Sure, you've heard that college is important to put you on track for continued success. But is it really a step you need to take to further your career? When you consider all the time, effort and yes, money, it will take to earn that degree, is college worth it?
The truth is that the answer to this question is still "yes." But rather than lecturing you on the importance of continuing your education, let's talk some hard numbers to help you decide.
Let's start with money. What kind of salary can you expect with a college degree? The government tracks that kind of information through the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS research shows that in 2015, the median average wage of someone with:
- A high school diploma was $678 a week.
- An associate degree was $798 a week.
- A bachelor's degree was $1,137 a week.1
Let's do the math: That means an extra $459 a week—or 68 percent more—for a bachelor's degree over a high school diploma. Over the course of one year, that adds up to an extra $23,868 per year for those with a bachelor's degree versus a high school diploma. That's a pretty significant difference.
2. Career Opportunities
Now let's look at career paths and the increasing importance of a degree in the job market. In 1978, the number of U.S. workers with a post-secondary education was 28 percent; by 2010, those with postsecondary education held 59% of jobs, and this number is projected to reach an all-time high of 65 percent by 2020, according to a recent study by Georgetown University. Of those jobs in 2020:
• 35 percent will require at least a bachelor's degree,
• 30 percent will require some college or an associate degree.2
Here are two more facts in the Georgetown study that really stand out, especially if you're wondering is it worth going to college:
- At the current production rate, the United States will fall short by 5 million workers with postsecondary education by 2020. That means workers with postsecondary schooling will be highly sought after by employers.
- Three of the fastest-growing occupations — those in STEM (an acronym for the fields encompassing science, technology, engineering and math), the healthcare profession, and community services — also have the highest demand for postsecondary education and training.3
3. Other benefits
There are also benefits of going to college that are much harder to calculate but that are just as important. For instance, the broader perspective you can develop as a college student when exposed to different viewpoints, critical thinking, and people from different cultures and backgrounds can open up your world in ways you never thought possible. In addition, the network of friends and professors you meet in school can be invaluable when looking for future employment.
On top of it all, the sense of pride and accomplishment that you get from completing your degree might not be measurable, but it very well could mean more to you than any of the other numbers here.
So does it add up for you now? Is college worth it? The research points to the answer as a resounding yes, but the final conclusion is up to you.
Ready to move forward? Explore online degrees in business, IT, healthcare management and more at AIU.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment," on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm Based on median weekly earnings. These are national projections covering all levels of experience; conditions in your area may be different. (visited 5/10/2016)
2. Georgetown University and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, "Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020," p.3, on the Internet at https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.ES_.Web_.pdf (visited 6/07/2015)
3. Georgetown University and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, "Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020," p.6, on the Internet at https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.ES_.Web_.pdf (visited 6/07/2015)
The earnings data referenced above were updated 5/10/16 to reflect the latest data available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Find employment rates, financial obligations and other disclosures at www.aiuniv.edu/student-disclosures.