The ROI on that degree you just got

Shannon Mullen Jun 10, 2013

The ROI on that degree you just got

Shannon Mullen Jun 10, 2013

‘Tis the season for caps and gowns and college diplomas. For a lot of new graduates it’s also time to start paying back those student loans. If you’re wondering how long that might take, it depends on your profession.

Want to pay off your student loans in about 6 years? Get a degree in advertising or marketing. But according to, if you become a librarian, plan on shelling out monthly payments for over two decades.

BankRate analyst Jessica Patel says lenders won’t really give you that much time.

“But it kind of gives you an idea of how long it would actually take if you’re just paying it for a return on investment,” she says. Patel says the new numbers assume you put 10 percent of your yearly salary toward your loan.

So students should factor in earning potential when choosing a career path — but that shouldn’t be the only factor.

“If you don’t like what you do and what you study, you won’t be any good at it,” says Tony Carnevale, Director of the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. “We have lots of data that tells us that.”

He says it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead, especially if your plan is to get rich. In that case, don’t become a marriage counselor. says that degree has the worst ROI, with a payoff period of 35 years.

Check out the full list below: What is the ROI of your college degree?

Occupation Minimum required years in college, graduate school and professional programs Cost of degree (tuition, fees, room, board) Median pay Annual repayment (if 10 percent of salary goes to repaying school loans) Years needed to repay education investment (assuming 6 percent student loan interest)
Advertising, marketing, promotions 4 $52,596 $107,950 $10,795 5.83
Economist 4 $52,596 $91,860 $9,186 7.08
Civil engineer 4 $52,596 $79,340 $7,934 8.50
Political scientist 6 $68,010 $102,000 $10,200 8.58
Pharmacist 7 $92,421 $116,670 $11,667 10.83
Microbiologist 4 $52,596 $66,260 $6,626 10.83
Physician: family or general practicioner 8 $136,861 $172,020 $17,202 10.92
Accountant 4 $52,596 $63,550 $6,355 11.50
Market research analyst 4 $52,596 $60,300 $6,030 12.42
Lawyer 7 $103,677 $113,530 $11,353 13.33
Dentist 8 $139,298 $149,310 $14,931 13.75
Political science teacher: post-secondary 6 $68,010 $72,170 $7,217 14.00
Public relations specialist 4 $52,596 $54,170 $5,417 14.67
English language/literature teacher: post-secondary 6 $68,010 $60,040 $6,004 19.08
Zoologist, wildlife biologist 6 $68,010 $57,710 $5,771 20.58
Librarian 6 $68,010 $57,370 55,370 22.33
Teacher (full-time) 4 $52,596 $43,400 $4,340 21.75
Veterinarian 8 $114,268 $84,460 $8,446 27.92
News analyst, reporter, correspondent 4 $52,596 $37,090 $3,709 31.83
Marriage and family therapist 6 $68,010 $46,670 $4,667 34.67

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics,


We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.