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Do Advanced College Degrees Really Pay Off?

graduation . / Credit: College Graduation Image via Shutterstock

For graduates of the class of 2013, the experience of being a college student is now a memory, but the effects of going to college and the loan debt they accrued  will stick with them for much longer. 

And new research has found that advanced degrees are also not immune from the challenge of student loans.   

"We saw how much student loan debt was skyrocketing," said Jessica Patel, personal finance analyst and editor at Bankrate.com. "When we looked at the findings, it was a little bit shocking to see some of the jobs you would think would make the most money would not have the best return on investment. Things like doctors and lawyers and they don’t necessarily have the biggest payoffs."

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That's because those degrees require additional years of schooling that bring with them significant additional cost. The Bankrate research found that doctors can spend up to 11 years paying off student loans, even with a comfortable starting salary. Lawyers, on the other hand, can take up to 13 years to pay off their loans, Bankrate estimates

Other degrees have slightly better prospects when it comes to paying off student loans. Those prospects are helped by lower cost and schooling requirements. For example, advertising and marketing specialists can expect to pay off student loans within six years, while economists face a seven-year payment plan for student loans. Bankrate predicts civil engineers to be able to pay off loans within eight and a half years. Journalists and teachers faced some of the longest repayment times at 32 years and 22 years respectively. 

However, those numbers are determined largely by starting salary and job availability, Bankrate notes. Despite that, Patel hopes that data is a wake-up call to students when choosing what career path they want to pursue.   

"While following your passion is great, if you know you will need to accrue student loans you may want to think about what you salary may be and the availability of those jobs," said Patel. "Paying back your student loans is difficult and it is hindering them from going on with their lives. It is hindering them from going on with their lives, moving out of their parents' homes, buying their own homes and cars."

There are a number of solutions to the problem, though, some of which include attending trade schools, community college and career paths that are not reliant upon years of additional schooling. Patel also suggests that students fully understand how the repayment process works prior to attending school to avoid loan repayment problems.

The Bankrate research was based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. College costs included tuition, room and board and fees and interest payments were estimated at 6 percent.

Follow David Mielach on Twitter @D_M89 . Follow us @bndarticlesFacebook or Google+.