Is a Bachelor’s Degree Worth Going into Debt?

If you’re thinking about going to college but don’t have the money, you may want to know if debt for a bachelor’s degree is worth the benefit. The answer depends on how old you are and how much money you’ll be making when you graduate. If you recently graduated from high school, you should be able to get any degree you like and pay off your debt by 30.

Following Your Interests

Unless you know of another path to get established in your career, you don’t have a lot of employment options without a bachelor’s degree. There are some bachelor’s degrees that don’t help you find stable employment without a master’s degree, but if you’re a traditional college age, you can follow your intellectual interests all the way through to graduate school without worrying about making enough money to pay your debt.

If you’re still in your teens or early twenties, you’re better off pursuing your main interest than you would be forcing yourself to study a supposedly hard subject with more lucrative prospects. For example, if you’re a liberal arts person, you would be better off getting a bachelor’s degree in English, philosophy, art history or the subject of your choice than enrolling in business or engineering school. You will enjoy the work you do and excel further in your career — unless you like business or engineering, that is.

If your second choice gives you a more certain path to employment, you would be better off going that way, unless you’re so good at your first subject that it would be a loss to humanity for you not to study it. However, if you’re just an average English student, an English degree won’t be worth the debt. The same is true for philosophy, history, psychology, fine arts, music and other qualitative academic subjects.

Degrees With Low Employment Prospects

Liberal arts subjects aren’t the only degrees losing value. Unless you’re talented in biology, chemistry, astronomy, anthropology, geology or another pure natural science, you would be better off finding a second choice with better prospects because you’ll need at least a master’s degree in these fields to find work. You also need to be careful about engineering subjects as many degrees that were lucrative in the past no longer have value in the job market. Chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering fields are all experiencing very slow growth, so unless you’re talented in one of these subjects, you’d be better off going with a second choice.

The engineering fields with the highest growth are software, biomedical and petroleum engineering. If you’re at least average in one of these subjects and like it enough to study it for four years, you’ll have no problem paying off your debt. Most of this advice remains true until you have a family and reach the age of about 40. When you have kids, you have to make a practical choice, and a liberal arts or pure science degree will just take money away from their college funds.

A college education has many benefits beyond increased income, and if you have no current debt or previous commitments, your life will generally be better if you pursue your main interest. As a general rule, the debt for a bachelor’s degree is worth the outcome if you make at least the amount you owe your first year out of college.


Bambi Majumdar

Melissa Anderson

Julie McCaulley