2024 Top Game Design Schools and Colleges in the U.S

Turn your passion for playing video games into a career by attending one of the top game design colleges in the country.

Game design is an in-demand industry, with new video games for gaming systems, tablets, and phones continually being developed and released. Here, we’re exploring 20 of the best gaming development programs you might want to consider.

What to Look for in a Game Design School

If you’re looking into colleges for video game design, you’ll quickly realize that not all programs are created equally. Some schools only offer a class or two in game design, while others go deep into the field, offering internships and hands-on experiences.

If you’re interested in attending a game design school, it’s important to research schools and programs prior to making your decision. Make sure to look into the specific type of degree you want (undergraduate degree or certificate, for example), the length and commitment of the program, what current and former students have to say about the program, the helpfulness of the faculty and staff, and more.

Luckily, we’ve done the work for you and have narrowed down the top colleges offering game design programs.

The Top 20 Best Colleges for Game Design

There are several video game design colleges and programs in the United States. Here, we’ve created a list starting with the most affordable game design colleges all the way up to those with higher tuition expenses.

1. Shawnee State University

Shawnee’s Game Design School has made it on The Princeton Review’s Top Undergraduate Schools for Game Design list for 13 consecutive years, and with such low tuition, it might be a great bargain. Located in Portsmouth, OH, you can elect to study Game Programming or Game & Simulation Arts.

•   1 year of tuition: In-state $9,621.52; Out-of-state $16,156

2. University of Silicon Valley

USV is available on-campus in the heart of Silicon Valley or 100% online. The university offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Game Design and Game Art, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Game Engineering. After graduating, students are qualified for roles including animator, modeler, game writer, computer programmer, and more.

•   1 year of tuition: $27,850 for both in-state and out-of-state students

3. Arizona State University

ASU’s Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies offers a concentration in Computer Gaming with three tracks to choose from: Programming, Art, or Education. Located in stunning Tempe, AZ, courses in the program include Introduction to Graphics and Game Development, Fundamentals of Game Art, Game Engine Architecture, and 3D Modeling and Texturing.

•   1 year of tuition: In-state $12,051; Out-of-state $32,193

4. University of Utah

The Utah Division of Games, located in Salt Lake City, is a college for game designing that combines art, humanities, social science, and computational research and practice to prepare students for careers in the field. Students can choose from multiple gaming bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree, and even a minor in gaming. The Bachelor of Science in Games includes courses like Survey of Games, Ethics in Games, and Alternative Game Development.

•   1 year of tuition: In-state $9400; Out-of-state $31,104


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5. University of Southern California

USC’s Interactive Media & Games program offers three undergraduate options: a BFA in Themed Entertainment, a BFA in Game Development and Interaction, and a BFA in Game Art. Located in sunny Los Angeles, the program also offers four graduate degrees and nine minors.

•   1 year of tuition: $33,320 for both in-state and out-of-state students

6. Laguna College of Art and Design

Laguna College of Art and Design Game Art program, located in Laguna Beach, CA, prepares students for employment in any studio or software environment. Students learn the fundamentals of storytelling at every phase of the creation process, how to use a workflow methodology, and how to solve problems in concept challenges.

•   1 year of tuition: $37,500 for both in-state and out-of-state students

7. Full Sail University

Full Sail’s Interactive Technology Bachelor of Science Completion Program in Winter Park, FL offers a Game Design concentration that includes high-level game design and production courses that prepare students to work in game studios after graduation. Recognized as a Top Game Designs Schools by The Princeton Review, the program offers multiple start dates throughout the year and has an accelerated schedule for students looking to finish early.

•   1 year of tuition: $38,750 for both in-state and out-of-state students

8. Drexel University

Drexel University in Philadelphia offers a Bachelor of Science in Game Design & Production, and is recognized as one of the country’s top undergraduate game design programs. Students learn skills like scripting and storytelling, computer programming, computer graphics, animation, motion capture, and more.

•   1 year of tuition: $38,862 for both in-state and out-of-state students

9. Bradley University

Bradley University in Peoria, IL offers both a BA and a BS in Game Design. During your studies, you’ll have the opportunity to intern for a design company, participate in competitions, and show your work at an annual exhibit.

•   1 year of tuition: $39,248 for both in-state and out-of-state students

10. Savannah College of Art and Design

SCAD’s Interactive Design and Game Development degrees offer locations in Atlanta and Savannah, GA with the option to study abroad in Lacoste, France. Students can study at any of the three locations each semester, with the option to switch locations during their time in the program. Courses in the program include Digital Communication, Visual Culture in Context: Pre-Modern Global Perspectives, Aesthetics, and Core Principles: Game Art.

•   1 year of tuition: $41,130 for both in-state and out-of-state students

11. Michigan State University

MSU offers a Game Design and Development Program, a Top 10 Ranked program by The Princeton Review, that was founded in 2005. Students can choose from a Bachelor of Arts in Games and Interactive Media, a Minor in Game Design and Development, or a Serious Games Graduate Certificate. All students get the opportunity to design prototypes and conduct research on the effects of gaming.

•   1 year of tuition: In-state $16,051; Out-of-state $43,435

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12. University of California – Irvine

The Bachelor of Science degree in Game Design & Interactive Media at UC Irvine includes coursework in game programming, game design and development, visual design, interactive storytelling, data science, and game studies. Students graduate the program well-prepared for a career as a designer, developer, and industry leader. Students also get access to well-respected industry mentors.

•   1 year of tuition: In-state $17.205.74; Out-of-state $32,574

13. Champlain College

Champlain’s Bachelor of Science in Game Programming provides hands-on experience, with students collaborating to create and complete game projects. Located in gorgeous Burlington, VT, Champlain was named a “Most Innovative School” by U.S. News & World Report in 2022. Upon graduation, students are well-prepared to work in gaming studios.

•   1 year of tuition: $47,400

14. Quinnipiac University

Level up your creativity with Quinnipiac University’s Game Design & Development Program. Ranked as one of The Princeton Review’s Top Game Design Programs, students can choose a concentration to focus on, including programming, technology, design process, art, game studies, and more. Located in Hamden, CT, the program also gives students the chance to collaborate with partners both within and outside the community.

•   1 year of tuition: $50,400

Recommended: Financial Benefits of Community College

15. Rochester Institute of Technology

The Game Design, Development, and Arts program at RIT has been rated one of the best programs in this field of study by many organizations, including U.S. News & World Report. Degree options include 3D Digital Design, Film & Animation, Illustration, New Media Interactive Development, and more.

•   1 year of tuition: $56,136


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16. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

The Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD) program at WPI dives into different aspects of gaming design, including digital painting, 3D modeling, writing for games, game audio, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. Located in Worcester, MA, the program is recognized as one of the oldest gaming programs in the country.

•   1 year of tuition: $57,960

17. New York University

New York University’s BFA in Game Design has three primary areas of study: Game Studies, Game Design, and Game Development. You can also choose from one the following Production Areas: Programming, Video Design, Audio Design, and Game Business. Though tuition here is a bit higher than at some of the other schools, you can pay for it with a federal or private student loan.

•   1 year of tuition: $60,438

18. Carnegie Mellon

The Game Design undergraduate program at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA will give you a solid foundation in game systems and mechanics design, interactive narrative and character development, visual and audio asset creation, game programming, interface design and user testing, and collaboration and the iterative design process.

•   1 year of tuition: $62,260

19. University of California – Santa Cruz

In USC Santa Cruz’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: Computer Game Design, you’ll learn about the construction and design of interactive computer games. In your final year of study, you’ll be immersed in an intensive year-long game project sequence.

•   1 year of tuition: In-state: $30,567; Out-of-state: $65,148

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20. Cornell University

Cornell, another of the best game design colleges located in Ithaca, NY, offers a minor in Game Design that includes classes like Intro to Computer Game Architecture, Advanced Computer Game Architecture, Analytics-Driven Game Design, Graphics and Art, the Psychology of Gaming, and Human-Computer Interaction.

•   1 year of tuition: $65,204

The Takeaway

With so many game design colleges available, it might be hard to make a decision. Factors to keep in mind include the type of program, the location, the faculty and staff, and the cost.

However, don’t let cost deter you from going to the school of your choice. To pay for school, you can look into federal student loans, scholarships, and grants.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

What’s the most affordable game design program?

Shawnee State University offers a nationally acclaimed game design program with low tuition. Tuition for in-state residents is $16,156 per year.

What’s the most expensive game design program?

Cornell University has one of the most expensive game design programs in the U.S. at over $65,000 per year.

How much does game design school cost?

Game design schools can range from $16,000 per year all the way up to more than $65,000 per year.


Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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How Much Does a Crane Operator Make a Year

A crane operator is responsible for the safe and precise transportation of large loads at building sites. Crane operators play a crucial part in the dynamic world of heavy machinery and construction, and the need for people in this role is growing along with the demand for infrastructure projects.

For those interested in this profession, the income potential is a key consideration. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a crane and tower operator in May 2022 (the latest data available) was $65,220 per year, or $31.36 per hour. Depending on experience, industry, and location, some crane operators can make considerably more.

Read on to learn more about how much a crane operator can make, typical salary ranges, where to find the top-paying jobs, and the training and experience required to get a job as a crane operator.

Key Points

•   Crane operators are essential in construction, handling the safe transport of heavy loads.

•   The average annual salary for crane operators in the U.S. was $65,220 in 2022.

•   Entry-level crane operators typically start around $35,000 annually.

•   Salary potential increases with experience, certifications, and overtime work.

•   Top-paying cities for this profession include Vancouver, WA, New York, NY, and San Diego, CA.

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What Are Crane Operators?

Crane operators handle all aspects of operating a crane — a machine that is used to lift and move heavy loads, machines, materials, and goods for a variety of purposes. A trade job that is often in high demand, crane operators are vital to many industries, including manufacturing, transportation, and construction.

Individuals in this role are responsible for more than just operating controls. To guarantee the safe and effective transportation of objects, crane operators also need to have a thorough awareness of load capabilities, safety procedures, and other site-specific factors.

Crane operators may use a variety of different cranes, including tower cranes, mobile cranes, and boom trucks, to perform their jobs. Though crane operators work solo, it’s not necessarily a good job for people with social anxiety, as they must be able to effectively communicate with other members of the construction team on the ground.


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How Much Do Starting Crane Operators Make a Year?

The starting salary for crane operators varies depending on industry, region, prior training, and certifications, but pay for an entry-level position averages around $35,000 per year, according to Zippia.

The earning potential of crane operators tends to improve as they gain more certificates and experience. The first few years lay the groundwork for skill development, and operators who put in the time and effort can move up the pay scale. Working overtime and overnight shifts can also boost crane operators’ salaries.

Recommended: 11 Work-From-Home Jobs for Retirees

What is the Average Salary for a Crane Operator?

According to the BLS’s most recent data, the average salary for a crane and tower operator in 2022 was $65,220. The lowest-paid 10% earned less than $37,680 that year, while the highest-paid 10% percent earned more than $93,410.

How much a crane operator makes, however, will depend on the operator’s level of expertise, industry specialization, and geographic location.

Crane operators working for construction and mining companies typically earn more than those who work in warehousing, storage, and manufacturing.

The highest-paying cities for crane operators are Vancouver, WA; New York, NY; and San Diego, CA.

How Much Money Does a Crane Operator Make by State?

As mentioned above, how much money a crane operator makes can vary by location. What follows is a breakdown of how much a crane operator makes per year, on average, by state.

State Average Annual Salary
Alabama $52,270
Alaska $78,630
Arizona $65,820
Arkansas $44,900
California $62,730
Colorado $67,550
Connecticut $82,430
Delaware $62,960
Florida $63,310
Georgia $52,830
Hawaii $105,170
Idaho $72,860
Illinois $58,680
Indiana $56,640
Iowa $62,220
Kansas $59,050
Kentucky $53,500
Louisiana $61,710
Maine $55,440
Maryland $63,580
Massachusetts $72,600
Michigan $63,350
Minnesota $74,210
Mississippi $57,190
Missouri $73,020
Montana $67,090
Nebraska $59,440
Nevada $103,350
New Hampshire $67,270
New Jersey $97,930
New Mexico $71,660
New York $136,330
North Carolina $57,080
North Dakota $78,890
Ohio $66,020
Oklahoma $56,580
Oregon $89,190
Pennsylvania $58,920
Rhode Island N/A
South Carolina $55,360
South Dakota $72,060
Tennessee $54,490
Texas $61,500
Utah $60,230
Vermont $64,540
Virginia $64,470
Washington $82,640
West Virginia $51,210
Wisconsin $59,390
Wyoming $75,520

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Crane Operator Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

To become a crane operator, you first need a high school diploma or an equivalent. While not required, many crane operators attend trade school to learn practical construction skills and how to operate heavy machinery, including cranes. This is typically a one- or two-year course.

After graduating from a high school or trade school, many crane operators enroll in a general crane operator training program. These programs, which last between three weeks and three months, help prepare aspiring crane operators for the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) examination.

It’s necessary for crane operators to hold the certification relevant to the types of cranes they operate. Some states and cities also require crane operators to hold a local license.

Once you have a job as a crane operator, you can not only earn competitive pay but also benefits. Many companies supplement the base pay with perks like paid time off, health insurance, and retirement programs.

When thinking about a career as a crane operator, it’s important to take into account the whole range of compensation and benefits that come with the job.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Pros and Cons of a Crane Operator Salary

As with any profession, working as a crane operator comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the pros and cons of this role will help you determine if you’re well-suited for this career path.

Pros of Becoming a Crane Operator

•   Competitive salary: While you may not earn a $100,000 a year salary as a crane operator, this is generally a well-paid position.

•   Opportunities for overtime: Since construction projects often take longer than originally anticipated, crane operators frequently have the opportunity to make extra money by working overtime.

•   Industry need: The need for construction projects is ongoing, which helps to maintain a solid job market for crane operators and a constant flow of employment prospects.

•   Opportunities for advancement: As crane operators gain knowledge and specialized skills, they may be able to negotiate higher wages.

Recommended: The Pros and Cons of Salary vs Hourly Pay

Cons of Becoming a Crane Operator

•   Physically demanding: Operating a crane can be physically taxing since it involves standing or sitting for extended periods of time.

•   Safety concerns: Working with heavy machinery at significant heights is a necessary part of the profession, which has inherent safety concerns. Strict adherence to safety procedures is essential to avoiding accidents.

•   Variable working conditions: Crane operators are often exposed to a range of weather conditions and terrain. Work conditions can be challenging.

•   Training and certification requirements: You can’t just get a job as a crane operator right out of high school. Training and certification is necessary, which means you may need to invest some time and money into the career before you can start making a good salary.

The Takeaway

Crane operator jobs are one of the most coveted positions in the construction business thanks to the competitive pay. On average, crane operators earn $65,220, but certain jobs in competitive areas can pay considerably. Crane operators often have the opportunity to work overtime and typically get benefits on top of their base pay.

Whatever type of job you pursue, you’ll want to make sure your earnings can cover your everyday living expenses. To ensure your monthly outflows don’t exceed your monthly inflows, you may want to set up a budget and check out financial tools that can help track your income and spending.

With SoFi, you can keep tabs on how your money comes and goes.

FAQ

Can you make $100k a year as a crane operator?

The average annual salary for a crane operator is $65,220. However, a highly skilled and experienced crane operator may be able to make a six-figure salary, especially those employed in high-demand industries or areas.

Do people like being a crane operator?

Many people find a job as a crane operator rewarding due to its competitive pay, diverse work environments, and opportunities for skill development and advancement. For some, however, the physical demands and safety risks lower overall job satisfaction.

Is it hard to get hired as a crane operator?

Working as a crane operator can provide ample job opportunities for people who are qualified to work with these machines safely. To get a good job as a crane operator, you typically need to take trade school courses, complete general operator training, and gain apprenticeship experience.


Photo credit: iStock/ewg3D

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Much Does a Lawyer Make a Year?

Lawyers are highly educated and command high salaries to match. How much a lawyer earns a year depends on what type of law they practice, what school they attended, as well as their competence and experience.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a lawyer in May 2022 (the latest data available) was $135,740 per year, or $65.26 per hour.

Corporate lawyers who work in the private sector tend to earn more than those in the public sector (such as district attorneys or public defenders), and sole practitioners typically earn less money than lawyers at large firms.

Read on to learn more about how much a lawyer makes, where you can find top-paying jobs for lawyers, and the benefits and drawbacks of becoming a lawyer.

What Does a Lawyer Do?

Lawyers advise and represent clients on legal proceedings or transactions. They typically conduct in-depth research into law, regulations, and past rulings. They also prepare legal documents, including lawsuits, wills, and contracts.

Not an ideal job for people with social anxiety, lawyers will often appear in court in support of their clients and present evidence in hearings and trials, including arbitration and plea bargaining. Lawyers also counsel their clients in legal matters and suggest courses of action.

A lawyer’s exact duties will vary depending on the type of law they practice. For example, criminal defense attorneys advocate on behalf of those accused of criminal activity; family lawyers handle family-related legal issues like divorce, adoption, and child welfare; and corporate lawyers handle legal matters for businesses.
Some lawyers work for the government or in the public’s interest, and are known as public interest lawyers. Public defense attorneys, for example, represent criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Public interest lawyers also work for nonprofit organizations to support civil rights and social justice causes.

Other types of lawyers include:

•   Environmental lawyers

•   Bankruptcy lawyers

•   Immigration lawyers

•   Intellectual property lawyers

•   Entertainment lawyers

•   Tax lawyers

•   Personal injury lawyers

•   Estate planning lawyers


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How Much Do Starting Lawyers Make a Year?

Lawyers tend to be well paid even at the entry level because they are highly educated. And, the more experience a lawyer gains, generally the more they will earn. According to ZipRecruiter, entry-level lawyers make $100,626 a year, on average, with a range from $47,000 to $138,000.

Those who choose to invest the time, money, and work into becoming a lawyer can feel relatively confident about being able to get a job when they graduate: The BLS projects an increase of 62,400 attorney jobs between 2022 and 2032, representing an 8% growth (which is faster than the average for other occupations).

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How Much Money Does a Lawyer Make a Year on Average?

According to the BLS’s most recent data, the average salary for a lawyer in 2022 was $135,740. The best-paid 25% made $208,980 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made $94,440.

A lawyer working for a law firm or as in-house counsel will typically be paid with an annual salary versus an hourly wage, but the average hourly pay for a lawyer works out to be $65.26 an hour.

How much a lawyer makes, however, can vary widely depending on their experience, specialty, and location.

The highest paying legal specialties include:

•   Patent attorney

•   Intellectual property attorney

•   Trial lawyer

•   Tax attorney

•   Corporate lawyer

The cities that pay the highest lawyer salaries are:

•   San Jose, California ($267,840)

•   San Francisco, California ($239,330)

•   Washington, District of Columbia ($211,850)

•   Bridgeport, Connecticut ($209,770)

•   Oxnard, California ($207,970)

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How Much Money Does a Lawyer Make by State?

As mentioned above, how much money a lawyer makes can vary by location. What follows is a breakdown of how much a lawyer makes per year, on average, by state.

State Average Annual Lawyer Salary
Alabama $138,250
Alaska $120,590
Arizona $144,890
Arkansas $116,730
California $201,530
Colorado $168,680
Connecticut $174,520
Delaware N/A
District of Columbia $226,510
Florida $135,840
Georgia $165,560
Hawaii $106,520
Idaho $96,810
Illinois $158,030
Indiana $143,060
Iowa $117,500
Kansas $115,860
Kentucky $99,840
Louisiana $127,150
Maine $102,060
Maryland $158,150
Massachusetts $196,230
Michigan $127,030
Minnesota $163,480
Mississippi $101,240
Missouri $138,680
Montana $98,170
Nebraska $119,310
New Hampshire $130,130
New Jersey $163,690
New Mexico $110,970
New York $188,900
North Carolina $146,890
North Dakota $120,780
Ohio $130,320
Oklahoma $114,470
Oregon $144,610
Pennsylvania $144,570
Rhode Island $156,300
South Carolina $115,230
South Dakota $109,190
Tennessee $149,050
Texas $166,620
Utah $133,920
Vermont $101,610
Virginia $162,640
Washington $162,200
West Virginia $122,070
Wisconsin $147,530
Wyoming $88,570

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Lawyer Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

To get a job as a lawyer, you must complete a four-year undergraduate degree and then attend law school to earn a juris Doctor degree, or J.D. This can mean four years pursuing a bachelor’s degree, followed by three years of law school (or four years if you go to law school part time).

After graduating from law school, you’ll need to pass the multi-day bar exam for the state in which you want to practice. In addition, most states also require lawyers to keep up to date with law and take training courses throughout their career.

The hard work and financial investment can pay off, however. In addition to competitive pay, lawyers who work full time for a specific company or organization typically get a wide variety of benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, flexible scheduling, and more. They may also get bonuses for cases won, costs of bar association fees covered, and training and development opportunities.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Pros and Cons of a Lawyer’s Salary

Becoming a lawyer can be a clear path to making more than $100,000 but, as with any profession, working as a lawyer comes with both benefits and drawbacks. Understanding the pros and cons of this role will help you determine if you’re well-suited for this career path.

Pros of Becoming a Lawyer

•   Multiple job opportunities: As a lawyer, you have a variety of career paths, giving you the opportunity to work in an area you feel passionate about, whether that is corporate law, family law, real estate law, criminal law, or immigration law.

•   Option to start your own practice: With a law degree and significant experience, you may be able to start your own business and determine the types of clients you want to represent and how many cases you want to take on at any one given time.

•   Earn a high salary: Lawyers have the potential to earn well over six figures a year. Though you may not earn this salary right out of the gate, there is ample opportunity for career advancement and salary increases over time.

•   Stimulating and challenging work: As a lawyer, your daily duties will likely be intellectually challenging. Lawyers typically need to understand complex legal theories, form a hypothesis and create a legal strategy to benefit their clients, and argue and debate in a courtroom.

Cons of Becoming a Lawyer

•   Work can be stressful: Lawyers must meet deadlines as well as the demands of their clients. You may also come across stressful and emotionally difficult cases, which can take a psychological toll.

•   Long hours: This professional is notorious for its long hours, particular for those who are just starting out in a prestigious law practice. It’s not unusual for an associate lawyer to put in 60 to 90 hours a week each week, depending on the demands of the case they’re working on.

•   High level of student debt: In addition to a bachelor’s degree, lawyers need to pay for law school, which often comes with a high price tag. Generally, the more prestigious the school, the higher the price. Even with a high salary, new lawyers may not be able to pay off their debt for many years.

•   Today’s clients have more options: The opportunity to get clients has gotten more competitive with the rise of self-help legal websites, legal document technicians, and virtual law offices. If a client seeks legal advice or counsel, they don’t always have to go to a lawyer for help.

The Takeaway

A law degree is a valuable credential that takes around seven years of study to achieve (including a bachelor’s degree). Lawyers can choose where they want to work and what type of law they would like to specialize in, whether it be criminal law, corporate law, environmental law, or immigration law.

The amount a lawyer makes will vary depending on the school they attended, experience, type of law they practice, and where in the country they practice. According to the BLS, the highest paid lawyers earn over $230,000, and the lowest paid lawyers earn around $66,500.

Whatever type of job you pursue, you’ll want to make sure your earnings can cover your everyday living expenses. To help ensure your monthly outflows don’t exceed your monthly inflows, you may want to set up a basic budget and check out financial tools that can help track your income and spending.

With SoFi, you can keep tabs on how your money comes and goes.

FAQ

Can you make $100k a year as a lawyer?

Yes. Most lawyers earn over $100k a year. The average salary for a lawyer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $135,740 per year. The best-paid lawyers, however, can earn more than $200,000 a year.

Do people like being a lawyer?

Being a lawyer can be a great career choice if you enjoy working in a fast-paced and challenging environment and have an interest in upholding laws and defending an individual’s rights. According to a recent survey by Law360 Pulse, 83% of surveyed attorneys report they are stressed at least some of the time, nonetheless 68% percent say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their overall job.

Is it hard to get hired as a lawyer?

It’s generally not hard to find a job as a lawyer after you pass the bar exam, especially if you attended a top-rated law school, graduated in the top third of your class, and/or had strong internships and clerkships. Jobs for lawyers are expected to grow 8% between 2022 and 2032, which is faster than the average for other occupations (3%).


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SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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How Much Does a Nutritionist Make a Year?

Nutritionists advise others on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal, such as losing weight or reducing blood pressure. Some nutritionists work directly with clients and patients in clinical settings, while others work in community settings like schools or health centers developing food plans and strategies for certain groups or demographics.

How much a nutritionist makes will depend on their qualifications, experience, and where they work, but the average nutritionist’s salary in the U.S. is $54,137 a year, according to ZipRecruiter.

Read on to learn more about how much a nutritionist can make a year and an hour, which cities and states pay the highest salaries, and other compensation and occupational benefits nutritionists enjoy.

What Are Nutritionists?

A nutritionist is an expert in using food to improve health and to prevent and manage disease. Nutritionists often advise people on what to eat to address a particular medical issue, such as hypertension, diabetes, or obesity. They may also be called upon to come up with a plan of action in situations where a treatment protocol, such as chemotherapy, impacts an individual’s overall diet or creates particular food sensitivities. Their exact role will depend on their specialization.

Being a nutritionist is not an ideal job for antisocial people, since you generally don’t work alone. Nutritionists can work in a variety of work settings, including:

•   Hospitals and doctors’ offices

•   Nursing homes

•   Gyms and recreation centers

•   Foodservice organizations

•   Food and beverage companies

•   Pharmaceutical companies

•   Government organizations

While the terms “nutritionist” and “dietician” are often used interchangeably, there are some key distinctions between them. A registered dietitian (R.D.) is qualified to diagnose and treat certain medical conditions. Nutritionists, on the other hand, tend to focus on general nutritional aims and behaviors.

Dietitians also tend to have more education and credentials, though that’s not always the case. Depending on the state they practice in, a nutritionist may be required to have specific qualifications, certifications, or a license. However, in some states, there are no such mandates — meaning anyone can use the title if they want to.

While every dietitian can be called a nutritionist, not every nutritionist is a dietitian.

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How Much Do Starting Nutritionists Make a Year?

While the average nutritionist’s salary is $54,137 a year, someone just starting out in the field may not be able to earn that figure as an entry-level salary. That said, a nutritionist coming into the profession with an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, and a license or other credentials, may be able to command a higher-than-average salary even when they are just starting out.


💡 Quick Tip: When you have questions about what you can and can’t afford, a spending tracker app can show you the answer. With no guilt trip or hourly fee.

What is the Average Salary for a Nutritionist?

While salaries for a nutritionist can range anywhere from $32,500 to $90,000, the average annual pay for a nutritionist in the U.S. is $54,137 a year, according to February 2024 data from ZipRecruiter.

Nutritionist’s typically get paid an annual salary but some may make money by the hour, which can range from $15.62 to $43.27.

How much a nutritionist makes, however, can vary significantly by education, credentials, experience, industry, and location. Advanced education, such as a master’s or doctoral degree, can generally help you qualify for a higher-than-average nutritionist’s salary.

Certain metropolitan areas also pay more than others. The top paying cities for nutritionists include: Berkeley, CA,; Renton, WA; Newark, CA; Woburn, MA; and Santa Monica, CA.

Recommended: Is a $100,000 Salary Good?

The Average Nutritionist Salary by State for 2024

As mentioned above, how much money a nutritionist makes can vary by location. What follows is a breakdown of how much a dietician makes per year, on average, by state (listed from highest to lowest).

State Average Annual Salary
Wisconsin $83,731
Alaska $81,044
Massachusetts $80,824
Oregon $80,772
New Mexico $80,529
North Dakota $80,527
Washington $80,268
Minnesota $79,381
Hawaii $78,914
Ohio $77,594
Colorado $76,879
Nevada $76,629
South Dakota $76,107
New York $75,623
Iowa $74,908
Rhode Island $74,814
Connecticut $74,143
Tennessee $74,087
Vermont $73,710
Utah $73,446
Mississippi $72,808
Delaware $72,604
Virginia $71,688
Illinois $71,072
Maryland $70,347
New Jersey $69,540
California $69,458
Louisiana $69,304
Pennsylvania $69,281
Nebraska $68,943
Kansas $68,520
Missouri $68,260
Maine $67,953
South Carolina $67,618
New Hampshire $67,312
Oklahoma $66,767
Idaho $66,358
Wyoming $66,356
North Carolina $66,222
Texas $65,834
Indiana $65,561
Arizona $64,205
Kentucky $64,000
Michigan $63,673
Montana $63,238
Alabama $62,448
Arkansas $60,647
Georgia $58,176
West Virginia $53,507
Florida $51,486

Source: ZipRecruiter

Nutritionist Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

To get a job as a nutritionist or dietician, you may need:

•   A bachelor’s degree, ideally in dietetics, nutrition, food service systems management, clinical nutrition, or a related area.

•   Advanced degree (such as a master’s or doctoral degree)

•   Supervised training through an internship

•   A license (many, though not all, states require licenses for dietitians and nutritionists to practice)

•   Certification (many dietitians earn the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credential, which requires a bachelor’s degree and completed a dietetic internship program).

Nutritionists who work on staff typically receive not only competitive pay but also a suite of benefits, which may include:

•   401(k)

•   Dental insurance

•   Disability insurance

•   Employee assistance program

•   Flexible spending account

•   Health insurance

•   Life insurance

•   Paid time off

•   Retirement plan

•   Vision insurance


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Nutritionist?

As with any profession, becoming a nutritionist comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a closer look at the job’s pros and cons.

Pros of Becoming a Nutritionist

•   Opportunity to help people: Nutritionists help people by guiding them in their food choices and assisting them in reaching their health and nutritional goals, which can be highly rewarding.

•   Varied tasks and responsibilities: A nutritionist can enjoy meeting a variety of people in different contexts. No client or situation will be the same, and each will bring new challenges.

•   Can work in a variety of settings: Nutritionists can choose where they want to work, such as a hospital, nursing home, school, or gym. With extensive experience, a registered dietitian might open a private consulting practice and offer specialized services to their patients.

•   Strong job outlook: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the employment of dietitians and nutritionists to grow 7% between 2022 and 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Cons of Becoming a Nutritionist?

•   May need an advanced degree and certification: Depending on where you want to work, you may need to obtain a master’s and/or certain certifications (on top of a bachelor’s degree).

•   Can be emotionally draining: Though generally a low-stress job, nutritionists may need to have frequent interactions with seriously ill patients, which can be emotionally challenging.

•   You constantly have to stay up to date: Nutrition is an evolving science, which means you’ll need to stay current on the latest nutritional guidelines, regulations, and research, and adjust your practice based on new developments.

•   Competition for top-paying jobs: While the job outlook is strong for nutritionists, jobs with competitive pay may receive a lot of applicants. Obtaining more than the minimum education and training required by the state, however, can set you apart from other job competitors.

Recommended: How Much Does a Nurse Make a Year?

The Takeaway

Working as a nutritionist can be a rewarding career for people who want to help others improve their health and lifestyle. Nutritionists can choose where they want to work and who they want to work with. A nutritionist’s salary can range from $32,500 to $90,000 or more depending on their certification, experience, and employer.

Whatever type of job you pursue, you’ll want to make sure your earnings can cover your everyday living expenses. To help ensure your monthly outflows don’t exceed your monthly inflows, you may want to set up a basic budget and check out financial tools that can help track your income and spending.

SoFi helps you stay on top of your finances.

FAQ

Can you make $100k a year as a nutritionist?

Earning $100K as a nutritionist is possible but isn’t typical. Nutritionist salaries range anywhere from $32,500 to $90,000 a year, according to ZipRecruiter. That said, getting an advanced degree and extra certifications and/or starting your own private practice could lead to a six figure income.

Do people like being a nutritionist?

People who want to help others and who have an interest in the science of food will enjoy being a nutritionist. There are plenty of opportunities for nutritionists in a variety of contexts.

Is it hard to get hired as a nutritionist?

Nutritionists and dieticians are currently in demand and job opportunities are expected to grow 7% between 2022 and 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Guide to Employee Stock Ownership Plans

Guide To Employee Stock Ownership Plans

You may have come across the term “ESOP” and wondered, what does ESOP stand for? An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is a type of defined contribution plan that allows workers to own shares of their company’s stock. While these plans are covered by many of the same rules and regulations that apply to 401(k) plans, an ESOP uses a different approach to help employees fund their retirement.

The National Center for Employee Ownership estimates that there are approximately 6,533 ESOPs covering nearly 15 million workers in the U.S. But what is an employee stock ownership plan exactly? How is an ESOP a defined contribution plan? And how does it work?

If you have access to this type of retirement plan through your company, it’s important to understand the ESOP meaning and where it might fit into your retirement strategy.

What Is an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)?

An ESOP as defined by the IRS is “an IRC section 401(a) qualified defined contribution plan that is a stock bonus plan or a stock bonus/money purchase plan.” (IRC stands for Internal Revenue Code.) So what is ESOP in simpler terms? It’s a type of retirement plan that allows you to own shares of your company’s stock.

Though both ESOPs and 401(k)s are qualified retirement plans, the two are different in terms of how they are funded and what you’re investing in. For example, while employee contributions to an ESOP are allowed, they’re not required. Plus, you can have an ESOP and a 401(k) if your employer offers one. According to the ESOP Association, 93.6% of employers who offer an ESOP also offer a 401(k) plan for workers who are interested in investing for retirement.

💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

How Employee Stock Ownership Plans Work

In creating an ESOP, the company establishes a trust fund for the purpose of holding new shares of stock or cash to buy existing shares of stock in the company. The company may also borrow money with which to purchase shares. Unlike employee stock options, with an ESOP employees don’t purchase shares themselves.

Shares held in the trust are divided among employee accounts. The percentage of shares held by each employee may be based on their pay or another formula, as decided by the employer. Employees assume ownership of these shares according to a vesting schedule. Once an employee is fully vested, which must happen within three to six years, they own 100% of the shares in their account.

ESOP Distributions and Upfront Costs

When an employee changes jobs, retires, or leaves the company for any other reason, the company has to buy back the shares in their account at fair market value (if a private company) or at the current sales price (if a publicly-traded company). Depending on how the ESOP is structured, the payout may take the form of a lump sum or be spread over several years.

For employees, there are typically no upfront costs for an ESOP.

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Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Employee Stock Ownership Plan Examples

A number of companies use employee stock ownership plans alongside or in place of 401(k) plans to help employees save for retirement, and there are a variety of employee stock ownership plan examples. Some of the largest companies that are at least 50% employee-owned through an ESOP include:

•   Publix Super Markets

•   WinCo Foods

•   Amsted Industries

•   Brookshire Grocery Company

•   Houchens Industries

•   Performance Contracting, Inc.

•   Parsons

•   Davey Tree Expert

•   W.L. Gore & Associates

•   HDR, Inc.

Seven of the companies on this list are 100% employee-owned, meaning they offer no other retirement plan option. Employee stock ownership plans are popular among supermarkets but they’re also used in other industries, including engineering, manufacturing, and construction.

Pros & Cons of ESOP Plans

ESOPs are attractive to employees as part of a benefits package, and can also yield some tax benefits for employers. Whether this type of retirement savings plan is right for you, however, can depend on your investment goals, your long-term career plans, and your needs in terms of how long your savings will last. Here are some of the employee stock ownership plans pros and cons.

Pros of ESOP Plans

With an ESOP, employees get the benefit of:

•   Shares of company stock purchased on their behalf, with no out-of-pocket investment

•   Fair market value for those shares when they leave the company

•   No taxes owed on contributions

•   Dividend reinvestment, if that’s offered by the company

An ESOP can be an attractive savings option for employees who may not be able to make a regular payroll deduction to a 401(k) or similar plan. You can still grow wealth for retirement as you’re employed by the company, without having to pay anything from your own pocket.

Cons of ESOP Plans

In terms of downsides, there are a few things that might make employees think twice about using an ESOP for retirement savings. Here are some of the potential drawbacks to consider:

•   Distributions can be complicated and may take time to process

•   You’ll owe income tax on distributions

•   If you change jobs means you’ll only be able to keep the portion of your ESOP that you’re vested in

•   ESOPs only hold shares of company stocks so there’s no room for diversification

Pros and Cons of ESOP Plan Side-by-Side Comparison

Pros Cons

•   Shares of company stock purchased on employees’ behalf, with no out-of-pocket investment

•   Fair market value for those shares when they leave the company

•   No taxes owed on contributions

•   Dividend reinvestment, if that’s offered by the company

•   Distributions can be complicated and may take time to process

•   You’ll owe income tax on those distributions

•   Changing jobs means you’ll only be able to keep the portion of your ESOP that you’re vested in

•   ESOPs only hold shares of company stocks so there’s no room for diversification

By comparison, a 401(k) could offer more flexibility in terms of what you invest in and how you access those funds when changing jobs or retiring. But it’s important to remember that the amount you’re able to walk away with in a 401(k) largely hinges on what you contribute during your working years, whereas an ESOP can be funded without you contributing a single penny.

💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that you must choose the investments in your IRA? Once you open a new IRA and start saving, you get to decide which mutual funds, ETFs, or other investments you want — it’s totally up to you.

ESOP Contribution Limits

The IRS sets contribution limits on other retirement plans, and ESOPs are no different. In particular, there are two limits to pay attention to:

•   Limit for determining the lengthening of the five-year distribution period

•   Limit for determining the maximum account balance subject to the five-year distribution period

Like other retirement plan limits, the IRS raises ESOP limits regularly through cost of living adjustments. Here’s how the ESOP compares for 2023 and 2024.

ESOP Limits

2023

2024

Limit for determining the lengthening of the five-year distribution period $265,000 $275,000
Limit for determining the maximum account balance subject to the five-year distribution period $1,330,000 $1,380,000

Cashing Out of an ESOP

In most cases, you can cash out of an ESOP only if you retire, leave the company, lose your job, become disabled, or pass away.

Check the specific rules for your plan to find out how the cashing-out process works.

Can You Roll ESOPs Into Other Retirement Plans?

You can roll an ESOP into other retirement plans such as IRAs. However, there are possible tax implications, so you’ll want to plan your rollover carefully.

ESOPs are tax-deferred plans. As long as you roll them over into another tax-deferred plan such as a traditional IRA, within 60 days, you generally won’t have to pay taxes.

However, a Roth IRA is not tax-deferred. In that case, if you roll over some or all of your ESOP into a Roth IRA, you will owe taxes on the amount your shares are worth.

Because rolling over an ESOP can be a complicated process and could involve tax implications, you may want to consult with a financial professional about the best way to do it for your particular situation.

ESOPs vs 401(k) Plans

Although ESOPs and 401(k)s are both retirement plans, the funding and distribution is different for each of them. Both plans have advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of their pros and cons.

ESOP

401(k)

Pros

•   Money is invested by the company, typically, and requires no contributions from employees.

•   Employees get fair market value for shares when they leave the company.

•   Company may offer dividend reinvestment.

•   Many employers offer matching funds.

•   Choice of options to invest in.

•   Generally easy to get distributions when an employee leaves the company.

Cons

•   ESOPs are invested in company stock only.

•   Value of shares may fall or rise based on the performance of the company.

•   Distribution may be complicated and take time.

•   Some employees may not be able to afford to contribute to the plan.

•   Employees must typically invest a certain amount to qualify for the employer match.

•   Employees are responsible for researching and choosing their investments.

Recommended: Should You Open an IRA If You Already Have a 401(k)?

3 Other Forms of Employee Ownership

An ESOP is just one kind of employee ownership plan. These are some other examples of plans an employer might offer.

Stock options

Stock options allow employees to purchase shares of company stock at a certain price for a specific period of time.

Direct stock purchase plan

With these plans, employees can use their after-tax money to buy shares of the company’s stock. Some direct stock purchase plans may offer the stock at discounted prices.

Restricted stock

In the case of restricted stock, shares of stock may be awarded to employees who meet certain performance goals or metrics.

Investing for Retirement With SoFi

There are different things to consider when starting a retirement fund but it’s important to remember that time is on your side. No matter what type of plan you choose, the sooner you begin setting money aside for retirement, the more room it may have to grow.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Can employees contribute to an ESOP?

In most cases, the employer makes contributions to an ESOP on behalf of employees. Rarely, employers may allow for employee contributions to employee stock ownership plans.

What is the maximum contribution to an ESOP?

The maximum account balance allowed in an employee stock ownership plan is determined by the IRS. For 2024, this limit is $1,380,000, though amounts are increased periodically through cost of living adjustments.

What does ESOP stand for?

ESOP stands for employee stock ownership plan. This is a type of qualified defined contribution plan which allows employees to own shares of their company’s stock.

How does ESOP payout work?

When an employee changes jobs, retires, or leaves the company for any other reason, the company has to buy back the shares in their account at fair market value or at the current sales price, depending if the company is private or publicly-traded. The payout to the employee may take the form of a lump sum or be spread over several years. Check with your ESOP plan for specific information about the payout rules.

Is an ESOP better than a 401(k)?

An ESOP and a 401(k) are both retirement plans, and they each have pros and cons. For instance, the employer generally funds an ESOP while an employee contributes to a 401(k) and the employer may match a portion of those contributions. A 401(k) allows for more investment options, while an ESOP consists of shares of company stock.

It’s possible to have both an ESOP and a 401(k) if your employer gives you that option. Currently, almost 94% of companies that offer ESOPs also offer a 401(k), according to the ESOP Association.


Photo credit: iSTock/pixelfit

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

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