The Ultimate Guide to College Decisions: What You Actually Want to Know

by | Mar 30, 2018 | Education Feature

You’re looking for the right college degree. Congratulations–and our condolences. This can be one of the most stressful decisions you ever have to make, and the constant questioning from friends and family doesn’t make it any better. You’ve gotten some career counseling, attended some career fairs, but what you really need is the first step of your decision (length of schooling + future salary) broken down.

You’re welcome.

In this quick and easy list, we highlight some of the most popular careers by the length of studying and the median salary. Don’t start with what you want to do for a living–start by how much money you want to make, and how much time you’re willing to invest.

Associate’s Degree

Don’t be fooled by some of the articles online, claiming you can make six figures with an associate’s degree. While that does happen, that’s way past the median. When it comes to your financial future, assume you’ll make the median, and be prepared to make an even lower income. Common associate degrees, nevertheless, often have a median around $50,000 a year. Not bad, considering how much time and money you saved on school. Common associate’s degrees include an ASE Automotive Degree, and Administrative Assistant Degree, or a Paralegal Degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

This is what most people go for. This is probably what your parents want, unless they’re pushing for you to become a doctor. (Parents.) While a bachelor’s degree offers you a much wider range of career options, and most careers are based on a BS or BA, keep in mind that your salary might not be much larger (it could even be smaller) than you salary with an associate’s degree. The median salary for common bachelor degree isn’t much larger than the median for an associate’s degree, so make a list of associate degree and bachelor degree jobs that interest you–and see what the median is for those particular careers. Some might be staggeringly higher. Some might even be less.

Master’s Degree or Doctorate

If four years isn’t long enough to soak up all the wisdom of your professors, you can spend 6 to 8 years earning a master’s or a doctorate. (Although there are often innovative academic programs that could make this faster.) These careers often come with much more prestige, and typically a higher salary. While doctors easily make six figures a year, a school counselor often makes less than $40,000 a year, so remember that the length of schooling doesn’t automatically equal more money. If you love to learn, and you’re willing to spend the extra time, a master’s or doctorate might be perfect for you. Be prepared though, most master’s and doctorate programs also require supervised jobs for a year or two after school is finished–pushing that deadline back even further. If your goal is to become a doctor or psychologist, however, the extra time will be worth it to end up doing something that you love. In the end, you need to decide what you want to make, how long you want to be in school, and start career searching from there.

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