Can you afford a degree in your chosen profession?

If you’re planning out your college education, you have a number of key factors to consider. Where do you want to go to school? How much will it cost? What do you want to study? 


That last question is a big one. It’s fine if you’re unsure about your major, but you should know at least a little about average starting salaries. Money shouldn’t be the only consideration in what you decide to major in, but understanding how much you could potentially earn on your first job may help you comprehend how much college you can afford, especially if you (and your parents) are going to be funding at least a portion of your education with loans. 

Americans owe more than $1.71 trillion in student loan debt. The class of 2019 graduated with an average of $29,900 in student debt.1 The federal government enacted a student loan repayment suspension last year to ease the burden during the pandemic, but that is set to expire at the end of September 2021. 

How much can your family afford? How will you pay back your loans? This is why it’s a good idea to know how much you might be able to earn. If you’re considering a career in a lesser paying industry, you may want to think about going to a community college for a year or two to lessen the bite of tuition bills. 

There are a number of websites that aggregate starting salaries. The figures below are a sample of the more than 800 professions listed in the “2020-21 College Salary Report” from PayScale.2

Average early career pay (US$)2


Note that these salaries are averages for graduates with a bachelor’s degree within zero to five years of employment. Different regions of the country could see significantly different figures.

Before you decide which school you’d like to attend and which profession you’d like to major in, be sure to sit down with your family’s financial professional. He or she can help your family make decisions on the affordability of college and can help you implement a plan, including setting up a specific savings vehicle such as a 529 college savings account.

1A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2021,” Student Loan Hero, January 2021. 22020-21 College Salary Report,” PayScale, April 2021.

This material does not constitute financial, tax, legal, or accounting advice, is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as investment advice. Please consult your tax or financial professional before making any decision.

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