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What’s your return on investment?

Even with scholarships and financial aid, college costs will probably be a big financial investment for you or your family. How will you know if it’s worth it?

Higher education can be expensive, but it’s probably the best investment you’ll ever make for your future. No matter what your career field is, you will want to get additional training after high school—and you’ll want to make sure you graduate from high school with a college-and-career-ready diploma.

Average earnings and employment

Generally speaking, the more you learn, the more you earn. A person with a bachelor’s degree, for example, generally earns more than someone with an associate degree. Your education options don’t just include traditional four-year college. Explore all your options to find the one that’s the best match for you and your career goals.

You are also less likely to be unemployed if you have a higher education degree, and it pays to research the return on investment on specific degrees and credentials relative to your chosen career field (see below).

Researching the return on investment

Before committing to a degree or certificate program, it’s a good idea to examine the program’s return on investment. Ask admissions staff or explore the college’s website to find answers to questions such as:

  • What percentage of students have a job after graduation?
  • What percentage of students become licensed (for careers that require licenses)?
  • What is the average starting salary for graduates of the program?

Although more education typically will increase your salary, you should explore your intended career to see what’s true in your career field. In some fast-growing fields, you can earn more with an associate degree than someone with a master’s degree will earn in another field. Read up on the Hoosier Hot 50 to see fast-growing career fields in Indiana right now, or explore the federal government's statistics on pathways after a bachelor's degree, organized by college major.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook lets you search by career (like graphic designer) or by occupational field (like farming) to see up-to-date career profiles, including average salaries. And, remember that your starting salary will be below the average salary.

Comparing your college costs

Indiana offers many ways to earn your degree! Make the smart choice and use the Indiana College Costs Estimator to see your estimated cost of attending an Indiana college, after financial aid. You may be surprised to see which colleges offer affordable degrees for you.

Get tips on saving money by finishing faster, too.

As a general rule of thumb, you should not have to take out loans to finance your college education that exceed one year’s salary. Remember that your starting salary will not be the career’s average salary, so talk to professionals or your professors to determine a realistic starting salary. Read more about decreasing your college debt, too.

Making the decision

Deciding when and where to go to college is an important decision. After gaining a realistic view of your expected salary and how much your education will cost, it’s still up to you to decide if your skills and interests truly match with what the degree will offer you. Don’t choose a career field just because you will make a lot of money. You won’t be happy and may not stay in the career long.

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