Are All Degrees a Smart Investment?

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Which post-secondary fields of study give students the most for their money? Are some degrees worth more than others? During a time in which nearly 20 million Americans pursue a post-secondary degree each year, most of whom borrow annually to help cover costs, parents and students alike begin to ask the critical question, "What is it all worth?" Particularly, as teacher candidates deal with rising student debt and diminishing educational returns, we are reminded yet again of the urgency of teacher preparation program reform.

A recent study using administrative data from Chile found that while the most selective degrees cost 2.4 times that of the least selective degrees, expected annual earnings gains are approximately 10 times as high. This study's findings reaffirm that the first step to improving teacher preparation programs involves increasing selectivity and providing high-quality clinical experiences, two central ideas in NCTQ's recent Teacher Prep Review

If we incorporate more rigorous testing and standards, we can ensure that our teaching force is equipped with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to be content experts and effective instructors. More importantly, by allowing teachers to develop the specialized knowledge that many of their counterparts in medicine and law must possess before they can practice, we are acknowledging the technical skill and professionalism required of a teacher.

While all degrees may not yield the same return in earnings, we can work to ensure that post-secondary teaching degrees are a sensible investment. If we are going to require that prospective teachers attend these teacher certification programs, let's make sure they get an educational return on their investment.