The Value of a Degree

Last week, Five Cent Nickel had a post about What’s Your College Degree Worth? Which was a report on a study by Georgetown University Center.  The article and study of course throw out a variation of every schools favorite statistic:

One of the big takeaways from this study is that college graduates can expect to earn 84% more over their lifetime (on average, of course) than someone with nothing more than a high school diploma. But what about difference between majors. Surely some degrees result in higher earnings than others.

This 84% statistic is similar to the oft mentioned “$1 million dollars more over a lifetime” statistic.  I haven’t personally done the research on either of these, but I am skeptical.  You can see why by reading this post and watching this video.  I have no doubt that the average person with a degree will earn more than the average person without one, but I think there are many exceptions to the rule and that the advantage is nowhere near as large as it once was.

The Five Cent Nickel calls out the top and bottom 10, but here are the top and bottom:

Ten highest earning majors

  1. Petroleum Engineer ($120,000)
  2. Pharmacy/Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration ($105,000)
  3. Math and Computer Science ($98,000)

Ten lowest earning majors

  1. Counseling/Psychology ($29,000)
  2. Early Childhood Education ($36,000)
  3. Theology and Religious Vocations ($38,000)

Here is a graph breaking down the findings:

Degree value chart - Provided by Georgetown Education Center


This latest research doesn’t change my opinion of higher education and I think only furthers my point that the decision to take on student loan debt and get a degree needs to be treated entirely like a business decision.  Will you get a return on your investment (ROI)?  That is to say, will the time and money you put into the degree repeat you and equal amount or more in future compensation and happiness?   If the answer is no, you need to consider a different career choice, spending less on education or both.  For example, if you plan is to take on $120k of student loan debt to get a $29,000 a job as a counselor, I think you probably need to consider getting yourself some financial counseling.  This just doesn’t make sense.


What’s Your College Degree Worth? | Five Cent Nickle


Image Credit: Georgetown Education Center


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1 Response to “The Value of a Degree”

  1. krantcents

    I had a business degree and a very successful career as a Chief Financial Officer, Consultant and Entrepreneur. For the last ten years, I teach computer science in high school because I like it. Degrees or education is what you do with it. I worked for a president who was an English major in college, but went into marketing.