The bachelor’s degree programs that allow graduates to recoup their costs within five years or less include what you’d expect: Registered nursing, electrical engineering and dental assistants all make the list.
Among the programs with no economic ROI at all: drama, fine arts and anthropology.
Itzkowitz says the majority of college programs enable students to recoup costs within 10 years or less. “College is still worth it the vast majority of the time,” he says. Unfortunately, his research also found nearly one-quarter of all college programs of study show graduates failing to recoup their costs in the 20 years after graduation.
There are several tools that can help you compare data on costs, earnings and debt:
• The College Scorecard, a data tool from the U.S. Department of Education. • An interactive map of price-to-earnings premiums from Third Way.
• The Buyer Beware tool from the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce. Of course, education and major aren’t the only predictors of income. Your wages will also be affected by where you live, your gender and race, whether you work in the public or private sector, and your experience level. Should you get a graduate degree? Your humanities degree could go much further if you get an advanced degree – generally, the more education you have, the greater your earnings, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But you should continue to weigh cost versus benefit since it’s also easier to rack up debt. A graduate degree may increase your earning potential, or it may just increase your debt. For example, if you majored in liberal arts for your bachelor’s degree you can expect a median annual wage of $50,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But if you get a graduate degree in law, taking on more debt, you could earn a median of $126,930. A master’s of fine arts, on the other hand, is unlikely to yield higher earnings: The annual median wage is $42,000. Your other options could include a minor in a field with higher earnings, an internship to get on-the-job experience or finding less-expensive graduate programs if your intended field requires it.
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