How Much is Your Degree Really Worth? Some Key ROI Stats

ROI stands for return on investment. Businesses calculate the ROI of their investments in lots of things – their marketing expenses, their costs of producing a new product or service, etc. Individuals who invest in the stock market look carefully on the return from those investments. It’s probably time for students to take a good, long look at their investment in a college degree and what they can expect to get in return once they enter their career fields.

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There is a big difference between the ROI of a degree in a technical or medical program and that of one in a humanities program. As you consider how much your degree will cost, you must also consider what your income will be after you put that degree to use in a career. This is your ROI.

There are some degrees that have a poor ROI, and students should be aware of them as they make decisions about a degree field.

  1. Sociology

Those who choose careers in sociology do so because they have a sense of mission to be of service to others. They do not enter the field with the expectation of every becoming wealthy. Three typical jobs in this field are social worker, law enforcement officer, and counselor.

  • Their average lifetime income is about $2.7 million.
  • If they go to a public college, their ROI is an average of about 51%
  • if they have attended private colleges, however, the ROI is much lower – an average of 20%.


  1. Fine Arts

This is a broad field, including music, art, design, art history and such. Again, people do not go into these careers with the expectation of great wealth. Three typical careers are museum curator/researcher, graphic designer, and illustrator. Their ROI is very similar to sociology professionals.

  • Average ROI if attending a public school is 69%
  • Average ROI if attending a private school is about 20%
  • Average lifetime income is $2.6 million


  1. Education

Again, no one goes into this field expecting huge earnings. While their responsibility for education youth is enormous, they do not have salaries that reflect that responsibility. Three career positions include early childhood/daycare center teacher, elementary teacher, and high school teacher. Unlike from working at top companies like Essay Supply or Apple, there is a large discrepancy better earners in daycare facilities and those in public elementary and high schools.

  • A daycare center teacher can expect lifetime earnings of about $1.6 million. With a public-school degree, the ROI is about 43%; with a private school degree, ROI is quite low – 13%.
  • Elementary and high school teachers are closer. They have an average lifetime income of $3.1 million. ROI if a public college degree is about 83%; from a private school degree, about 24.5%.


  1. Theology/Religious Study

Those who choose this as a career have two options – to go into some field of ministry or to become a religious scholar which will require graduate level degrees. Some theology majors also teach in parochial schools. In any of these situations, income is not going to make anyone rich. Three typical positions include religious educator, chaplain in the healthcare industry, or pastor. Pastors of very large churches in wealthy demographic areas may enjoy a higher income, but usually, they have doctoral degrees.

  • Average lifetime earnings are about $3 million
  • Average annual salary is $53,000
  • ROI from a public college is 83%
  • ROI from a private school is an average of 25%


  1. Hospitality/Tourism

This is a career of long hours and hard work. And for all of that hard behind-the-scenes work, you pay is not anything to brag about. Three typical positions in this industry are event/meeting planner, hotel manager, and catering manager. Here is what you can expect:

  • Average lifetime earnings = $3 million
  • Average ROI if degree earned in a public college = 78%
  • Average ROI with degree from private college = 25%

NOTE: Of the three positions, hotel managers earn the highest, an average of $65,000


  1. Diet/Nutrition Specialist

Positions in this career field include dietician at schools or hospitals, food services management for catering companies, and food scientist. In any of these areas, income is not something that others would envy.

  • Average lifetime earnings = $3.4 million
  • Average ROI from a public-school degree = 90%
  • Average ROI from a private school = 27%

Note: Food scientists tend to be at the upper end of salaries.

  1. Psychology

With just a Bachelor’s degree, the field is limited to psychology majors. Most must go on to get Master’s or Ph.D.’s if they intend to move into higher income brackets. With that Bachelor’s, however, positions include being a human services worker, a bereavement counselor (e.g. with a funeral home or hospital), and a career counselor in an educational institution (primarily in community colleges). The good news is that overall job growth for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in psychology is high according to Maryville University. Here is what to expect:

  • An average lifetime earnings of $2.3 million
  • An ROI with a public-school degree of 40.5%
  • An ROI with a private school degree of 18%

diverse, and they are not high unless individual hits a homerun with investigative reporting or lands a job with a major news network. In general, here is what to expect:

  • Lifetime earnings on average of about $2.8 million
  • Average ROI from a public school = 73%
  • Average ROI from a private school = 21%

Obviously, any of these 8 career choices will not make you rich. Increasing your income will be a matter of going back to school for a graduate degree and, in many instances, moving into a higher-end career opportunity. For these majors, however, money is definitely not the prime motivator. If you have chosen one of these careers, it is because you see value in what you will be doing more than the value of income. Just be certain that you go into these careers with your eyes wide open.


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