The cost of higher education in the United States is flat-out ridiculous. While achieving a four-year degree statistically puts you at an advantage over those without one, going to college requires a major investment that has no certain guarantee of paying off. All a student can really do is optimize his or her chances by choosing the right school and field of study.

Sadly, if you're already in college,  you can't just spontaneously decide "well, my University of Palookaville degree won't be as valuable as one from Harvard so I'm just going to transfer today."

But don't dismay. What you can do is say "well, my Underwater Basket Weaving degree isn't going to help me later, so it's time to switch to Engineering or Computer Science." It may turn out to be a decision that pays dividends for the rest of your life.

Rick Newman of Yahoo Finance points out that the average cost of a bachelor's degree has breached $100,000, with private tuition potentially spelling a price as much as double that figure. In order to make the most of that hundred-grand, he suggests taking into account the findings of the Hamilton Project, a non-profit aimed at advancing opportunity, prosperity, and growth. Hamilton's recent report assesses the lifetime earnings of graduates by major. The chart below features some key major categories; a full listing is available in the report linked above.

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Among Newman's takeaways are that finance jobs aren't nearly as strong investments as many of us assume. He also points out that some science gigs including biology, botany, and animal sciences actually pay below the median. Unsurprisingly, being able to stick it out in an engineering program likely means big earnings along the road.

In his article, Newman also draws from a separate study that assesses a major's meaningfulness to those who hold degrees:

"All 10 of the lowest-paying majors in the Payscale survey — which include child development, social work, pastoral ministry and special education — rank far above average in terms of how meaningful people feel their jobs are."

At the same time, there are dozens of majors that fall below the median for both pay and meaningfulness:

"The bottom 10: creative writing, animal science, landscape architecture, German language, graphic design, criminology, broadcast communication, culinary arts, anthropology and healthcare administration."

So what's the ultimate take-away? Is it that you only should pursue anthropology if you hold grand ambitions to be destitute and miserable? No, of course not. You just need to be aware that choosing certain majors will increase your chances of seeing a healthy return on investment. Newman explains that it's certainly possible to achieve a healthy living in graphic design or creative writing, but you're likely to have to depend more on your soft skills such as grit and charisma if you want to get by.

Read more at Yahoo News

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