The Return on Investment for Business Degrees

July 15, 2022

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Title: The Most Popular Degree Pays Off: Ranking the Economic Value of 5,500 Business Programs at More Than 1,700 Colleges

Author(s): Anthony P. Carnevale, Emma Wenzinger, Ben Cheah

Source:cGeorgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

A degree in business is one of the most popular choices at all levels—associates, bachelor’s, and master’s. A new report from Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce utilized College Scorecard data as of March 1, 2022 to investigate returns on investments on business degrees for over 1,700 institutions, from program choice to post-grad occupation.

The authors calculated earnings by subtracting the median annual debt payment for that program, as high debt payments can offset the value of annual income and determined that different programs, majors, occupations, and intersecting social identities can lead to highly variable annual earnings.

Key findings from this report include:

  • There are income disparities across different majors and occupations among gender and race. For example, while there is an approximately even split between men and women with bachelor’s degrees in accounting, women are compensated $4,300 less at the median.
  • Moreover, Black people with bachelor’s degrees in accounting receive $10,700 less than their white peers at the median.
  • The highest-earning associate degree fields of study are not the same as the highest-earning majors for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. For example, human resources management and services ranks second in earnings for an associate degree, while this major ranks 15th for a bachelor’s degree. 
  • Some bachelor’s majors will lead to higher annual earnings than a master’s in another field of study. For example, median annual earnings for a bachelor’s degree in business administration, management, and operations ($44,400) are higher than for a master’s degree in human resources management and services ($39,600).
  • The highest reported annual earnings, net of debt payments, are from graduates of select private nonprofit and public universities.

To read more about net earnings of different programs, majors, and occupations, click here. To access some resources related to business degree pathways, click here.

—Erica Swirsky

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