How Much Is Your Degree Worth?

Nov 01, 2011

There will always be proponents and opponents of higher education. But with the rising cost of college tuition, challengers are scrutinous about the issue of return on investment. The Education Insider takes a look at the value and worth associated with a college degree.

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By Erin Tigro

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Choices to Make After High School

While studies have been conducted on the long-term usefulness and profitability of education, most of us understand certain basic concepts. Those of us who went to school and pursued a liberal arts major walked into class understanding that we probably weren't going to strike it rich. So it is not surprising that there are often times when individuals who pursue a trade apprenticeship or earn a 2-year degree in an in-demand field, such as technology or health care, earn more than those who spent four years or more pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree. And while some are busy earning a degree, those who opt not to enroll in college are gaining practical experience, a valuable asset when applying for a job and something many students graduate college without.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
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  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
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  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Factors That Affect Income Potential

Not taking into account student loan debt, according to a recent study compiled by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, bachelor's degree holders earn a median lifetime salary of more than $2.2 million, which is 84% more than someone who only possesses a high school diploma. Expected lifetime earnings increase with each notch of educational attainment. But again, consider the field. Yes, we all know doctors and lawyers make a lot of money. However, there are a number of professionals who may have spent just as much time in school and are earning meager wages as a university adjunct. And as indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and reiterated in Georgetown's report, in general, men earn more than women. Race and ethnicity also affect earnings potential.

Being Proactive Before Starting College

For many high school graduates, attending college is the next logical step. It's a way to explore independence, develop strong social ties and prepare for future careers. However, how many freshmen enroll as 'undecided' majors or switch educational paths midway through their training? If you're considering earning a college degree, do a little research. Scan job postings for entry-level positions in your intended field to get an idea of starting pay rates. You can also use free public resources, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website, which offers average salaries in numerous fields as well as provides employment outlooks for specific job titles. Uncover the details so you can tailor your educational goals to meet your personal and professional needs and wants.

Continue reading for information about salary earnings by specific degree.

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