Here's how long it actually takes for that college degree to pay off

Is getting a college degree really worth it?

New research from The College Board says it is. But the payoff takes a while.

According to the board's report, it takes the average college graduate about 12 years to regain the cost of getting a bachelor's degree. That cost includes the price of tuition plus any wages lost from not being in the workforce for four years.

SEE MORE: College Costs Are On The Rise, And Financial Aid Can't Keep Up

Twelve years might seem like a pretty long time to be in the red. But researchers say college grads reap many other benefits in the meantime.

RELATED: College majors with the biggest pay raises:

College majors with the biggest pay raises
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College majors with the biggest pay raises

Common jobs: Research physicist, electrical engineer, professor

Starting median pay: $55,500 

Mid-career median pay: $106,000 

Increase in pay: $50,500 / 91%

Common jobs: Advertising account supervisor, media manager

Starting median pay: $41,300

Mid-career median pay: $78,900

Increase in pay: $37,600 / 91%

Common jobs: Biologist, chemist, professor

Starting median pay: $41,100

Mid-career median pay: $79,600

Increase in pay: $38,500 / 94%

Common jobs: Advertising manager, brand manager, copywriter

Starting median pay: $41,500

Mid-career median pay: $80,400

Increase in pay: $38,900 / 94%

Common jobs: Research scientist, research associate

Starting median pay: $43,400

Mid-career median pay: $84,500

Increase in pay: $41,100 / 95%

Common jobs: Market research analyst, public-relations specialist

Starting median pay: $42,000

Mid-career median pay: $82,000

Increase in pay: $40,000 / 95%

Common jobs: Agricultural and food scientist, biomedical engineer, forensic scientist

Starting median pay: $41,400

Mid-career median pay: $81,500

Increase in pay: $40,100 / 97%

Common jobs: Meteorologist

Starting median pay: $45,300

Mid-career median pay: $89,500

Increase in pay: $44,200 / 98%

Common jobs: Arts administrator, drama therapist, theatre director

Starting median pay: $37,800

Mid-career median pay: $75,000

Increase in pay: $37,200 / 98%

Common jobs: Physicist, data scientist

Starting median pay: $50,900

Mid-career median pay: $101,000

Increase in pay: $50,100 / 98%

Common jobs: Computer programmer, human-resources specialist, health science administrator

Starting median pay: $51,400

Mid-career median pay: $102,000

Increase in pay: $50,600 / 98%

Common jobs: Attorney, minister, journalist

Starting median pay: $42,200

Mid-career median pay: $85,000

Increase in pay: $42,800 / 101%

Common jobs: Technical writer, production assistant, editor

Starting median pay: $37,700

Mid-career median pay: $76,100

Increase in pay: $38,400 / 102%

Common jobs: Actuary, actuarial analyst

Starting median pay: $58,800

Mid-career median pay: $119,000

Increase in pay: $60,200 / 102%

Common jobs: Aviation/aerospace program manager, corporate-jet pilot

Starting median pay: $44,900

Mid-career median pay: $91,300

Increase in pay: $46,400 / 103%

Common jobs: Biologist, research scientist, research associate

Starting median pay: $43,000

Mid-career median pay: $88,200

Increase in pay: $45,200 / 105%

Common jobs: Campaign worker, congressional aide, attorney

Starting median pay: $42,600

Mid-career median pay: $88,200

Increase in pay: $45,600 / 107%

Common jobs: Molecular biologist, research scientist, research associate

Starting median pay: $44,100

Mid-career median pay: $91,400

Increase in pay: $47,300 / 107%

Common jobs: Campaign worker, attorney, activist

Starting median pay: $40,300

Mid-career median pay: $85,600

Increase in pay: $45,300 / 112%

Common jobs: Campaign worker, lobbyist, political consultant

Starting median pay: $46,900

Mid-career median pay: $102,000

Increase in pay: $55,100 / 118%

Find out how your salary stacks up on PayScale.


The report notes in 2015, median earnings of bachelor's degree recipients age 25 and older were 67 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma. That's nearly a $25,000 difference.

And, aside from the financial advantages, college graduates are also more likely to exercise, volunteer, vote in elections and have job benefits like health insurance.

As The College Board's senior policy research scientist said in a statement, "A college education is an investment that pays dividends over the course of a lifetime — even for students who accumulate some debt to obtain a degree."

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