Oregon State University

Financially Planning for Your Career

While you pursue your passions, seek inspiration and get your hands happily dirty in whatever field lights your fire, make sure you take the time to reality-check your path.

Financially Planning Your CareerWhat is the real cost of your career decisions?

Ever wondered where that PhD in Apparel Design might take you? Or whether you’ll be able to afford your student debt on a social worker’s salary? Wonder what you could do with that math degree to best support your surfing and skiing habits? Below, you’ll find a few resources to help answer those questions.

  • O*NET: Get a chance to peruse occupational options, an industry’s growth potential and salary range, and what skills and strengths might be most helpful for being successful in different career paths
  • What Can I Do With This Degree?: See where your current education might lead you. Check out unfamiliar and new job titles and positions. Expand your horizons and ability to make intentional decisions about your education and career!
  • My Plan salary calculator: Learn what you might expect to make for a given career, in a specific area in the U.S. or nationally. Remember, the average salary is not typically what you will make starting out in a field, and the numbers are gross pay, not net (what you bring home)
  • Career Planning and Salary: Understand salary, benefits and other costs that might be associated with your career choices. What about relocation? Transportation costs? Retirement?

So now that you’re thinking about $$$ and career choice, here are some tips on minimizing school debt that you can start practicing right now. The earlier you begin paying attention to your debt, the more prepared you will be to deal with it later!:

  1. Don’t over-borrow:  Often, loan limits seem like an easy target amount to borrow. However, a good general rule is to borrow less than what you expect to make in a starting salary in your field after you graduate. In an ideal situation, you would borrow approximately half of what you expect to make your first year working in that field.
  2. Before you use loan money to buy something fun, ask yourself if you’d still buy it if it was twice the cost: Loans come with interest, and it is best to assume that each dollar you spend will cost you another dollar. That might make those $4.00 lattes (now $8.00!) not look so necessary every morning.
  3. Consider switching majors very carefully: Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in four years is cheaper than graduating in five or six, of course. Changing major paths is an option for any student, but make sure you go through the process of doing thorough research so you understand the financial consequences (positive and negative!) of changing majors. Meet with a career counselor to help with the exploration and give yourself enough time to fully understand and reflect upon the decision!
  4. Check out loan repayment or forgiveness programs: While exploring career options, check out whether your job interests put you in the running for loan forgiveness or repayment through graduate programs, professional organization or employers.
  5. Create a budget: Divide spending into two categories: mandatory (need) and discretionary (want). Live like a student on your budget now so you don’t have to live like a student after you graduate! That means being very skeptical about anything that seems mandatory but doesn’t address your basic needs. The newest cell phone (or a cell phone at all) is not mandatory. Neither is delivered pizza or the best costume for that theme party this weekend. Be honest with yourself.
  6. Talk to your Oregon State University Financial Aid office: Ask about any and all forms of financial support you may qualify for, such as state and local grants and scholarships. Remember that some scholarships continue to be offered to students already enrolled and might be renewed each year—they are not just for incoming college freshmen.

Visit the Financial Aid & Scholarships website, for more tips on financial literacy or watch a video on loan repayment and how it works. Learn more about what money and opportunities are available to you!

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