3 Ways You Can Predict How Much Money You’ll Make After College

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A few semesters before I completed my humanities degree, I started to panic anytime I tried picturing my post-college life. I had no real idea of what kind of money I could expect to make or how the choices I was making in college would affect my livelihood after graduation.

If you’re a current or future college student, don’t blindly stumble through the first half of college like I did. You should know what you can expect to make at your first job out of college. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to make wise choices.

Here’s how to find out what you’ll make after college — and how to use that information to achieve the best outcome.

3 ways you can predict your post-college pay

To figure out how much money you can expect to make after college, you need to know where to look.

Start with the following tools and employment data to explore your post-college options and outcomes. By using these resources, you can paint a clear picture of how much you’re likely to earn out of college.

1. Check out your college’s employment outcomes

One of the best places to start is your own school. Colleges are required to track and report various outcomes of their students, regardless of whether they graduate.

And for good reason — this information helps students vet colleges and find those that lead to higher pay. Well-paid alumni are a sign of career-centered colleges with curricula more likely to turn you into a marketable job candidate.

Use the Department of Education’s College Scorecard tool to compare outcomes at different schools. The College Scorecard lists some key information, including the following:

  • Graduation rate: the percentage of students who complete a bachelor’s degree within six years
  • Salary after attending: the median earnings of students 10 years after first enrolling (typically six years post-graduation for a bachelor’s degree)
  • Percentage earning above high school grad: how many students attending this college earn, on average, more than students with only a high school diploma

In addition to the College Scorecard data, check your college’s website for undergraduate employment reports — like this one from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management:

If the college doesn’t have an employment report published on its site, check with the career services department or the office for your major, which might have such information and usually will provide it upon request.

The PayScale College Salary Report is another helpful tool for finding compensation estimates for your college, including early-career estimates. The midcareer pay projections can be used to explore how college choice could affect your long-term earning potential as well.

2. Compare incomes for workers with your major

It’s not just the college you attend that determines your worth in the job market. What you choose to study could be a stronger determinant of your value as a job candidate — and the pay you can expect to receive.

For instance, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors earn the highest starting salaries out of college. 2017 STEM graduates were projected to earn an average of $66,097, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) salary survey.

That’s $17,364 more than the average starting salary of $48,733 projected for humanities majors, according to that same survey.

Research jobs statistics specific to your major to find out what you can expect to earn. Pay attention to the job titles and paths that will be available to you with your chosen degree.

And if you don’t know where to begin, check out this interactive career tool from the Hamilton Project. It provides salary estimates specific to your age, major, and gender.

Here’s a screenshot of what you can expect to see when you plug in some social work info:

Image credit: Hamilton Project

3. Review your career and life plans

The final and most important factor in any income equation is you — specifically, the career and life plans you’d like to undertake.

Consider the following questions:

  • What occupation are you aiming for? Crack open the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook. It includes comprehensive employment information, including wages, educational requirements, employment conditions, and job growth.
  • What kind of employers do you plan to work for? The same occupation can have widely varying pay depending on the company you work for. An accountant for a nonprofit, for instance, can expect to earn less than an accountant for a Fortune 500 firm.
  • Where do you plan to live? Your salary also will depend on where you live. Websites such as Indeed and PayScale can be helpful tools to research typical pay by job title and location.

Refine income estimates by putting them in the context of your life and career plans. For example, a computer science major hoping to work for a big-name company in Silicon Valley will have a higher projected income than a computer science major interested in working for a small, rural nonprofit.

3 decisions you can make with a post-college income estimate

I spent my last few semesters frantically working on-campus jobs, completing practicums, and cobbling together a minor that would hopefully give me some marketable skills.

Even so, I graduated without a job, spent months searching for work, and ended up earning less than the then-average starting salary for college graduates of $48,288.

That’s why it’s important to think ahead and anticipate your future income. Use that information to make the following decisions so you can situate yourself for the best possible outcome.

1. How much should you borrow for college?

If you decide to take out student loans to pay for college, you need to figure out how much you can expect to earn so you can limit your borrowing accordingly. After all, your ability to afford student loan payments after graduation will primarily depend on your income.

A common guideline is to limit total student loans to what you can expect to earn right out of college. For an estimated starting salary of $45,000, you could afford to borrow $45,000.

However, the less you borrow and the more you earn, the better off you’ll be. Use this calculator from FinAid to estimate your total student debt and compare it to your projected income. It also can be helpful to estimate and compare monthly costs with our student loan payment calculator.

2. Where should you to try to find a job after college?

When you’re looking for your first job after graduation, your first consideration might be where you want to work geographically.

Considering local salaries for workers with your educational background and desired occupation can give you more information on the cities and areas on your list.

As you perform your search, local pay estimators such as Salary.com, PayScale, and GlassDoor can help you find real-world data.

Research what you might earn in different cities or at different types of companies. Based on that information, you can figure out where you should start sending your resumes and job applications.

3. How to best prepare for your career

Lastly, as you research your desired career and occupation, you’ll probably start to see some trends in what employers are looking for outside a degree.

For example, a recent NACE survey revealed that employers prefer new graduates who also have relevant work experience. Positioning yourself as an ideal hire probably will mean completing an internship or participating in a cooperative education program.

Look for other ways to make yourself stand out. Tap on-campus resources such as career services or professors with real-world experience in your desired field for advice, guidance, and networking.

Overall, the news for today’s college graduates is good. Starting salaries are on the rise, and NACE projected employers would hire 5.8 percent more college graduates in 2017 than they did in 2016. The overall trends point to positive employment outcomes and good pay for most of today’s college students.

However, the most important part of the equation will always be you — your drive, resourcefulness, and ability to make wise decisions. If you choose well now, the life you’re aiming for could be well within your reach.

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

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