Between the sky-high overall cost and hefty student loan tab, more students and their families are reconsidering the value of a college education.
But ultimately, it’s the choice of major and type of degree that most affects your return on investment.
Students who pursue a degree specifically in computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering or economics — mostly STEM disciplines — earn the most overall, according to a new analysis of bachelor’s degrees and median earnings by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Workers in those fields have an annual income of $100,000 or more, the report found.
Alternatively, those with degrees in education, elementary education, fine arts, family and consumer sciences and social work had annual earnings of less than $60,000.
Gender wage gaps persist in top-earning fields
Yet, wage gaps persist across the board.
In all cases, men earn more than women, the Census Bureau found. For example, women with computer science degrees earned $91,990, while men earned $115,500. Among economics degree holders, women earned $84,750 while men earned $107,300.
“This career inequity begins immediately when women enter the workforce and continues at every juncture,” said Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez, host of the “Money Confidential” podcast.
Consider the return on your academic investment
Ultimately, getting a college degree typically pays, studies show.
Bachelor’s degree holders generally earn 75% more than those with just a high school diploma, according to The College Payoff, a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
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However, it’s important to consider your area of study before taking out student loans to pay for college, said Robert Franek, editor in chief of The Princeton Review.
“Just as a rule of thumb, students shouldn’t take on more debt than they expect to earn their first year after graduation,” he said.
At the very least, that “forces the conversation of what is going to be the real return on my academic investment.”
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