A college degree has a better return than the stock market

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The Future. Even though the value of a college degree remains hotly debated, a new study published in American Educational Research Journal confirms college is still a good investment — with an annual 9-10% rate of economic return throughout a person’s career. But not all majors are created equal, and variations in returns could increase as technology advances at lightning speed, reshaping the labor market and possibly widening pay gaps.

The tassel was worth the hassle
A recent study analyzed 2009-2021 data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 5.8 million people between the ages of 18 and 65, comparing half with bachelor’s degrees and half with high school diplomas only. The study found:

  • The rate of return on investment in a college education was 9.88% for women and 9.06% for men — and there’s a larger pay gap between college and high school graduates for women than for men.
  • The majors with the highest returns were engineering and computer science, exceeding 13%, followed by business, health, and math and science, hovering between 10% and 13%.
  • The majors with the lowest returns were education and humanities and art, showing less than 8%.

Mastered it
If choosing a major with “a high return” sounds painful (looking at you, right-brained folks), a student may want to seek additional training or education to improve their job prospects.

Kait Cunniff

Kait is a Chicago-raised, LA-based writer and NYU film grad. She created an anthology TV series for Refinery29 and worked as a development executive for John Wells Productions, Jon M. Chu, and Paramount Pictures. Her favorite color is orange.


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