Is earning a college degree worth it? With the major debates in the last 10-15 years over the return on investment of a college degree, we would be surprised if you hadn’t wondered about the benefits of a college degree. Because we value facts over opinion (and know you probably do too), here is a data-driven list of the Benefits of College and the 8 reasons why a college degree is worth the time, effort, and the cost it requires.
Benefits of College
1. Greater Earning Potential
One of the most important and obvious benefits of college and reasons to earn a college degree or an advanced degree (Master’s, PhD) is to increase your earning potential. The data below was gathered by the United States Census Bureau and suggests a strong positive correlation between degree level earned and salary potential.
- PhD, Doctoral: $84,496
- Professional Degree: $89,960
- Master’s: $69,732
- Bachelor’s: $59,124
- Associates: $41,496
- Some College, No Degree: $38,376
- High School Diploma: $35,256
- Less Than High School Diploma: $25,636
Need more convincing of the monetary benefits of a college degree? Check this out. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that individuals who only finish high school could look forward to earning about $1.3 million over their lifetime, some college increases that lifetime earning potential to about $1.6 million.
Moving forward in education attainment, an associate degree holder may earn around $1.7 million and a bachelor’s degree holder, about $2.3 million. Those with advanced degrees, including master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees may earn $2.7 million, $3.3 million and $3.6 million, respectively. So, is four years of college education (at a cost of about $50,000) worth earning an extra $1 million dollars over the course of a lifetime? We think so.
While this data is accurate, there is a caveat and that is that there are variances in salary as determined by an individual’s chosen career field. For example, a bachelor’s degree holder that works in management or engineering can sometimes earn more than someone with a master’s degree who works in education or social work. Work experience also can impact annual salary and lifetime earnings.
2. More Job Opportunities
In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that approximately 37% of the jobs and occupations listed in their occupation handbook require a college degree. Bachelor’s degrees are the most often required, being necessary for about 21.3% of all jobs in the handbook.
The percentage of currently required postsecondary education for 2016, according to the BLS, is as follows:
- Some college, no college: 2.6%
- Postsecondary nondegree award: 6.0%
- Associate degree: 2.4%
- Bachelor’s degree: 21.3%
- Master’s degree: 1.7%
- Doctoral or professional degree: 2.5%
A projection by the BLS for the years of 2014-2024 suggest that jobs that require a postsecondary nondegree award will grow by 11.5%, bachelor’s degree by 8.2%, master’s degrees by 13.8%, and doctoral or professional degrees by 12.2%.
So why do employers place such an emphasis on you earning your degree? Does earning a college degree mean that you’re smarter? Well, that all depends on you – but in most cases, the answer is yes. Even if you don’t remember everything you were taught in college, most students come away with: 1) a greater ability to think analytically and theoretically, 2) a stronger ability to work in teams and groups, 3) the ability to solve a task or problem and the discipline to see it through from beginning to end, 4) a measured ability to understand aspects of certain subject matter – four very attractive qualities in a potential employee. For these reasons and many others, employers seek after college graduates when looking to fill job positions. Earning a college degree will greatly enhance your marketability as a professional.
Not only does a college degree make you more marketable, it makes you more marketable to a much greater range of career options. While high school graduates can look forward to entry-level positions in non-skilled positions, graduates with a 4-year bachelor’s degree and even those with a 2-year associate degree, will qualify for a much greater range of higher paying entry- and upper-level career positions. Earn a master’s degree or PhD and your career advancement opportunities are limitless.
Earning a college degree – at any level – will open doors for you that would otherwise but shut. In addition to the skills and knowledge acquired by earning a degree, attending college provides professional networking opportunities inaccessible to those who don’t go to college. And the career networking opportunities typically increase with every level of education attained (e.g. associates, bachelor, master, and doctoral).
3. Better Employment Benefits
Studies have shown that college graduates are more likely to receive greater employer-provided benefits than employees without a college degree. This is especially true when it comes to healthcare coverage. A 2008 report produced by College Board showed that roughly 70 percent of individuals with a four-year college degree received health insurance from their employer, while less than 50 percent of employees with only a high school diploma received the same benefit.
Across the board, college graduates are able to find jobs with better benefits. In addition to health care insurance, college graduates can look forward to better retirement matching, health savings accounts, tuition reimbursement, free childcare and reimbursement for travel and commuting costs. In some instances, a benefits package can be worth almost as much as an employee’s take-home pay.
4. Higher Job Satisfaction
Not surprisingly, college graduates are typically more satisfied with their careers than individuals with a high school diploma – and since we spend almost our entire lives working, job satisfaction can be a large factor in our overall satisfaction with life and sense of well-being. Studies have also shown that as the level of education increase, so does job satisfaction.
College graduates are typically more satisfied with their careers for a number of reasons. They’re able to find higher paying careers. They’re able to get into positions with job advancement opportunities. They’re able to get hired by employers that provide generous benefits. And most importantly, they’re able to work in fields and industries that interest them.
According to 2007 survey from the University of Chicago, some of the most satisfying occupations include that of a physical therapist, firefighter, teacher, clergy, psychologist, education administrator, operating engineer, and office supervisor.
5. Stronger Job Stability
A college degree also leads to stronger job stability. During an economic downturn, it’s not uncommon for employers to cut jobs. What positions do you think are first to get cut? That’s right. Typically those at the bottom of the totem pole – positions requiring unskilled labor. During a recession, the unemployment rate among college graduates is substantially lower than the unemployment rate among employees with only a high school diploma.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, having an associate degree suggests that you will be 30% less likely to be unemployed. By earning a bachelor’s or master’s, this same data suggests that you will be 48-56% less likely to be unemployed.
Certain jobs, however, inherently have a lower unemployment rate than others. According to U.S. News & World Report, some of the jobs with the best job security during a recession include registered nursing, public school teacher, college professor, accountant, federal judge, doctor and air traffic controller. Not surprisingly, most of these jobs also require a college degree.
6. Increased Benefits to Your Children
When considering the benefits of college, most people only consider the direct impact of a college degree on their own lives – but one of the more hidden benefits of college and earning a college degree is the positive impact it can have on the well-being of their families as well, especially their children. Not only are children of parents with a college education better off socially and economically, but studies have shown that children in households where one or both parents have a college degree are themselves more likely to earn a college degree. Earning a college degree can have a ripple effect that will influence the well-being of generations to come.
There is also an interesting correlation between a woman’s education and the health of her children. A study produced by Lancet, a reputable medical journal, showed that between 1970 and 2009 there was a significant decrease in infant mortality rates for women as they attained higher levels of education.
7. Heightened Ability to Make Good Choices
Earning a college degree enables people to make better choices the rest of their lives. Not only does a college education provide an individual with new knowledge and information, it teaches them how to think critically, how to break apart and reconstruct complex issues, and how to solve problems. Earning a college degree helps people make better choices about everything from mortgage rates to investment plans to launching a new business.
8. Improved Ability to Communicate Effectively
A college degree also has a very positive impact on an individual’s written and verbal communication skills. Of all the benefits provided by earning a college degree, this is one of the most valuable. Communication skills will influence just about every aspect of your life. The ability to communicate clearly, concisely, and persuasively with help you land the perfect job, improve your career advancement opportunities and enhance your interpersonal relationships with family members and associates.
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