Money isn’t everything, but you’re going to have bills after graduation—including those for any student loans.
Not all college degrees are created equal. There might have been a time when going to college, no matter the degree, was enough to land you a stable career. Those were also the days when a high school diploma and 40 hours a week were enough to buy a house and support a family of five.
Since then, wages have stagnated and career fields have become much more specialized. Finding a career that isn’t within your degree field may be difficult. If you’re planning to go to college, consider the long-term earning potential of your degree.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a comprehensive list of careers and then breaks down:
You want to look for a career field that has a decent pay-to-education-level ratio, but also one that has job openings. A career requiring a masters-level degree that pays $30,000 a year on average is going to be a long-term struggle. On the inverse, a high-paying field with extremely low employment might also not be the best option (think professional athlete).
What are some of the toughest degrees to match with a strong salary?
Broadcasting – Radio and TV have changed drastically in the past few years. TV personalities and radio hosts average around $32,000 a year. On top of that, more and more stations are turning to robotic systems with canned material. That means jobs are going away.
Teacher – It is truly a career of passion. The hours are rough, with work often following you home during the year. The pay can be spotty, sometimes only coming in during the school year. Average pay is just shy of $40,000 a year. With an average of 2,200 hours a year, that’s about $18 an hour, and that is done in nine or ten months.
Religion – Unless you really feel drawn to ministry, studying religion is going to be a struggle post-graduation. Non-leadership roles average less than $30,000 per year while leadership is just over $40,000 a year. The job market growth is about average, and since these degrees usually require a specialized school, everyone you went to school with is competing for the same spots.
This isn’t to say don’t pursue these degrees and careers. Obviously, the world needs teachers; it’s a shame they aren’t paid better. Be smart about how much you invest in your education with the understanding that you won’t be rolling in cash after graduation.
Now, if you want to make money, no matter your passion for the field or not, here are your best degree options and careers.
Engineering – Basically, any degree that is associated with engineering is going to pay well, $80,000–$140,000 depending on your specialization. And that is without having to go for a masters. Growth is average for most fields of engineering.
Doctor and physician – Yes, doctors make a good amount of money—over $200,000 depending on your specialty. But you will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get there. Job growth is above average, so the chances of you landing a job and paying back all that debt is good.
IT and computer science – Tech is huge, and it’s not going anywhere. Salary is $115,000–$142,000, depending on where exactly you go in the field. The demand for people who can code and understand complex computer systems keeps growing, between 11% and 14% year over year. As more and more of the world is digitized, the demand keeps growing. And, if you are an innovator, there is a chance you could become the next tech billionaire. But stick to your schooling and focus on your work, chances of being a billionaire are slim.
If you want to learn more, the Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps the Occupational Outlook Handbook updated on a regular basis. You can search for the career field you’re looking at to learn more about what is going on in your field of study. You shouldn’t base your whole career on how much you stand to make, but it should be taken into consideration.