Which Careers Offer Best Value for Money?

If you wanted to make the most money which career would you choose? What would you study in college? Or would you even go? There have been some very successful college drop-outs, though not everyone can be this lucky or prosperous. Contrary to popular opinion, well-paying jobs are not necessarily the ones that require years of additional study and hundreds of thousands of Pounds/Euros/Dollars. When taking into account the money spent on qualifications and the time it will take in order to repay this investment, the careers with the best return on investment are somewhat surprising.

ABC News recently wrote about a study conducted by Bankrate.com on the top 20 most popular careers to find out the amount of time it would take to pay back student debts incurred over the course of their education. I, like most people, assumed that the professionals with the highest salaries, like doctors and lawyers, would be the ones to earn the most money. However this wasn’t the case.

If you really want to make the most money the best thing you can do is go into marketing. Careers in advertising and marketing offered the best return on investment with the shortest amount of time needed to repay student debts. The reasons for this great return is not only the high median salary of $107,950, but the fact that people working in this field can earn this amount without a post-graduate degree. When thinking of the best areas to study to earn large pay-checks I don’t think many would mention marketing and advertising but with an annual repayment of 10% of their salary, advertising and marketing professionals can repay their student debts in less than six years. Maybe they should be marketing their high return on investment better!

Other stable, well-paid and prestigious jobs take much longer repayment times. Everyone expects doctors to be making lots of money and to be very wealthy but this study contradicts that belief. Doctors (family doctors or GPs) will take almost eleven years to repay their debts despite a significantly higher salary of $172,020 due to the minimum eight years of study and $136,861 cost of getting a medical degree. Lawyers are even worse off, taking 13.33 years to repay the costs incurred from their seven year long education. The choice between the prestige offered by these jobs versus the longer repayment times is clearly a tough one. Though these are two careers that most people are aware take a lot of time and money to become qualified in, so I doubt the knowledge of the length of time it takes to pay back debts would have an impact on enrolment in these degrees.

Of the twenty most popular career choices for students, the one offering the lowest return on investment and the longest repayment time on their debts was marriage and family therapists. With a required six years of education costing $68,010 and a median salary of $46,670, it will take professionals working in this field 34.67 years to fully repay their student loans. I wonder how many students would continue to choose this field of study if they knew beforehand that they would be spending the next 35 years of their lives trying to pay back their student debts. It is a big commitment to make, especially given the number of people who change careers later in life.

This study makes for very interesting reading. It shows the amount of time spent studying and the education costs have a real impact on the return professionals receive. Well-paying jobs are not gained only through years of expensive post-graduate study. Careers in areas that don’t require more than four years of undergraduate study can also be extremely lucrative and allow professionals to repay their debts at a much faster rate. Just a little bit of research into the average repayment times can help students figure out exactly what area to study and how much they need to invest in order to end up with the salary they want. Don’t just go with the obvious choice when it comes to looking for a high-paying job, other degrees can provide a much higher return for less investment in time and money. Given the increase in student loans, we may see a change in the areas that students choose when looking for a high-paying job, which will lead to a significant shift in popular areas for recruitment in the future.

For details on all 20 careers go to the ABC News article or the Bankrate.com study.

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