Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Eshragh Motahar




return on investment


Pursuing a college degree is one of the most expensive financial investments that an individual makes during their lifetime. While several elements contribute to the increasing cost of obtaining a bachelor's degree research indicates that the wage premium of a college degree remains highly beneficial. Over a lifetime a bachelor's degree has an estimated worth of $2.8 million with a wage premium that is 84% greater than individuals holding just a high school diploma. The tremendous monetary returns and economic opportunities that are associated with a bachelor's degree lead to the question as to whether an advanced degree is necessary or worth the additional financial burden. Master's degree tuition opportunity costs of a foregone salary and the current $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loan debt are all factors that must be considered when evaluating the value of graduate school. While a great deal of research has been conducted to accurately measure the positive net gains to a bachelor's degree less investigation has been performed for master's degrees. This study utilizes data from the 2016-2017 PayScale College Salary Report the Federal Student Aid Data Center and U.S. News Higher Education to analyze the return on investment of pursuing a master's degree. The study assesses median costs and earnings at the school level for master's degrees in three different academic focuses: Business Law and STEM. Results from the study reveal substantial positive net returns for a master's degree at a remarkably high percentage of business and law schools. However the financial gains to a master's degree in STEM concentrations exhibited negative returns compared to a bachelor's degree for the majority of the institutions observed.

Included in

Econometrics Commons