What college majors offer the most bang for your buck?

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As more and more Americans grapple with exploding tuition and crippling student debt, conversations abound on the purpose of college and post secondary education.

Whether seeking to achieve personal growth, contribute to society, or prepare for employment, students make a significant investment to attend college. For families that can’t afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on tuition, the financial return can be an important consideration.

A new study shows that the financial value of a university degree is more closely linked to what you study than what school you go to! In fact, 28% of university students are in programs that statistically will never return the all-in costs of a degree.

See for yourself: This interactive table lets you pick any university and major and see the financial return on the tuition it costs to earn a degree.

At Code.org, we compared the financial return of a computer science or engineering degree to other options. Here are the results of our analysis:

1) Engineering and computer science have the highest returns

The chart below shows the average return on investment for earning a bachelor’s degree in any particular subject area. The financial return on a degree in engineering or computer science is roughly ten times the return on a degree in liberal arts or life sciences!

2) A degree in CS or engineering is worth six times more than other majors

When you compare the return on investment in a degree in computer science or engineering versus the average across other degrees, the difference is stark. The average engineering or computer science degree has a six times higher return on investment compared to the average degree in any other major!

The above findings come from FREOPP.org’s analysis of tuition at every U.S. university, while accounting for the number of years it takes to earn a degree, and then comparing lifetime expected salaries for each field of study.

The results paint a similar picture regardless of whether a student attends an elite university or a community college. In fact, the return on investment at an elite university is often lower than a computer science or engineering degree at a state school. Consider these examples:

Engineering degrees should include humanities…

To become well-rounded graduates who are prepared to serve not only as part of a workforce but also as educated citizens in a democracy, students need a solid, balanced educational foundation — regardless of their major. It’s important that engineering-oriented degrees such as computer science continue to include general education requirements in the humanities.

…and students should consider their own goals!

Code.org doesn’t recommend what a student should study in university. Our focus is foundational CS in K-12, for all students, regardless of their career choice. In the 21st century, computer science is a liberal art, and belongs in a well-rounded education for every student.

However, this data can help students make informed decisions before taking on a lifetime of debt. If you are a student or parent and want to look at the financial return on a particular university and field of study, you can use the interactive table offered by FREOPP.org.

— Hadi Partovi, Code.org

Data Sources

The raw data by FREOPP can be found here, and the methodology is explained here. The Code.org analysis on CS and Engineering degrees can be found here.




Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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