Computer Science Return on Investment

The return on investment (ROI) is an important factor to consider when selecting a degree program and a university. The graph and calculations below show the return on investment for a computer science degree at Kansas State University. Computer science careers are among the best-paid and fastest-growing fields. It should not be a surprise that the return on investment is excellent, i.e., more than 1,000%! Not only that, but the break-even point is only six years after graduation.


To avoid "over-hype", we have used conservative parameters for calculating the ROI. While the average starting salary of a K-State CS graduate is $70,000, we use the U.S. median salary of $110,140 per year, which comes from the Bureau of Labor for Software Developers. We believe this number is conservative since it includes employees with and without actual computer science degrees, and several recent graduates have earned starting salaries larger than that. The median high school graduate's salary is $41,236, which also comes from the Bureau of Labor. Based on these numbers, over a lifetime, a CS graduate can expect to earn $3,100,680 more than a typical high school graduate. If you assume the entire cost of attendance over four years is financed and includes student loan interest, the entire investment (cost of attendance, student load interest and lost wages during school) is $252,905. Dividing the $3.1M salary gain by the investment cost of $253K gives a return on investment of more than 1,100%.

Years to graduation 4
Average K-State CS starting salary
$ 70,000
Median CS salary (US) $ 110,140
Median HS graduate salary (US) $ 41,236
Profit (CS salary gain over HS degree) $ 3,100,680
Student loan interest $ 29,225
Investment (degree cost + interest + lost salary) $ 252,905
Return on investment 1114%

We use the tuition and fee rates from the university as shown below. While the basic out-of-state cost is 60% higher than in-state costs, automatic scholarships for out-of-state students (based on qualifications) can reduce that to only 13%, and that is before additional scholarships and grants have been applied.

Costs Semester Year
Tuition (average)
Kansas : $312.50 per hour $ 4,745 $ 9,489
Out-of-state: $841.70 per hour $ 12,780 $ 25,560
Engineering fee ($99) $ 594 $ 1,188
Other college's fees $ 163 $ 326
Campus fees (privilege/infrastructure) $ 465 $ 931
Housing (residence halls) $ 2,525 $ 5,050
Books and supplies $ 503 $ 1,006
Miscellaneous $ 2,000 $ 4,000
Total (Kansas) $ 10,995 $ 21,990
Total (out-of-state) $ 19,031 $ 38,061

Return on investment (ROI) measures the gain or loss of investment relative to the amount of money invested. ROI is typically stated as a percentage and can be used for a variety of financial decisions. From an educational standpoint, the ROI is useful for determining the financial benefit expected to be gained from a specific degree at a specific university, and can be used to compare different degrees or the same degree across multiple universities. While the financial impact of a degree is important, several other factors should be considered when selecting a degree and a university. This information is provided as help in making these decisions, and does not guarantee specific costs, salaries or returns.