Bachelor’s Degrees with the Best ROI: Did I Make a Huge Mistake?
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you might know that I obtained a BA in Political Science before I went back to school to get my Master’s degree in Social Work. I was fortunate to receive a pretty large scholarship for undergrad, and a decent sized scholarship for grad school (both were private schools). Despite the scholarships and working part-time throughout the school year and full-time during the summer, I ended up finishing school with over $30,000 in student loan debt. Just for reference, my first job as a professional social worker paid me a whopping $42,500 annually. While $42.5 might not sound that bad, to some folks (and I hear you!) Trust me, $42.5 doesn’t go very far in NYC.
But before you start thinking I’ve made a, “huge mistake” and I’m broke and miserable, I’m not! I don’t regret my decision to earn either degree and I enjoy my work (most days). Making a difference in peoples’ lives is important to me and even though I don’t make the “big bucks”, my salary has increased as I’ve been promoted.
That being said, paying off big student loans with a small salary was a real struggle. I liken it to trying to fill in a “big hole” with a “little shovel”. It’s possible, to pay off a large sum of debt on a not so large salary (I did!), but it’s much easier to pay off a “big debt” with a big salary.
Average tuition and fees at a 4-year public university $8,865 a year * 4 = $35,460
Average tuition and fees at a 4-year private university $29,056 a year * 4 = $116,224!
*2012-2013 College Board Statistics (Tuition costs only! Room and board NOT included)
So how do I pick a bachelor’s degree that will make me the “big bucks?”
Really? You’re going to take advice from me after I told you I took an unofficial, “vow of poverty?” Just kidding… sort of. When thinking about a potential majors, I think it’s important to consider your natural skill set. You know…what you enjoy and what you are good at. Sometimes they are the same and other times they’re not. If you’re really good at physics, but it’s completely boring to you, it might not be the best idea to pursue a degree (and career) in physics. 50+ years working a job you hate sounds pretty miserable to me. So my advice is to consider earning a degree in subject area that interests you AND prepares you to enter a profession with a good starting salary.
Choose your college major wisely (Turning bachelor’s degrees into $$$)
- Math: Good with numbers? Math and engineering majors can easily transition themselves into a lot of lucrative careers. The median salary for an entry level engineer with Bachelors in Engineering is $59,638*. Not too shabby for students coming right out of college with no prior work experience.
- English: Love to read and write? Enjoy writing editorials, editing press releases and composing speeches for senior staff? Transition your love for language into a degree in Communications. The median expected salary for a speech writer in the United States is $112,657*. And your mom said you majored in “unemployment”…wrong!
- Science: Enjoy helping others and have an interest in the medical science? Registered nurses are in high demand these days. If you want to make a decent salary and get a good return on your college “investment”, nursing might be the perfect career for you. Median salary for a staff RN with a Bachelor’s in Nursing, $67,610*.
- Internet Technology: Love the interweb? Excited about business, e-commerce and internet communication? IT project managers with a Bachelor of Science in Internet Technology make a median salary of $73,500*.
- Foreign Language: Being bio or multilingual makes you a great candidate for jobs in our global economy. If you speak more than one language you are much more marketable to employers across a variety of professions. A bachelor of international studies prepares you for jobs working in politics, sales, business and more. Median salary for an entry level sales rep is $55,956*.
**Before anybody gets riled up because they aren’t making the salaries listed above with the same degree, these obviously aren’t my statistics. All salaries listed above were found at Salary.com. If you’re curious and for comparison, Salary.com reports the median salary of a masters level social worker as $57,188. This sounds a little high to me, but again, that’s the median, not the average salary, and that figure includes professionals in all stages in their careers (anyone who has an MSW).
So tell me, was your bachelor’s degree a good “investment?” Do you wish you’d chosen another degree or profession?