Four year college education costs over the past 20 years have increased over 250%. Yes, college is expensive and depending on the pursued degree it might not be the best path for a current-day high school graduate.
The most recent financial data from the National Center for Education Statistics puts average current-day four year college education costs (tuition, fees, room and board) at $27,250. Combine that with the staggering information from debt.org highlighting total U.S. student loan debt of $1.4 trillion (or average $37,172 per student) it becomes important to consider your degree options when entering college and the outcome it could have for the remainder of your life.
A ThinkRich mindset understands that college education is an investment of your time, money, and effort in which you are to expect an return on that investment. In a purely financial sense, we will explore the college degrees with the highest return on investment. Understanding the expected financial return on your investment in college can help you better set life expectations once your desired degree is obtained.
Time at a college institution does offer experiences and personal connections that can go far beyond the financial metrics. Experiences such as meeting a future significant other, connecting with the next Mark Zuckerberg, college location, or travel opportunities. These events are all important, but we will discuss college degree return on your investment of time, money, and effort based purely on financial metrics.
A ThinkPoor mindset focuses only on short term gains, obtaining the path of least resistant degree. Meaning, entering college to pursue a major they are not interested in and sees no real world application for their learning, goes through the motions and gets a degree simply to have any degree and/or to satisfy someone else’s expectations for their life.
Choosing a Degrees that Make the Most Money
I’ve always had a financial mind, I attended a local four year university and earned a dual degree in Finance and Accounting, but the concept of making a decision based, at least partly, on the return on my investment was not clear in my mind when entering college. Articles like this that focuses the attention on future benefits of various college degrees would have been a great benefit to me.
Just getting a college degree is not enough, depending on your life goals it is important to fully understand the future benefits of the major pursued. Topics to think about when considering a certain degree or school:
- The Net Price you will end up paying for attendance
- This may be different than what you see on the schools homepage and/or advertisement; please be sure to include tuition, room and board, transportation needed, books, and other administration fees required.
- How long it will really take you to graduate
- Due to course scheduling and different major degree requirements please be sure to review if that 4 year degree may end up taking you 5-7 years. The National Center for Education Statistics sites 59% of of first-time undergraduate full-time students seeking a 4 year degree actually took 6 years to graduate.
- Future earning potential
- Opportunity cost of attending the college
- The opportunity cost of spending your time, effort, and money pursing a college degree means that you could have been doing something else with your time that could have been earning you income (or more income, if you worked while in school) or helped you work your way up in a company to a level beyond your earning potential from that degree.
To help in your research, below are the top three college degrees that have historically be shown to be the best return on investment.
- More and more daily tasks are moving toward automation and computer base solutions, being apart of the information technology world could set you up for a number of high long term earning potential careers.
- Web developer: Median Mid-Career Salary $81,250
- IT Business Analyst: Median Mid-Career Salary $83,600
- Information Systems Management: Median Mid-Career Salary $122,500
- If you are good at problem solving and enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together then possibly an engineering degree is a good choice for you. There are several different types of engineering fields to explore and each are among the highest paid professions out there.
- Nuclear Engineer: Median Mid-Career Salary $128,200
- Chemical Engineer: Median Mid-Career Salary $125,450
- Electrical Engineer: Median Mid-Career Salary $120,345
- This might not be the major for everyone, but pursing a degree in math can add up. Many potential career paths can come from a degree in Math, as analyzing numbers help drive companies. There are many analysts on wall street that actually have math degrees (and not finance degrees) and come up with an array of advanced trading algorithms that leave even the smartest people in the room amazed.
- Actuarial Mathematics: Median Mid-Career Salary $132,000
- Finance Manager: Median Mid-Career Salary $110,000
- Market Research Analyst: Median Mid-Career Salary $95,000
While we discussed college degrees in purely a financial sense, please make sure that you are passionate about any degree you pursue, even if it means less financial gain in the future. If you keep to our overall budget guidelines no matter what degree you earn, you will have a solid financial understanding to work with.