It’s well-documented that investing in a college education pays dividends over a lifetime.
But with tuition and fees rising faster than family incomes, figuring out the best path to a degree is easier said than done.
New guidance from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce seeks to take out some of the guesswork by outlining five (sometimes contradictory) rules for students to follow as they make decisions about their future.
- Rule 1: More education is usually better. Median earnings increase with each additional level of educational attainment. The median earnings of a high school diploma holder are $36,000, while a bachelor’s degree holder makes $62,000, and a graduate degree holder earns $80,000, on average.
- Rule 2: Majors matter more. A bachelor’s degree in architecture and engineering leads to median annual earnings of $85,000, almost double the median annual earnings of education majors of $46,000.
- Rule 3: Majors are important, but they do not control one’s destiny. The top 25 percent of liberal arts majors ($81,000) make more than the bottom 25 percent of architecture and engineering majors ($60,000).
- Rule 4: Less education can be worth more. Twenty-eight percent of associate degree holders, and many workers with one-year certificates, earn more than the average bachelor’s degree holder. Some bachelor’s degrees holders earn more than the average worker with a graduate degree.
- Rule 5: Most humanities and liberal arts majors never catch up with the highest earning majors such as STEM, healthcare, and business. Earnings for majors such as business, biology and life sciences, and physical sciences can overtake earnings of social science majors at later ages.
Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.