Is college worth it?


Is attending college a financially sound decision? As an accountant would say, “Crunch the numbers.”

The good: $17,500, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, individuals with a four-year college degree on average earn $17,500 more than those without a degree. Those without a degree are four times more likely to be unemployed.

The bad: $35,200 is the average amount of debt a college graduate racks up over four years. CNN Money

The ugly: 14.5% is the unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 — as of March 2014. The overall unemployment rate in March 2014 was 6.7%.

What about the trades?

According to, a first-year carpenter makes $39,449 — as of April 15, 2015. An entry-level electrician pulls down $43,947. A plumber — $42,336.

Compare these salaries with the entry-level salaries with some of the hottest jobs for college graduates.

1. Petroleum Geologist: The average salary for an entry-level petroleum geologist is $79,307. This degree is heavy on geology, math, physics and statistics.

2. Pathology Assistant: Yes, this means working with dead bodies. But a starting salary of $72,263 could help mitigate the costs of therapy.

3. Ultrasound Technologist: In addition to a starting salary of $65,339, graduates entering this job field can expect a 44% growth in jobs over the next eight years according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.

4. Chemical Engineer: $64,089. Big pharma pays big bucks.

5. Software Developer: Once upon a time, Apple was known for its computers. No field of endeavor changes as rapidly as the computer industry. For anyone willing to adapt and adapt quickly, salaries start at $57,916.

According to a study published by the Association of American Medical Colleges — AAMC — cited on, the average cost of medical school for a public institution in 2013 was $207,866. Private medical schools cost an average of $278,455. Since sticker shock here could floor even the most stalwart of career aspirants, it is best to look at salaries for medical specialties. According to an article published in July 2012 on, general practitioners, pediatricians, and psychiatrists tip the low-end of the medical salary scale at $189,000. At the opposite end, orthopedic surgeons can earn $519,000. Cardiologists make, on average, $512,000. Urologists can expect to earn $461,000. It should be noted that a cardiologist earns about $300,000 when first starting out. The point is specialists make more on average than non-specialists.

Lawyers, (hired) guns and money

A 2011 report on the CBS News’ site “MoneyWatch” pulls no punches with respect to the return on investment — ROI — of law school. The report lists the following five reasons why not to go to law school:

  • Not such a rosy picture- Law schools over-inflate the employment rate for graduates.
  • No place to hang a shingle- Too many lawyers, not enough jobs.
  • Start billing those hours- The annual cost for attending one of the top ten law schools is $43,000.
  • Keep billing- The average amount of debt for a graduate from a private law school is $91,000 — $71,400 for public school.
  • Dissatisfaction and burnout- It’s not uncommon for a lawyer to change professions after five years.

Follow your passion

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Since the numbers don’t lie and it makes sense financially to go to college, perhaps with the exception of law school, which professions provide the greatest job satisfaction?

A report — summarized on  by the National Opinion Research Center — NORC — at the University of Chicago, lists the following as the five most satisfying occupations. Note: not all of these require a college degree:

1. Clergy — low physical demands; relative low stress; 50 plus hour work week. Salary hails at $42,248.

2. Physical therapist — moderate job stress; physical demands vary; pleasant work environment. Salary stretches around $72,106.

3. Firefighter — physically demanding but rewarding; lots of time off; high hero quotient. Salary can rise like wildfire and starts around $44,218;

4. School Principal — minimal physical demands; above average stress; the final word. Salary passes, at $83,120.

5. Artist. Works independently; work is rewarding but not always steady; sets own week schedule. Salary – $43,353.

Teens who have had mental or substance abuse problems tend to fall between the cracks of society because they usually do not further their education through either college or a trade. Helping your child to find their footing in this world is an important job as a parent. In the current economy it can be hard to see what will be the best path for your teen to take as they grow into adults. They will have their individual talents and strengths which will allow them to flourish in their chosen field. Having fellow teachers who care about your child helps as well.

White River Academy is a residential boarding school located at the cuff of the monumental Great Basin in Delta, Utah. White River focuses on treating young men with addiction and mental health disorders. We offer regimented, competitive and innovative curriculum to set your son up for success in whichever path he chooses hereafter.

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