Return on Investments of a University Degree

  • April 2013
  • Posted By JohnnyG

If you are considering going to College one of the major things on your mind is the cost of a degree. This varies by school and program, of course, as well as the length of time it takes to get the degree you want. Higher education does cost more, but it also pays more over the course of a lifetime. The average high school graduate can expect to earn about 30 thousand a year. For the average Bachelor degree holder this figure jumps to 52 thousand. A master’s degree is worth 62 thousand. Over the course of a lifetime, this adds up to a million to a million and a half more income, on average. But this does not show the full picture. Certain university degrees actually are worth more for the investment made than other degrees. So what are the university degrees with the best ROI in the US?

Before that can be answered, one needs to know the cost of a degree. On average, for a bachelor’s degree at a private University, one will pay around $25,150 per year. Public colleges average $6.585 per year. Both figures are tuition and fees only. Note also that the cost for getting a master’s degree has gone up 60% over the last 15 years, with Ph.D. degrees showing similar increases. This means that one really needs to look at the pay of the job, the demand for the field, and the cost together to determine which degree actually does have a good return on the investment being made.

Here are the five top University degrees with the best ROI in the US and the schools that have them:

  • · #1, Harvey Mudd College.
    • · Engineering, general or Electrical graduates might pay $213 thousand for their degrees, but on average, they earn $123 thousand a year. Over 30 years these degree holders can expect to earn $1,496,000 as a return on their investment over what a high school diploma holder might earn.
  • · #2, California Institute of Technology.
    • · Mechanical engineers from this college pay $207 thousand for their degrees but earn about $126 thousand a year on average. Their ROI over 30 years is $1,417,000.
  • · #3, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • · Mechanical Engineers and Software Developers earn $120 thousand a year on average on their $201 thousand degrees. With a 30 year ROI of $1,238,000 it is easy to see why this is a popular school.
  • · #4, Stanford University
    • · The average graduate from here gains a $1,194,00 ROI over 30 years. Degrees range from Biology to Mechanical engineers, with engineering being the better ROI. Degrees cost $220 thousand and average pay is $116 thousand.
  • · #5, Princeton University
    • · Princeton grads in economics earn around $129 thousand a year average. This means their 30-year ROI on the $206 thousand degree stacks up to $1,163,000.

Of course, you will also want to consider worse ROI in the cost of a degree. The five worse schools to attend and the degrees they have that are poor returns on the investment are Savannah College of Art and Design, Seton Hill University, Judson University, Medaile College, and Meredith College. The type of degree matters as well. None of these schools has strong science programs, with degrees focused on business, art and design, and veterinary medicine. When selecting University degrees with the best ROI in the US engineering degrees of all kinds lead to the highest paying jobs. One might find that petroleum engineering is not listed here, yet that type of job is among the highest pay in the country.


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