These days, a Bachelor’s degree is almost a necessity in order to obtain the kind of work that could be built into a real career. A high school diploma just won’t cut it anymore. Unfortunately, the same can be said for Associates’ degrees, and in many cases, technical school diplomas. Having a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t automatically translate into better wages, however. It may even be the case that a graduate with a new degree will make much less per hour than a professional blue collar worker who never went to college at all. While it’s a shame in some respects, it’s important for college bound high schoolers to understand what they’re getting into before they sign off on those student loan offers.
Looking at the situation from purely a financial point of view, it simply doesn’t make good economic sense to get into a mountain of student loan debt and only be able to expect a relatively paltry paycheck upon graduation. That’s why its important to know how much particular career fields will pay. In that way, students can better determine what school is a good fit. For instance, a school of the caliber of Harvard or Stanford may not be a particularly good economic option for a student seeking to pursue a career in early childhood education or social work, since the student would likely spend the rest of their lives and a good chunk of a life insurance settlement paying off the debt from that type of loan. Obviously, the effect of various grants and scholarships can negate this excessive cost, but all things being equal, a good state school is a much better bargain for an excellent preparatory education in either of these fields.
Animal sciences is a tough nut to crack, but it’s one of the very lowest of the bachelor’s-degree requiring professions out there. Jobs in this sector tend to include work on farms, or in the best case scenario, in labs. If you’re a fan of your local zoo, you might do well to bone up on veterinary medicine as well to improve your chances of starting out on the high side of the pay scale, but otherwise, don’t expect to start out at much more than around $31,500.
Early Childhood Education is the single most unappreciated profession in America today. Few jobs have proven to be nearly as critical as teaching early ages in impacting the economy and future prospects of our population, but still fall on the very short side of the pay spectrum for college-degree holders. There is even a push to begin mandating additional education up to a master’s degree level in some people’s mind, but teachers from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade unfortunately can’t expect more than around $34,000 to start, and a solid tongue lashing from every politician they encounter when the issue of pay increases come up, even after years of experience.
Behavioral sciences hit the list for lowest-paid starting professions largely because most practitioners find their way into private practice relatively early in their career. Starting wages of around $34,000 indicate graduates who haven’t made the leap yet, and may be working for others as yet.
If you’re not doing physical therapy, then taking on a leisure services-centered degree is also low paying, coming in at around $33,500 to start. You’ll find graduates in these fields working for local parks and recreation departments, hotels, and spas. The pay isn’t great, but if you’re into having a good time, then this field might be a decent fit for you.
While it makes good sense to get a degree, to go to college and study hard and make something of yourself, it’s good to keep in mind what the end game is going to look like. Simply put, don’t take out $100,000 in student loans to pay for an education that’s only going to net you $30,000 per year. If you can, look to spend the equivalent of your first year’s salary on your education. $30,000 for teachers, $100,000 for a lawyer, and so forth. Be smart about it!