Do Expensive Degrees Translate to High-Paying Jobs?
If you work hard enough, anything is possible — this is the basic premise of the American Dream. However, recent reports suggest that upward mobility in the country is increasingly tethered to some form of higher education. Unfortunately, the costs associated with a postsecondary degree create an impenetrable barrier for some aspiring students, while many who borrow money will find themselves among the growing ranks of student loan debtors upon graduation.
There’s no debate that those with a college degree have a higher employment rate than people without. It’s also true that college graduates out-earn those lacking a postsecondary education. However, the pay that graduates can expect when they enter the job market varies widely, creating a disparity in the rate many can pay off their student loans. Further to that point, both the Wall Street Journal and The Economist have reported that not all degrees offer a financial upside. Compare that with a selection of high-paying jobs that don’t require a college education and the question of which path will meet one’s longterm financial goals becomes more complicated.
In 2016, the average cost of a public, degree-granting postsecondary education was $16,757 (tuition, fees, room, board), while a private institution was $39,011. For students tasked with paying off these costs in the future, real-world earning potential is a big consideration. However, with institution , field of study, location, one’s gender and race, overall strength of the economy, and other factors affecting income, there’s no crystal ball when it comes to an individual’s future balance sheet. However, there are resources available to help shed light on education costs and the potential for future income:
- The Consumer Financial Protections Bureau offers guides for financial aid, student loans and debt
- COLLEGEdata offers a net price calculator to help paint a picture of out-of-pocket higher education costs.
- PayScale’s College ROI report shows costs associated with specific institutions against postgraduate pay.
- Both PayScale and Salary offer tools that estimate income based on profession and location.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides various employment data publications, including an Occupational Outlook Handbook and Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
In the end, the decision whether or not to pursue higher education is personal. However, looking at an income vs. debt equation beforehand can help people make it a financially responsible one as well.