Choosing a college major may be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll make during your college career. Not only is it important to choose a major based on your interests, it is important to keep in mind the cost of the degree as well as how much careers in that field pay. The fact is, for most careers, it will take you more than a year’s worth of your starting salary to be able to cover the cost of your education.

We took a look at the most popular college majors chosen by students at private colleges and their possible career paths to better understand what their return on investment (ROI) looks like.

This chart provides averages intended for use as an illustrative guide for students who are interested in learning about their likely financial return from attending college. Careers listed may not reflect occupations that offer the fastest growth or largest opportunities. The average cost of degree reflects national averages for a four-year private school and only includes tuition and fees; it does not reflect the total cost of an education with student loans. Average starting salary is based on full-time employment upon graduation and the years to break even don’t take into account raises in salary or bonuses. The years to break even is the number of earning years required to cover cost of degree. At break-even, your ROI equals 0%. Actual results will vary.

Tip to Consider: If you need to borrow money for college, try to keep your total student loan debt to less than your expected starting annual salary. According to FastWeb, your student loan debt should be less than half of your salary. To help keep your expenses down, take a look at our top ten list of ways to graduate with less debt.

CNN Ten Most Popular Majors and What they Pay
Pay Scale
The College Board
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners

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