Degree Value Calculator
How Much Is My College Degree Worth?
Figuring the cost of a college degree is easy, but calculating the benefits is hard. Your education is one of the most important investments you will ever make -- shouldn't you go into it with your eyes wide open?
Many people have received advice from family, friends, and advisors about their career planning, but the advice rarely includes actionable numbers. You might intuitively expect that teachers make more than massage therapists (and you would be right), but how to weigh the value of a degree in English versus one in Art History, or a degree in Physics versus a degree in Computer Engineering? Is that MA in Social Work going to pay off in the long run?
Our degree value calculator uses government salary data and a bit of guesswork to estimate your salary curve over your career, based on what jobs you could reasonably expect to do with your degree. It then calculates a net present value for the degree -- roughly speaking, how much your lifetime earnings are worth today. You can compare this to other degrees for an apples-to-apples comparison of which tend to award better paying work.
We have information for 305 degrees and over 800 occupations, with more coming all the time.
You can also view the list of college degrees to find the degree you are interested in.
We used the official Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey to estimate lifetime salaries for each of several hundred jobs and occupations. Since the primary purpose of the exercise was comparisons between degrees rather than exact predictions for individuals, we used a simplified model of career progression, in which holders of all jobs start near the lower end of the salary distribution for their occupation and receive raises in a steady fashion over the course of their working career. To reduce this salary curve to a single number, we used a net present value calculation with an assumed discount rate of 5%.
We solicited freelancers for their opinions on what degrees someone in each job likely had, and connected degrees to jobs when there was substantial agreement between our freelancers. To assign jobs to degree levels (such as associates' degrees, bachelors' degrees, masters degrees', and doctorates) we relied on BLS data, with a handful of corrections for clear data errors.
For comparisons between degrees, we used a weighted average of salaries for occupations with the highest degree of agreement among the pairings suggested by our freelancers. The BLS data includes many categories for managers: average salaries for these were calculated but are not included in the degree comparisons to avoid biasing the results based on whether the BLS had broken out a managerial category for a specific career or not.