Business is the most popular undergraduate and graduate major in the United States, but how well do business degrees pay off?
A new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) reveals the economic value of business programs is high compared to the financial returns from other programs, though not as high as returns associated with health, engineering, and computer and information sciences programs.
The Most Popular Degree Pays Off: Ranking the Economic Value of 5,500 Business Programs at More Than 1,700 Colleges finds that while students’ earnings and federal student loan debt vary by institution and degree level, most business programs lead to median earnings that are roughly 10 times students’ debt payments two years after graduation.
“Strong financial returns are good news for the more than 700,000 graduates each year who pursue the most popular field of study for bachelor’s and master’s degree holders,” lead report author and Georgetown CEW Director Anthony P. Carnevale said. “This information will help prospective students and their families assess the value of various business programs.”
Nationwide, associate degree holders in business have median annual earnings of $30,000 after debt payments two years after graduation. The financial returns for a business degree rise to $43,200 after debt payments for bachelor’s degree holders and $51,600 for those with a master’s degree.
By institution, earnings net of debt payments are highest for graduates of Excelsior College in New York and Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey ($44,400) at the associate degree level. Bismarck State College in North Dakota ($103,200) has the highest ROI at the bachelor’s degree level; and the University of Pennsylvania ($165,600) is tops at the master’s degree level.
Several other New Jersey institutions ranked in the Top 15, including Stevens Institute of Technology, where graduates with a bachelor’s degree in business earn a median $70,600 net of debt and those with a master’s degree earn a median $121,200 after debt payments.
In addition to the No. 1 ranked Union County College for ROI on associate degrees in business, Camden County College ranks No. 3, with graduates earning a median $42,000 after debt payments. Both Thomas Edison State University and Strayer University-New Jersey rank No. 10 for associate degrees, with business graduates earning a median $39,600 after debt payments.
Broken down by field of study, earnings net of debt payments are highest for business/commerce majors ($32,400) at the associate degree level; construction management majors ($62,400) at the bachelor’s degree level; and management sciences and quantitative methods majors ($96,000) at the master’s degree level.
The study also identified significant earning discrepancies by gender and race/ethnicity. Women make up a growing share of graduates with business degrees, but men with business degrees earn more at the median. The study found that 47% of young (ages 22–27) bachelor’s degree holders in business are women, and they earn a median of $44,600 annually, compared to $50,500 for men.