bachelor of Arts in Animation, and if you want to takes classes online, you can get a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Animation from Full Sail University in Florida.

Once you have your degree, put your talents to work in film, television, video games or other media. Payscale says the median annual salary for animators is $50,213.

7. Decision Sciences

“Decision Sciences is the discipline that integrates functional business fields with analytical concepts and modeling, process improvement and computer based quantitative tools to make critical decisions; thus enhancing complex decision making processes and decision support,” according to the College of Business at the University of North Texas.

And if you understood that sentence, you’re probably the right person for this emerging field.

But the field is new enough there seem to be differences of opinion as to what it’s about. Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, which offers a Bachelor of Science Degree in Decision Science, says, “The interdisciplinary field of Decision Science seeks to understand and improve judgment and decision making of individuals, groups and organizations.”

In any case, if you love psychology and numbers, you can become an analyst with this degree. GlassDoor says the average salary for decision science analysts is $79,299.

8. Turfgrass Science

For some people, there’s nothing like a day out on the golf course. If you’re one of them, here’s a way to spend more time out there: get a Bachelor of Science in Turfgrass Science from Penn State. They’ve had a turfgrass program since 1929!

If you want to get to work sooner, they have a two-year technical program that’s designed specifically for aspiring golf course superintendents.

The university says your associate’s or bachelor’s degree will qualify you for work as a golf course superintendent, athletic field manager, grounds manager or foreman, and industry salesperson.

Payscale says the median annual wage for golf course superintendents is $52,111. And maybe the bachelor’s degree will help put you in the top 25%, for whom the median annual wage is closer to $70,000.

9. Arctic Engineering

Would you like to work in the great white north? Then you might want a Master of Science Degree in Arctic Engineering from (where else?) the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The school says, “The arctic engineering program trains graduate engineers to deal with the challenges of design, construction and operations in cold regions of the world.” Just be sure your significant other is onboard for this one, because you’ll probably end up living and working someplace very cold.

How much will you make? Simply Hired says the average annual salary for arctic engineering jobs is $59,000, while Indeed says the average is $93,000. Since they arrive at their averages from job postings on the sites, you now know where to look for that job when you graduate.

10. Astrobiology

If you loved the movies “ET” and “Alien,” and you have a few science degrees under your belt, maybe it’s time to add a Ph.D. in Astrobiology from Penn State. According to the program description, “Astrobiology is a field devoted to the exploration of life outside of Earth and to the investigation of the origin and early evolution of life on Earth.”

Once you’re working in astrobiology research, you’ll make about $75,000 per year, according to the average of job listings on Indeed. NASA also has listings of available astrobiology jobs. And hey, when you find ET, tell him to phone home.

Your Turn: Would you consider any of these uncommon degrees?

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).