What is the ROI of your college degree?

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Undergraduate tuition, possible graduate degrees and room and board all add up — especially for students taking out loans. This can leave a potential student wondering, “Is this a wise investment?”

Read on to find out if college is a good investment for you based on typical average education costs versus estimated annual salaries.

Estimated loan payments based on degree and occupation*

Occupation Minimum required years in college, graduate school and professional programs Estimated annual salary Estimated education costs Monthly loan payments under 10-year repayment plan Percentage of monthly income put toward loans
Accountant 4 $79,520 $80,200 $850 12.83%
Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations specialist 4 $143,330 $80,200 $850 7.12%
Civil engineer 4 $94,360 $80,200 $850 10.81%
Dentist 8 $183,060 $231,708 $2,458 16.11%
Economist 4 $116,630 $80,200 $850 8.75%
English language/literature teacher, postsecondary 6 $80,180 $102,400 $1,086 16.25%
Lawyer 7 $141,180 $164,992 $1,750 14.87%
Librarian 6 $52,330 $102,400 $1,086 24.90%
Market research analyst 4 $71,570 $80,200 $850 14.25%
Marriage and family therapist 6 $54,590 $102,400 $1,086 23.87%
Microbiologist 4 $82,760 $80,200 $850 12.32%
News analyst, reporter, correspondent 4 $62,400 $80,200 $850 16.35%
Pharmacist 6 $125,510 $88,500 $939 8.98%
Physician: family/general practictioner 8 $213,270 $230,424 $2,444 13.75%
Political science teacher, postsecondary 6 $102,290 $102,400 $1,086 12.74%
Political scientist 6 $120,260 $102,400 $1,086 10.84%
Public relations specialist 4 $70,190 $80,200 $850 14.53%
Teacher (full time) 4 $28,394 $80,200 $850 35.92%
Veterinarian 8 $104,820 $212,200 $2,251 25.77%
Zoologist, wildlife biologist 6 $67,200 $102,400 $1,086 19.39%

Sources: Occupational employment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; average undergraduate tuition costs from the National Center for Education Statistics; average graduate school costs from the Urban Institute; average medical school costs from Shemmassian Academic Consulting; average pharmacy school costs from Vocational Training; average dentistry school costs and average law school costs from College Ave Student Loans; average veterinary school costs from Doctorly.
*Education costs are based on the tuition and fees for in-state, public schools with no scholarships. The chart above assumes 5 percent student loan interest on a standard 10-year repayment plan, with loan amounts for the full cost of education. These numbers will vary based on the individual and are to be used solely as an informational tool. To see how much you could pay per month based on your loan amount, interest rate and repayment terms, check out Bankrate’s student loan calculator.

In-state vs. out-of-state

The main consideration to make when deciding between an in-state and an out-of-state school is the cost. The total cost of tuition and fees varies widely based on whether you live in the state of your university or you attend an out-of-state or private school.

Type of college
Average published yearly tuition and fees
Public two-year (in-district) $3,440
Public four-year (in-state) $9,410
Public four-year (out-of-state) $23,890
Private four-year $32,410

Source: College Board

Written by
Hanneh Bareham
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Bareham specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.
Edited by
Student loans editor