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Why a College Degree is Worth the Money

Jun 30, 2008
These days, the rising cost of college tuition has many people questioning the value of a college education. They wonder if it is still worth it to invest in a degree. This is especially true when it means putting off employment for at least two more years for an Associate's degree, or four more years for a Bachelor's degree. Some people fear that the steep debt they will accumulate, along with the lost years of work just aren't worth it in the long run. But arguably, they are wrong.

Despite the fact that the cost of higher education has risen faster than inflation, the pay-off is still strong. The difference in wages between an employee with a high school education and an employee with an Associate's or Bachelor's degree is significant.

With some research, you can find out which college degrees offer the most bang for your buck. If you're on a tight budget and want to get the most return on your education dollar, an Associate's degree may be the way to go. The payback on an Associate's degree over a high school diploma is huge. After only two years of schooling at a relatively low tuition rate, you can increase your salary by as much as twenty-five percent. Particularly good Associate's degree programs include anything in the computer technology or engineering fields.

Bachelor's degrees are also great for increasing your earning potential, and are necessary for many fields. With a Bachelor's degree, the pay-off is greater over a longer period of time. You'll see the long-term benefits in terms of promotions, and whether you're considered qualified for certain positions.

Master's degrees are less profitable, particularly in the liberal arts or social sciences. Unless you go on to pursue a PhD, a Master's degree doesn't get you much of a return on your investment in terms of increased salary. So, think carefully before you put a lot of money into one. Of course, if your employer offers to pay for it, it's a great way to enhance your skills!

One exception is the MBA (Master's of Business Administration). Anyone in finance, marketing or business management who wants to move into upper management or the executive levels of their business will likely need to pursue an MBA at some point. These degrees are worth every penny and then some.

Finally, law degrees and medical degrees are the most expensive investments of all. But, they are also the most lucrative. Although you may graduate in debt to the tune of six figures, you'll make over a million dollars across your lifetime. So, you will easily be able to pay off any debts and still enjoy living a very comfortable lifestyle.

The statistics don't lie. In 2006, the Census Bureau reported a Bachelor's degree meant about $27,000 more per year in income compared to a high school graduate. Averaging that out over a lifetime and taking into consideration that you typically only pay for college for four years, it's obvious that a college education quickly pays for itself.

In fact, over a lifetime, typical college graduates make between $300,000 and one million dollars more than high school graduates after you adjust for tuition, room & board and lost income while attending school. There's little doubt that earning some type of college degree is well worth your time and money.
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