Financial Matters: College Majors with the Best ROI
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Today, students and parents alike are far more thoughtful about both if and where they continue into higher education after graduating from high school. That ‘where’ is always accompanied by ‘what should I study’? It has been shown that college graduates on average earn 80% more than those with just a high school diploma. Approximately 65% of graduates from a bachelor’s degree program typically recoup the cost of that diploma within 10 years. In an interesting report by Michael Itzkowitz, senior fellow for Third Way, it was determined that for some, it may even be possible to recoup those college expenses within 5 years, assuming that the undergraduate degree program was completed in 4 years.
When analyzing bachelor’s degree programs with a view to both future employ ability and median income, there is a correlation between a high salary upon graduation and low unemployment levels. For example, a typical graduate with a degree in Architectural Engineering earns on average $83,000 per year. It can be as low as $59,000 for an entry level position. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic decimating so many jobs in 2019 and 2020, the unemployment rate for these highly trained professionals is only approximately 2%. High income potential and low unemployment are the factors to consider when choosing a college major with a strong return on investment.
Once a high school student has determined that an undergraduate degree is the path to take in order to achieve personal and professional success, the question of what a student should select for their degree program rises to the forefront. There are several bachelor’s degree programs that are always at the top of the list of highest earning degrees, and for many years, they have been in an engineering discipline. With so many fields to explore, the most dominant today are: Petroleum, Aerospace, Industrial, Software, Nuclear, Electrical, Mechanical and Civil, Biomedical, Chemical, Architectural, Computer, Materials/Materials Science.
Other STEM majors to consider are: Mathematics, Physics, Biology/Chemistry/ Nursing/Premedical/Predental, Biotechnology, Sustainability, Health Information Technology, Medical Technology, Construction Management, Quality Control/Safety technicians and Environmental Sciences.
For those with a focused interest in computers, some exciting majors with a great ROI include: Cyber security, Artificial Intelligence, Information Technology, Health Informatics, Game Design, Computer Science, Data Science and Analytics, and Big Data.
For a wider range of some unexpected options, consider these: Economics, Accounting, Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Advertising and E-Commerce, Public/Business Administration, Management and Management Information Systems, Communications, and Health Care Administration.
Unfortunately, most liberal arts degree programs such as history, sociology, comparative literature, language studies, economics and psychology, don’t usually end up on the lists of majors with the best ROI, but that should never discourage a student from making such a choice. There are so many transferable skills attained by completing such programs, and graduate degrees may then become the specialty for which they are well qualified. Many students have entered top professional schools – medical, dental, veterinary, and law schools – with a solid liberal arts degree, provided that all prerequisite coursework has been completed successfully.
Students should never select a major based solely upon likely salary out comes but on a true passion that excites and intrigues them. Instead, focus on learning as much as possible during high school and college years, and performing as well as possible. By following your true interests in selecting a major, you assure yourself of a fulfilling career. That said, for many students, it is necessary to take out student loans to pay for a bachelor’s degree; families should carefully examine earning potential and employment numbers when considering how much to borrow.
It is often a hard decision to compare an academic passion with practical and long-term outcomes, but it should be part of the decision. It is always safe to assume that whatever a student chooses to major in at college, a strong and rigorous program of study in high school will allow options and choices in higher education. Work hard in all of your classes, selecting four+ years of all core areas (math, science, foreign language, English and social studies), rounding out your curriculum with electives that fit your interests. Take the most advanced coursework available and do your very best to perform well. Choice is always a good thing.