College is a significant investment that comes with the hope of a better, richer life. It doesn't always work out that way.
Worse yet: A decade after leaving school, more than 1 in 5 graduates are working in a job that doesn't even require a degree.
However, obtaining a diploma is almost always worth it in the long run, according to "The College Payoff," a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
Bachelor's degree holders generally earn 84% more than those with just a high school diploma, the report said — and the higher the level of educational attainment, the larger the payoff.
When broken down by areas of study, however, the difference is striking. Students who pursue a major specifically in science, technology, engineering and math — collectively known as STEM disciplines — are projected to earn the most overall.
In addition to STEM, health and business majors are among the highest paying, leading to average annual wages that are higher at entry level and significantly greater over the course of a career compared to liberal arts and humanities majors, the Georgetown Center found.
All in, the top-paying college majors earn $3.4 million more than the lowest-paying majors over a lifetime.
Of course, income isn't the only consideration. After adding in satisfaction, stress level and job opportunities, among other factors, jobs marketplace ZipRecruiter found that the majors college students most regretted choosing spanned the arts and sciences.
English, communications, biological sciences and law all made the list, according to ZipRecruiter's survey of more than 5,000 college graduates who were looking for a job.
"This generation, more than any other that came before it, is looking for work with purpose and meaning," said ZipRecruiter CEO Ian Siegel.
"They are more aware of what their peers are doing" he added, and "it creates a little bit of the 'keeping up with the Joneses' effect."
On the upside, students who focused on computer science, business, engineering and health administration felt very good about their choices, ZipRecruiter found.