Value of graduate school degree varies by field

With such a significant financial commitment required, you'll want a reasonable assurance that the graduate school experience provides a return on investment. 

Mel Evans/AP/File
Rutgers University students cheer during the Rutgers graduation ceremonies in Piscataway, N.J. (May 15, 2016).

A lot changes when you return to school for a second degree. For many, the motivating factor is career advancement, a higher salary or both. Practicality prevails.

With such a significant commitment upfront, however, you'll want a reasonable assurance that the experience provides a return on investment. Tuition varies from field to field, and the corresponding salaries fluctuate. Let's take a look at four specific post-undergraduate pathways into popular fields.

Business

Many consider a masters in business administration to be a graduate degree that provides a relatively fast return on investment. The skills learned are broad and always in demand. The time commitment is reasonable, and the credential holds value over the long term.

What do the hard numbers say? Bloomberg has reported an average total tuition of $44,476 for the 2012 academic year. If you're focused on one of the more selective schools, prepare to pay closer to $60,000. This tuition hike is a significant jump from The National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) data, which reported an average total price of attendance, in 2011, of $23,600.

Many students with an opportunity to attend an elite school will take it. Why? The return is ample. A 2015 Graduate Admissions Council Survey reported, “The median starting salary expected in 2015 for recent MBA graduates in the United States is US$100,000."

Sure, the costs are significant; the rewards are even more so.

Law

Expect to pay $25,890 in total tuition if you’re an in-state student, $38,885 if you’re out of state, according to U.S. News & World Report. Meanwhile, the starting salary for a freshly minted J.D. is most likely to land in the range of $50,000 to $75,000. Graduate from a top school and you'll have a chance to land a coveted $100,000 annual salary. These higher salaries come from the private sector. Public sector respondents to the U.S. News & World Report survey didn't surpass $75,000. Consider the strategy of seeking an entry-level job at a firm and securing relationships for a smoother flight path post-graduation.

Education

Few entering this field do so for financial gain; the job doesn’t pay well. The median annual public school teacher salary was $53,627, according to Salary.com. The cost of tuition will run you at least $18,000 but probably more, says the NCES. 

There are other, equally quantifiable aspects to consider. For one, job satisfaction is high. In a U.S. Department of Education study, analysts determined that the percentage of teachers reporting that they're satisfied with their jobs is consistently high. In the 2003-04, 2007-08, and 2011-12 school years, 91%, 93% and 90% of public school teachers reported satisfaction with their career, respectively. These values are slightly higher for private school teachers.

Dentistry

The American Student Dental Association reported that the average U.S. dental school tuition in recent history has ascended to $46,859 in total. The association also reported an average total debt of $247,227 per graduating senior. This debt is double what is was in 2001.

The debt problem is pervasive given that 75% of students will be more than $100,000 in the red upon receiving their diploma and becoming a dentist

A lower satisfaction on the job compounds this burden. A 2015 study revealed that in response to the question, "Has the experience of working in your current practice changed how you feel about dentistry” respondents are 129% more likely to say “yes, negatively.”

The Bottom Line

On a simple dollar-for-dollar measure, the MBA degree yields the greatest value. The return on investment is among the fastest, and any latent dissatisfaction can often be overcome by a career change that still utilizes the skills learned in school.

The data also indicated you can expect to earn at least 15% more in your overall lifetime income as a direct result of any graduate degree.

Over the long run, however, the satisfaction of a job is likely to be the most important factor. Each of these four aforementioned degree paths will provide a return on investment within the first few years. The best choice for the individual should be based on interests and aptitude, not strictly numbers.

This story originally appeared on ValuePenguin.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Value of graduate school degree varies by field
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Saving-Money/2016/1018/Value-of-graduate-school-degree-varies-by-field
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe