Is that student loan really worth it? analyzes LinkedIn’s top 20 highest paying jobs of 2017 to assess their overall value

As many of America’s 20.5 million college students would attest, a tertiary education does not come cheap. According to the Federal Reserve, there is over $1.4 trillion owed in student loans across the nation, and this figure doesn’t even include bar tabs from those late-night outings. LinkedIn recently released its list of the Top 20 Highest Paying Jobs 2017 based on its salary data and with every spot taken by a position that requires a college education to work in, its clear that those with a degree are more likely to earn the big bucks.
For a job to be considered, each title must have received 50 or more salary reports from LinkedIn members located in the U.S. The highest paying job titles were selected based on median base salaries, with C-level jobs (CEO, CTO, etc.) excluded.

Breaking it Down

Our analysis used a standard student loan period of 10 years with an average loan rate of 3.76% for an undergraduate degree and 4.53% for a graduate degree. We calculated the net return on investment for these 20 jobs after paying off a student loan for a decade. These figures are constantly changing, and the numbers will vary depending on the institution and other factors including cost of living, job benefits and the student loan you choose.

When it comes to choosing a career, those driven by financial motives (and steady hands, hopefully) might look straight to the top of the list, the spot occupied by Cardiologists which offers a median base salary of $356,000 per year. When we broke it down considering the value of a student loan against potential future earnings, Cardiologists kept the number one spot for overall value.

In fact, it turns out that the top nine highest paying jobs are also the top nine best value out of the list.

Some jobs fared better value when looking at this longer term picture. For example, a Director of Product Management jumped up five places from the 15th highest paying job, to the 10th best value on our list. Global Marketing Director also jumped up five spots, from 19th highest paid to 14th best value.

There were six jobs that dropped in value despite their high paying salaries. These were:

- Senior Corporate Counsel
- Staff Software Engineer
- Director of Engineering
- Patent Attorney
- Dentist
- Anaesthetist

No matter which way you look at it, all of these top jobs will earn you a hefty salary. But if you’re a top performer and not sure which career path to take, this analysis will hopefully help you make that important decision.

Have a look at’s breakdown of the top 20 highest paying careers of 2017:

Ranking by salaryBest valueChangeJob titleMedian base salaryAnnual net incomeCollege feesTotal cost of student loanNet earnings over 10 years after loan repaid
550Medical Director$230,000$154,100$243,000$302,631.47$1,238,369
770Physician (general)$220,000$147,400$243,000$302,631.47$1,171,369
1510+5Director Product Management$160,000$115,200$93,600$112,441.79$1,039,558
1011-1Senior Corporate Counsel$175,000$126,000$188,500$226,445.28$1,033,555
1112-1Staff Software Engineer$168,000$120,960$146,000$181,827.96$1,027,772
1413+1Tax Director$161,000$115,920$116,300$144,839.67$1,014,360
1914+5Global Marketing Director$155,000$111,600$93,600$112,441.79$1,003,558
1315-2Director of Engineering$164,000$118,080$154,000$191,791.14$989,009
1816+2Senior Software Engineering Manager$155,000$111,600$146,000$175,389.98$940,610
1617-1Patent Attorney$160,000$115,200$188,500$234,757.33$917,243

March 4, 2017

Michelle Hutchinson

Michelle Hutchinson

Money Expert. Helping people find better.

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