Today there are a number of experts and opinionated bloggers who are claiming that a traditional education is no longer “worth it”. After all, with so many graduates unemployed and under-employed, it certainly makes sense on the surface. If you’re going to be making near minimum wage, why bother racking up those student loans? It’s time to re-define what a higher education is, because it’s not a guarantee for a high paying career, but one of many tools to getting there.
There are numerous media outlets like US News citing college degrees that are “worthless”, but it’s really what you do with XYZ degree that matters. One of the most clichéd “worthless” degrees is English, but the reality is that every single business needs professional writing services, and search engine optimization (SEO) writers can score a six-figure salary even as a freelancer. When it comes to managing your money and financing as a college student, there are ways to make even the most expensive careers and degrees work for you:
In recent years, reports like those from Biz Journal have questioned whether or not being a doctor still makes sense financially. It certainly can be, but there are many avenues for practicing medicine after your MD, internship and residency. For example, locum doctors in Australia and New Zealand enjoy the best of both worlds, practicing medicine while traveling. MDs are notoriously expensive, but there are many programs in countries like Costa Rica that have “agreements” with US institutions, so you can save big on both tuition and cost of living.
It’s been said that the law market is overly saturated, and there are simply more attorneys than there are job openings. However, there are always options like becoming a public defense attorney (and scoring a pension plan), joining a new firm, or starting your own private practice. Choose a law school in the state you plan to practice, establish residency first for lower tuition, and try to find a program that’s flexible and allows you to work part-time. Ideally, your graduate program should be paying you (via an assistantship), not the other way around.
3. PhDs in creative fields
If you dream of getting a PhD in literature or art history because you’re so passionate about the field, that’s great. However, you need to have a plan in place for paying for it. Many top tier programs offer fellowships that pay for most or all of your education, and you should only focus on programs with the most money. Pursuing these degrees in foreign countries where tuition/cost of living is also a great option, especially since you don’t “need” a degree from a US university in order to transition to your career.
The good news is that many engineering departments have quite a bit of money, which means more options for fellowships and assistantships. There are also endless options for work-study, paid internships, and entry level positions right at the university. However, with so many niches of engineering, take a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to see which engineering fields are growing, have the highest starting salary, and are the least competitive.
A professional with an advanced physics degree can work nearly anywhere, from corporate labs to universities, which means the ultimate earning potential ranges drastically. Most physicians have doctorates, and it’s easy to stretch out that PhD for several years. Map out a plan of where you’d like to work post-dissertation, and seek out programs that have funding available.
The best rule of thumb is to not start an advanced degree program without having a budget and career plan in place.