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Staying Motivated as a Student Through the Holidays

Six Degrees That Make (Dollars and) Sense


“What’s your major?”

It’s a question that strikes fear into the heart of many an undeclared student. For good reason. The bill for a four-year degree at a public university averages about $37,000. Even if you’ve served in the military and earned military education benefits that can help offset that cost, those benefits only go so far. With that kind of price tag, there’s not a whole lot of room for exploration and changing majors.

Plus, in a competitive civilian job market, the career field you choose can determine whether or not you get a job right when you leave the military or spend a few years waiting for a job in your industry to open up.

Statistics do show that having a college degree enhances your earning potential and generates more opportunity. But degrees are kind of like cars: They all might have four tires and a steering wheel, but they’re not all going to win the Indy 500. You have to be thoughtful and choose your degree wisely to make sure you’re setting yourself up for a secure, rewarding future career.

Our referring resource, salary.com, calculated the degree’s ROI by using College Board’s estimation of $37,343 as the average cost of a degree earned at a four-year public liberal arts college and $121,930 as the average cost of a degree earned at a four-year private college. This cost includes tuition, room/board, and books. They used current salary.com cash compensation figures and added 4.3% per year incrementally (inflation and cost of living adjustment) to determine media cash compensation over the course of a 30-year career. Return on investment was calculated by first subtracting the cost of the degree from the gains over 30 years then dividing that figure by the cost.

6. Human Resources

With a degree in human resources, you can expect to spend a lot of time dealing with human beings. Regardless of the type of job you get, working closely with others, performing a variety of tasks involving benefits coordination, compensation, or training. In most organizations, human resources employees are the front lines of recruiting, hiring, benefits, employee policies and firing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the human resources field is expected to add job opportunities faster than average. Bachelor’s degree holders will likely have the best chances of snagging those jobs.

Below is a sampling of human resources jobs, their median salary and ROI.

COMPENSATION & BENEFITS MANAGER

Median Salary: $94,978

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 149%


RECRUITING MANAGER

Median Salary: $88,916

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 139%


HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER

Median Salary: $87,184

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 137%


5. Economics

The 2005 best seller “Freakonomics” upped the cool factor for this major. And although their work is still in high demand (have you turned on the TV this election season? Then you’ve probably seen an economist), the growth projection is a little slower than average. This is mostly because of the federal employee furlough – most government sectors that employ economists are shrinking.

Having said that, this is still a high-dollar field if you’re someone who takes a strong liking in the lifecycle of consumer goods. Here’s a couple of looks at what you can do with an economics degree.

FINANCIAL ASSOCIATE II (CORPORATE)

Median Salary: $108,732

30-Year Earnings: $6,413,009

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 171%

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 52%


INVESTMENT OPERATIONS MANAGER

Median Salary: $142,921

30-Year Earnings: $8,429,475

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 225%


4. Biology

There’s a lot more to biology than you might remember from 8th grade natural science class. Biology majors study the principles of animal and plant life, and can specialize in any area they’re particularly fascinated with. For example, if you have a strong interest in fish, sharks or dolphins, or their environment, you might study marine biology or aquatics. If you’re more concerned with learning how certain species of plants contribute to the environment, you might study microbiology or become a toxicologist. This is a great major for those with a passion for the natural world, and an excellent way to make a living.

LABORATORY MANAGER

Median Salary: $85,292

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 134%


CLINICAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE II

Median Salary: $72,812

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 114%


HEALTH & SAFETY SUPERVISOR

Median Salary: $71,758

30-Year Earnings: $4,232,284

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 114%


3. Engineering

Engineering majors are people who have a knack for applying the principles of science to the challenges of everyday life. There are, of course, as many different variations of engineering as there are sciences: aerospace, chemical, mechanical, civil, and electrical are just a few of the disciplines that engineering majors can study. If you have discipline, imagination and problem solving skills, you might give engineering a look. Below is a tiny sampling of the kinds of jobs available to people with an engineering degree and their return on college investment:

CHEMICAL ENGINEER II

Median Salary: $75,225

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 118%


MECHANICAL ENGINEER II

Median Salary: $71,715

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 112%


ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING SUPERVISOR II

Median Salary: $91,997

30-Year Earnings: $5,425,980

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 144%


2. Marketing

If you have a head for business and a passion for people, you may find a marketing degree works well for you. Marketing majors gain a strong foundation in business, and study the drivers behind consumer purchasing decisions and behavior. A degree in marketing can open doors in product or brand marketing, analysis, and advertising. Generally speaking, marketing majors tend to be charismatic people who enjoy leading and persuading others. The job prospects for those with a marketing degree can include:

MARKETING MANAGER

Median Salary: $86,591

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 136%


PRODUCT/BRAND MANAGER

Median Salary: $92,216

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 145%


PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER

Median Salary: $86,127

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 135%


1. English

Any career that requires a logical approach and clear communication skills benefits from an English major. An English major develops succinct writing and organizational skills, learns to analyze and articulate complex ideas, and is exposed to a vast array of concepts. There are a number of directions in which to go after earning an English degree. Here are just a couple of jobs that an English degree can prepare you for:

SPEECH WRITER

Median Salary: $78,011

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 122%


COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

Median Salary: $88,498

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 139%


CONTENT MANAGER -- WEB

Median Salary: $79,674

ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 125%


Also worth considering: degree candidates with a military background may also have earned credit that can be applied toward a degree. This means you may be a few steps closer to earning that degree than you think. Once you have earned your degree and secured the job, your hard work, discipline, and exceptional job performance will continue to propel you forward. But without that degree, the door of opportunity may not even open.

So why not explore some degree programs that might open doors for you today?

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