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Return on College Investment Methodology

This tool is designed to help students who are considering a specific job or multiple careers determine the educational path to invest in, associated college majors, job prospects and earnings potential. Together, these factors provide information about the potential return on an original investment in a college degree, whether it is funded through savings and earnings, financial aid or student loans.

Your Interests

The results are based on two key user selections:

  • The type of degree. Users may select an associate degree, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree or a professional degree.
  • The career field in which they are interested. (Students who don't have a defined career path may choose any that they find appealing.)

Your Results

A list of jobs associated with the degree type and career field chosen allows the user to explore potential related careers. Each result contains detailed return on investment information.

  • Job title and short job description as provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics.
  • Starting salary based on the 25% percentile of all salaries for that career in the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. This amount is also equivalent to the maximum recommended borrowing level to earn the chosen degree.
  • Recommended degree type to obtain one of the listed jobs.
  • Number of new jobs needed nationally in the near future (5–10 years) as provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections, Table 1.7 Occupational projections and worker characteristics.
  • Graph of common program costs, with total costs rounded to the nearest $1,000, for the desired degree and a return on investment (ROI) of additional net income (with program costs subtracted) earned over the 14-year period after high school graduation by a college graduate when compared to a high school graduate who did not attend college. A negative ROI indicates that total earnings over the 14-year period, net the cost of college, are less than those of a high school graduate in the same field who did not attend college. The displayed scenarios are based on the degree type chosen by the user:
  • Reality check that less than half of the people who graduate with a specific major have jobs associated with that major. The proportion of jobs listed as being associated with the given major is computed using data from the most recent American Community Survey 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) from the U.S. Census Bureau and career path data from the University of Tennessee's "What Can I Do with This Major?" website.
  • The top three majors associated with the career, the proportion of college graduates with that major working in the job, and the percent of graduates with that major working in a job related to their major. This information is computed using data from the most recent American Community Survey 5-year PUMS data from the U.S. Census Bureau
  • A link to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook entry about the chosen career.
  • Related areas of interest. Each of these returns another set of results.

Career Resources

This section provides additional actions students can take to improve their chances at obtaining the job they want.

Your Next Step

The Top 10 Actions to Land a Job allows users to set specific goals.