The data are pretty clear that college graduates, on average, earn more than people with only a high school degree. However, it is important to look beyond the averages when choosing to invest in college for your child.
For example, a recent Payscale Salary Report showed that someone who becomes a Mechanical Engineer can expect a starting salary of $63,500 per year. But if someone becomes a Physical Education Teacher, starting pay will be approximately $35,600. From a purely financial perspective, becoming a Mechanical Engineer certainly provides a better return on investment (ROI).
Of course, choosing a career based solely on the average salary can set your child up for years of unhappiness at work. So, how can you and your student make a good choice on a major and the right college?
There are two important pieces to getting a good ROI on college:
1) Choosing the Right Major
One of the big challenges that many high school students have is figuring out a major and career that interests them. A lot of times, it is because they do not fully understand their strengths and interests. That is why I often recommend that students do an assessment, to understand their interests, skills and work style. Then, they can match that with a career in a fast-growing field. Let me give you an example:
A student we were working with was very interested in architecture. After taking the Birkman Assessment, it was pretty clear that he had the interests, skills and work style to be an architect. The only problem is that architects have a hard time finding employment after graduating from college.
So, we looked at some of his other career options. One of them was creating medical devices. It uses many of the same skills as architecture: problem solving, design, and attention to detail. And, the big upside is that recent grads in this area are being snapped up by companies.
2) Picking an Appropriate School for your Major
Once you understand what career your child wants to pursue, that makes it clearer which schools are an appropriate investment. If you son or daughter really wants to become Physical Education Teacher, then choosing a lower cost college makes a lot more sense. Spending $60k per year on college for a job that pays $35k per year just does not make economic sense.
While college is a very emotional decision for most families, it is important to consider college, majors, and careers with an economic perspective. I want to make sure that you get a good ROI on your college investment.
If you would like to talk about how to get a good ROI on your college investment, I would be happy to help.