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What is the Value of a College Education? A Look at the ROI

Have you considered earning a college degree? Did you second guess your decision to pursue higher education after exploring the costs of college tuition? You are not alone. As college tuition rises, many individuals weigh the value of a college education and wonder about how they are going to pay for school. However, instead of thinking of college as just more school, think of it as a business investment. The first thing you should do when considering a business investment is make sure that you will earn a decent return on that investment (ROI)—meaning that you will get back more than you put in.

Exploring the Value of a College Degree

Considering a college degree from an ROI perspective requires some research. Below we have listed the various degree levels available in our current employment market:

  • Certificate & Diplomas- Certificate programs offer a quick return on investment, as these are the shortest and least expensive programs. Since they are typically career-focused, graduates are usually training for specific jobs and may have an easier time finding employment right after graduation.


  • Associate’s Degree- This two-year degree offers a broader education than certificates and diplomas, but is less expensive than a bachelor’s degree. With an associate’s degree, you can launch directly into your career and return to school at a later date for your bachelor’s degree if you so choose.


  • Bachelor’s Degree- This four-year degree provides an in-depth education and is the minimum level of schooling required for many office positions. When it comes to ROI, this degree gives you some bang for your buck. The US Census Bureau claims that earning a bachelor’s degree almost doubles a person’s income over the course of a lifetime. When deciding on schools, make sure you shop around for the best tuition rate and finical aid package available to you.


  • Graduate Degrees- Graduate degrees include both master’s and doctoral programs. When it comes to deciding on whether an advanced degree is worth the investment, it depends largely on your industry and career goals. For instance, many positions in the sciences will require advance education, and typically, employers will prefer candidates who have earned an MBA when it comes to management roles. Before deciding on whether grad school is for you, make sure you do your research.


  • Professional Degrees- Considering that professional degree holders receive the highest income according the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for many, becoming a doctor or a lawyer is worth every penny. However, professional degrees are also a huge time investment, in addition to a financial one, so before you pursue a professional degree, it’s important to be absolutely sure of your preferred career path.

Show Me The Money

So, now you know what college degrees have to offer, but what is the value of a college education, exactly, when it comes down to your paycheck? In 2010, the BLS reported the following weekly earnings for full-time and salary workers over the age of 25, broken down by degree level:

  • High School Diploma/ GED- $626
  • Some College- $712
  • Associate’s Degree- $767
  • Bachelor’s Degree- $1, 038
  • Master’s Degree-1, 272
  • Doctoral Degree- $1,550
  • Professional Degree- $1,610

Based on this data, earning an associate’s degree will increase a high school graduate’s weekly income by 22.5%, and with the addition of bachelor’s degree, high school graduates’ salaries will almost double. A master’s degree boosts an individual’s salary from that of a bachelor’s degree holder’s by $234 weekly, which could amount to over $12,00 annually. Doctoral degrees and professional degrees, which require the highest level of time commitment to obtain, also pull in the highest weekly salaries, at $1,550 and $1,610 per week respectively.

With these salary findings, It is pretty clear that education pays. On average, individuals earn more as their level of education increases. That being said, the value of a college education is more than just financial. Earning a degree can not only provide you with advanced knowledge, but also set you on your path to a career that is personally fulfilling. With careful planning and research, you can see a payoff in your academic goals on a number of fronts. So, what are you waiting for? Start your search for a degree program today.

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