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Is graduate school worth the cost?
(full story below)
As the student debt calculator shows, some people take on more student loan debt than they can afford. Graduate school isn't any different. The Washington Post looked at 10 careers -- some of which require graduate degrees -- and used our calculator to determine what a person in that field would need to make in his first job for grad school loans to be affordable. Here are the jobs, listed in order of how affordable loans are for workers earning the median salary. Financial advisers say student loan payments should take up no more than 10 percent of pay.

1. Veterinarians earn a median salary of $86,640 per year.
Veterinarians need about as much schooling as a doctor, but they don't earn as a much on average -- giving them more of an incentive to borrow less. At the median salary, a veterinarian with the average debt load would see 21 percent of pay go toward student loan payments.

AVERAGE LOAN

$132,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$179,860
LIKELY SALARY

$86,640

2. Lawyers earn a median salary of $114,300 per year.
Graduate school isn't optional for lawyers, and once they find a job the pay can be generous. But even lawyers can come up short on student loan payments. A lawyer with the average debt load who is earning the median salary might see 17 percent of his pay go toward student loan payments.

AVERAGE LOAN

$140,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$190,761
LIKELY SALARY

$114,300

3. Pharmacists earn a median salary of $119,280 per year.
Pharmacists are well paid, but it can still take a while for them to become debt free. At the median salary of $119,280, a person with the average debt load would see about 15 percent of pay go toward student loan payments.

AVERAGE LOAN

$132,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$179,860
LIKELY SALARY

$119,280

4. Journalists earn a median salary of $36,840 per year.
A master's degree may open up opportunities for a journalist, but it isn't always required and the financial payoff might not be large enough to justify taking on student loans. Journalists earning the median salary could see 18 percent of their income going to student loan payments.

AVERAGE LOAN

$49,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$66,766
LIKELY SALARY

$36,840

5. Social workers earn a median salary of $45,050 per year.
Social workers may want to limit their borrowing. The $375 monthly payment they can afford is $181 less than what they're likely to owe if they borrow for grad school. Each month, 15 percent of their salary will go toward student loan payments.

AVERAGE LOAN

$49,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$66,766
LIKELY SALARY

$45,050

6. K-12 teachers earn a median salary of $53,590 per year.
Some teachers need advanced degrees to move up in their careers, but they may struggle to afford those degrees if they need to borrow. For a teacher earning the median salary, student loans payments may take up 11 percent of pay.

AVERAGE LOAN

$42,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$57,228
LIKELY SALARY

$53,590

7. Accountants earn a median salary of $65,080 per year.
Accountants who borrow to pay for their graduate degrees may be okay. Loan payments would amount to 10 percent of pay for someone earning the median income, what financial experts say is considered affordable.

AVERAGE LOAN

$49,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$66,766
LIKELY SALARY

$65,080

8. Nurses earn a median salary of $66,220 per year.
Grad school can create new opportunities for nurses and those who need to borrow to pay for their degrees may be fine. The median salary is pretty close to what a person would need to make for those loans to be affordable.

AVERAGE LOAN

$47,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$64,041
LIKELY SALARY

$66,220

9. Speech pathologists earn a median salary of $70,810 per year.
Speech pathologists may be able to afford taking on loans when it comes to graduate school. For someone earning the median salary, loan payments would amount to 9 percent of earnings and the $590 monthly payment they can afford is slightly more than what they would owe.

AVERAGE LOAN

$49,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$66,766
LIKELY SALARY

$70,810

10. Engineers earn a median salary of $87,290 per year.
Engineers have a good chance of landing a job with a starting salary that is more than what they owe in student loans. Student loan payments would take up 7 percent of pay for someone earning the median salary, making the loans affordable.

AVERAGE LOAN

$47,000 before interest
TARGET SALARY

$64,041
LIKELY SALARY

$87,290
Note: This graphic has been updated to reflect that graduate school is not required for nurses.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
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