How to Get the Best Return on Your College Investment


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In our last post, we looked at ways you can lower the cost of your college degree – a cost that’s been climbing at an incredible rate over the last three decades. If you haven’t checked it out, we encourage you to give it a read. There are two ways you can maximize the return on your college investment, and the first is to lower the price as much as possible. This post will assume you’re familiar with the steps covered in the previous one, and we’ll turn our focus to the second strategy: directing your education toward a promising field with a high earning potential.

We already wrote about four excellent career options that will be in high demand in the coming years. Demand is an important factor, particularly with the threat of automation looming over much of the job market. At the same time, you need to look for a career that will compensate you for the additional time and money spent on your education.

Data from the College Board indicates that 2018 graduates walked away with an average of $29,800 in student loan debt in addition to their diploma. It is crucial for these young professionals to pay off their debt and accepting a low paying job isn’t going to cut it.

To be clear, it isn’t all about the money. You should choose a career path based on your passion for a field and your natural talents and abilities. Still, you’ll want to make sure your future career allows you to pay off debt and retire comfortably, which means the following degrees are all promising options.

1. Construction management

About halfway through your career as a construction manager, you can expect to clear a salary of $100,000, making this an attractive option in terms of financial incentives. That being said, there’s also some risk involved. The demand for new construction tends to fluctuate with the economy – following the 2008 housing crisis, the number of people employed in this role fell by 17.4%. Over the next decade, experts predict a slow but steady growth rate of 3.3%.

2. Computer science

This degree puts you on the fast track to a promising career in tech, giving you job options ranging from application developer to database administrator to information security analyst. Those positions will range in compensation, but computer science majors command an average starting salary of $68,800 that will increase to $113,900 midway through your career.

3. Engineering

Armed with a degree in engineering, you can expect a starting salary of almost $70,000. Put your problem-solving skills to the test with a career as a civil engineer, or learn to create new substances and materials as a chemical engineer. Almost everywhere you look, demand for engineers is growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest growth rates are found in renewables, oil and gas, and robotics.

4. Business

A business degree can take you anywhere and make you good money at the same time. With the critical thinking skills you’ve been honing you might land a job as a consultant, although the analytical experience means you could also become an accountant or a financial manager. If numbers are really your thing you can even start a career as an actuary helping insurance companies calculate the likelihood of certain scenarios. Sound like a lot of work? Median income in the field was $102,880 as of May 2018.

5. Economics

A graduate with an economics degree can pursue a wide variety of career options. You could become a financial analyst to determine the risk and potential return of certain investments, allowing you to take home an average of more than $100,000 each year, or you could become a compensation and benefits manager and help companies decide what to offer talented job applicants. In the current tight labor market, this role will earn you an average of $121,010 each year, and predictions indicate it will follow the average rate of job growth.

Money isn’t everything, but it can help free you from debt incurred in the process of earning your degree. While you’re in college (or even before, if you’re smart!), you should be making a plan to help get rid of your debt when you graduate.

Mind you, that doesn’t necessarily mean paying it off as soon as possible. Some student loans will have an interest rate as low as 3%, meaning you’re better off making the minimum required payment each month and investing the rest of your savings at a higher rate of return. Confused? We’ll address the topic of paying off your loans at a later date. For now, just remember that your post-college income is your primary tool for paying off debt. The bigger it is, the more effective it will be.