What’s the Value of a College Education

How much is that college degree really worth? That depends on your major. It turns out that some undergraduate and graduate diplomas are worth a lot more during a lifetime of work.

It’s even better if you have a professional degree, like accounting.¬†You will make $3.7 million during your career, on average. A doctor will earn $6 million. But it’s tough to find a job in an area like architecture right now, which is tied to the housing market. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates with degrees in architecture is 13.9 percent.

If you become a petroleum engineer, you’ll earn $90,000 out of college. If you become social worker, you will make $35,000. The differences are huge. The question is, what are you prepared for and what do you want to do? What are your interests? What are your abilities?

Professionals like engineers, scientists and even financial types tend to have two careers. First, they have a technical career – they are a chemist, engineer, biologist, bank analyst. But then they have a second career as a manager.

If you work in a job that’s more technical, the odds that you will become a manager are much higher than if you become a schoolteacher. I can tell you, it’s good to be the boss. You make a lot more money when you are in charge.

The issue is coming up with the cash. You need to compare the cost and the benefit. Even the expensive colleges cost only a fraction of their ultimate payoff. In fact, one could argue that the only choice more expensive than going to college is not going to college.

The classics people at Georgetown walk the other way when they see me coming. Their view is that this commercializes learning. They are right. Maybe colleges do not want to be training foot soldiers for capitalism. But, by and large, whether they like it or not, they are selling jobs to students.

Only 10 percent of degrees now are in the liberal arts. Educators are very concerned that the economic value of a college degree will crowd out Shakespeare. It still makes sense go to an elite four-year liberal arts college and attend a graduate or professional school. And if you go to a place like Harvard, it’s like a big summer camp. You can go there for four years, learn a lot, make great connections, and develop as a human being. But then you will need to go to graduate school to focus and prepare for an occupation.

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