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Jobs: Worst Returns on Academic Investment

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CNNMoney had another thought-provoking article on the jobs with really low returns on investment, when you consider investment as the dollars and time required to earn the qualifications needed to do the work. The three jobs they list are architects, chefs, and academic research assistants. The basic criteria they use to calculate return is merely salary (and how long you have to work to achieve a “good” wage) and they claim unless you are the cream of the crop (in the first two anyway), you really aren’t going to see the big bucks. But I think their study is pretty much meaningless… here’s why.



The main complaint I have is that those three jobs don’t strike me as the vocations people would seek if they were chasing the big bucks. Culinary school, architecture programs, and whatever major the research is in (they list microbiologist, medical, and social) aren’t exactly inexpensive programs to get into, start, and complete. Most of the time the students who enroll in those types of programs do it for the love of the craft. Three other vocations they list are archaeologist, clergy, and social psychologist: also not three jobs where you’ll be forced to decide whether to buy a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce this year.

I suppose it’s interesting to note that all those poor suckers graduating with a degree with social psychology, who by this report will not be getting their money’s worth out of school, probably laugh to themselves when they think of all the engineers (who consistently rank among the highest in salary out of school) slaving away 8+ hours a day in cubicle-farms staring at computer monitors. Sometimes money isn’t the most important thing and I’d like to think that a social psychologist has a great impact on the world than a lawyer. :)

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6 Responses to “Jobs: Worst Returns on Academic Investment”

  1. kripal says:

    agreed . folks who enter those profession do out of their interest . plus when they are settled in these profession it comes with a great stability .

  2. Nikki says:

    You hit the nail on the head. Wonder if they surveyed any of the people in different careers (in another survey of course) for job satisfaction. I took a considerable pay cut recently just for my peace of mind.

    It’s not all about the benjamins.

  3. andy says:

    Toss Social Worker and Teacher on the list. My wife’s a social worker, to get any decent job you need a Master’s degree. You have to WANT that job, because you’ll be paying for the education for your entire career. I’m glad she went to a state school for her undergrad degree, her Master’s alone cost almost twice her annual salary.

    Teachers are in about the same position. I’m not sure how CNN missed them on their list, as the analysis seems to be about the same for Architect as reality is for Social Work and Teaching. Maybe better.

    • gabi says:

      I am a HS teacher and I have my Masters (from a highly rated school) and it sounds like your wife paid too much or is not making nearly enough. Besides the pay, which is plenty, teaching is a priceless career. The number of lives a teacher has the ability to empower is unparalleled by any other career (and I have worked in one of the highest paying fields). You can’t put a price on teaching. If you can then I encourage you to try it and get back to me. God Bless you and your wife for sacrificing for the betterment of our future.

  4. risk says:

    en… that’s ROI (Return on investment), which is, 99% of the time, constrainted in monetary term since it’s too hard to measure non-monetary return. I’d like to know their happiness on academic investment. “Time” magazine recently had an issue on “happiness”. Stat shows that once annual income passes 39k (40k?), higher income groups don’t feel happier than lower income groups.

  5. jim says:

    Yeah, I was a little hesitant to use ROI (hence it appear in quotes and with qualifiers) for that reason – it’s contrained to $$$ when a job is much more than that. I’d be interested to read that Time article though…


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