There's no doubt that college is expensive. In fact, the average cost per credit hour is $594, according to a new Student Loan Hero study on the cost of a college credit.
For a typical four-year program, students will spend $71,335 on average. If you have to take out loans to pay for your own educational pursuits, you could end up paying even more thanks to interest charges.
With so much money on the line, it's important to be practical. So when deciding on your college major, it can be helpful to consider the degree's return on investment (ROI) before making a decision.
How to Determine a Degree's Potential ROI
When considering a degree's ROI, think about what the earning potential is in your chosen field.
Some fields — such as teaching — can be immensely rewarding, but are notoriously low-paying. If you can get a degree for a relatively low cost, it may be worth it. Otherwise, you may be overwhelmed with debt as you start your career. Try researching salary potential on PayScale or a similar site.
Another factor to consider is field growth. While some career fields have high average salaries (law, for instance), new graduates have saturated the market and competition is fierce. Getting your foot in the door can be difficult and many workers are forced to take lower-paying jobs to make ends meet.
One great resource is an interactive report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It outlines unemployment data by industry, starting salaries, and the income you should expect by mid-career. It's a tool that can help you see what fields are most in demand to help you ensure job security later on.
Five Majors With High Earning Potential
With those factors in mind, here are five degrees that are generally worth the money spent earning them.
Engineering is one of the top-paying careers available today. The top-paying engineering specialties are petroleum, chemical and electrical engineering.
The industry is expected to grow about 3% by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This signals continued demand for new workers. In most cases, you only need a bachelor's degree, and not a master's or professional credential, to begin your career.
And as an engineer, you can command the highest entry-level salary of all of your peers. Starting salaries average $64,891.
2. Computer Science
Computer science is another lucrative degree with the potential to work in several different areas. Organizations of every size and scope need skilled technology professionals, from small nonprofits to huge Fortune 500 companies.
Computer science is growing rapidly. The field is estimated to grow about 12% over the next seven years, outpacing many other industries.
If you enjoy this type of work, job security is high. Entry-level salaries average $61,321.
3. Math & Sciences
If you enjoy math, a degree in math and sciences can open doors for you throughout your career. You can work as a market analyst, operations researcher or project manager in a range of fields.
As companies increasingly adopt technology and research to grow their business, math professionals will be highly sought after. Experts project that the field will grow by 28% over the next few years.
The average starting salary is $55,087.
Similarly, the field of economics is in high demand, and salaries are increasing to meet the need. Economics is expected to grow 6% by 2024.
However, before pursuing a career in economics, it's important to note that most jobs require a master's degree. The added cost of graduate school can drastically increase your education costs. So it's essential to evaluate the total expense compared to the salary.
The starting median salary is $52,100.
This major often gets a bad reputation for fierce competition and low salaries. However, communications salaries have recently increased and demand for new workers has gone up, as well. Within this broad field, you can pursue a career in public relations, marketing, or broadcast media.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the addition of 27,000 jobs in communications by 2024.
The average starting salary for someone in this major is $47,047.
Selecting a major is a huge decision with long-lasting implications for your future. Before making a choice, sit down and evaluate your financial, personal and professional goals. Then you can decide what makes the most sense for you.
Remember: Passion is important, but so is your future. Earning a degree that promises better salary and employment opportunities means you can pay off student loans faster and actually enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Editor's note: Your student loan repayments can have an impact on your credit scores. To see how your repayment history is affecting your credit scores, you can check out a snapshot of your credit absolutely free using Credit.com's Credit Report Summary.
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