Which College Degrees Have the Best Return on Investment?

Looking for the best degrees to get with the best starting salaries? Take a look at our list of the top college degrees that have the highest return on investment.

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For the first time in years, a lot of people are questioning the validity of college degrees, especially in the current economic climate. With various demographic shifts affecting the demand for college-educated students and increasingly favoring the trades, going for a college degree is no longer viewed as a sure shot by many.

Plus, the rising cost of tuition puts even more pressure on students to find a major that will start paying right away and offer great job prospects for now and the future. However, there are still plenty of great majors out there that show promise and steady demand. Let’s take a look at some of the college degrees that provide the best return on you rinvestment.

Understanding ROI in College Education

When you hear about ROI, or return on investment, in education, you're looking at what you get back from what you invest in your college degree.

Think about it like this: if you spend money on a degree, the ROI is the extra money you earn because of that degree.

You want a high ROI to make sure that your time and money spent in college helps you make more money in your future jobs.

How to calculate ROI:

  1. The cost of the degree (including tuition, books, and any other fees).
  2. Your earnings over time because of that degree.

Subtract the cost of the degree from the earnings, and what's left is your ROI.

Factors that can affect your ROI:

  • The field of study — some fields may lead to higher paying jobs than others.
  • The reputation of the school — some schools have better connections or higher quality education (like Ivy League schools).
  • Your network — the people you meet in college can lead to job opportunities.

Choosing wisely means looking at these factors and thinking about how they will help you in the long run. Remember, a degree with the best ROI is one that not only pays back its cost but also provides you with opportunities to grow and earn well throughout your career.

Keep these points in mind as you decide on the right degree for you.

Top 5 Degrees With High ROI

When you're choosing a college degree, considering the return on investment (ROI) is crucial. Degrees in fields like engineering, healthcare, and technology often lead to careers with strong earning potential and job security.


An Engineering degree offers a broad range of career opportunities across various industries. You can specialize in areas like civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering. In these fields, you're likely looking at a median salary of around $80,000 to $100,000 per year after gaining some experience.

Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences

The healthcare sector is expanding rapidly, ensuring Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences degrees remain high in ROI. With average salaries well above $60,000 for various positions, job prospects in nursing, dentistry, or medical technology are robust.

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services

Degrees in Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services can lead you to high-demand fields such as data analysis, network security, and software development. Salaries in these careers typically range from $70,000 to well over six figures based on expertise and location.

Engineering Technologies/Technicians

Specializing in Engineering Technologies/Technicians involves applied engineering skills that support engineers. Your career could branch into manufacturing, quality control, or product development, earning you a median salary between $50,000 and $75,000 annually.

Mathematics and Statistics

A degree in Mathematics and Statistics equips you with analytical skills prime for careers in finance, research, or technology sectors. Salaries for these analytical professions often start in the $60,000 range and can climb with experience and specialized skills.

Remember, these figures are estimates, and actual salaries can vary by location, experience, and the current job market.

Analyzing Long-Term ROI of College Degrees

When you're choosing a college degree, considering the Return on Investment (ROI) is crucial. Long-term ROI measures how much you stand to earn over time compared to what you spend on your education. Here's what you need to consider:

  • Earnings Post Graduation: Degrees with high potential salaries typically offer better ROI.
  • Career Stability: Look for fields with steady demand.
  • Cost of Education: Balance potential earnings with the cost of your degree.

Key Factors Influencing ROI:

  1. Field of Study: Your chosen field greatly impacts your financial future.
  2. Alumni Success: Research the career trajectories of alumni from your prospective program.
  3. Education Cost Vs. Earnings: Weigh the total cost of education against projected earnings.

Sample ROI Breakdown:

Degree TypeAverage CostAverage Early Career SalaryAverage Mid-Career Salary
Computer Science$50,000$70,000$120,000
Business Management$40,000$55,000$95,000

Educational debt is a part of your ROI calculation. Lower debt means a quicker break-even point. Consider scholarships, in-state tuition, and public colleges to reduce costs.

Remember, these are average numbers. Your experience will vary based on location, industry, and personal circumstances. Use this data as a starting point, and do your own research for the most accurate picture.

Factoring in College Costs Vs. Future Earnings

When you’re choosing a college degree, it's smart to consider the costs of your education against what you might earn in the future. Think of it like an investment: you want to put money into something that will give you more money back later.

Initial Costs:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Books
  • Room and Board

Your initial costs are what you pay while in school. Tuition is the big one, but there are also fees, books, and living expenses like room and board.

Future Earnings:

  1. Starting salary
  2. Potential salary growth
  3. Industry stability

Your future earnings are the money you make from jobs after graduation. Look at the starting salary for your field and how much it could grow. Also, how stable are the jobs? Will there still be demand in ten years?

To figure this out, compare the costs and earnings. A table helps:

DegreeCost (4 years)Starting Salary10-Year Potential

If Degree A costs less and offers a good starting salary, it may have a better ROI (Return on Investment) than Degree B.

Remember to factor in student loans, as they can affect your net earnings.

Use this approach to weigh different degrees and find the best ROI for you. Be careful with your choice as it could impact your financial future.

Evaluating the Job Market for Degree Holders

When you examine the job market, look closely at the employment rates for graduates in your field of interest. Higher employment rates suggest better job security and opportunities post-graduation. Pay attention to:

  • Demand: Fields like HealthcareEngineering, and Technology often have a high demand for professionals.
  • Average Salaries: Graduates from programs like Petroleum Engineering or Pharmacy Sciences tend to have higher starting salaries.
  • Growth Potential: Industries such as Renewable Energy and Information Technology offer strong growth prospects.
  • Flexibility: Degrees that allow for versatile career paths, such as Business Administration, can open doors across numerous industries.

Use data to guide your decisions. Resources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provide valuable information on employment trends. Keep in mind regional variations, as job prospects can significantly differ depending on the location.

Remember to consider:

  • Job Stability: Evaluate if the field is known for fluctuating job security.
  • Qualification Requirements: Some positions may require additional certifications or licenses beyond a degree.

Here's a snapshot of key areas:

Degree FieldEmployment RateAverage Starting SalaryGrowth Rate
EngineeringModerate to HighAbove AverageStable
Information TechnologyHighAbove AverageRapid

Tailor your education to align with market needs by gaining relevant skills and experience through internships and networking within your industry.

About the author

Brian Meiggs
Hi, I'm Brian Meiggs! A personal finance expert, entrepreneur, and the founder of My Millennial Guide. My drive is to help others unlock the wealth of freedom and pave the path to financial success. With my bachelor's degree in finance, I help millennials follow the smart money in order to increase their earning potential and start building wealth for the future. I write regularly about side hustles, investing, and general personal finance topics aimed to help anyone earn more, pay off debt, and reach financial freedom. I have been quoted in major publications including Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, NASDAQ, Discover, GoDaddy, BiggerPockets, Fox News, Debt.com, Quick Sprout, Money Geek, MSN Money and many more!


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