What are the Benefits of Going to College?
While it may be obvious to some that getting a college education is a worthwhile investment, to many gaining an advanced education may be desirable, but the associated costs may need some justification. We’ll take a look at a few reasons why getting an undergraduate degree is a great idea, and we’ll even look at reasons that you may not have considered.
Let’s start with three career reasons that people go to college, one of which may not be so obvious…
Looking at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cited data from 2019 that showed, on average, a bachelor’s degree could net you about $500 a week more than someone with a high school diploma. That’s a 66% increase. Bear in mind that when you start on the road of advanced education, you open yourself up to many more job opportunities that you may not have had, and also to advanced academic and professional education like masters and PhDs. So you can think of the 66% as a starting point, not an ending point in your calculations.
Also, don’t forget that these are averages that include fields that make no more than a high school diploma. So depending on your chosen career, and the demand for graduates in such fields, you could easily double your salary with an undergraduate degree.
Unfortunately, this reason is once again becoming a more common problem. When companies are faced with the difficult decision during economic downturns, they more often than not have to downsize their workforce. When it comes to making the decision of who to let go, it’s not as simple as selecting higher wage earners. While that may work in the short term, companies also know that in most cases they will grow again. When it comes to selecting layoff candidates, one question managers will ask themselves is, who will be easiest to replace when things get better? The cost of on-boarding and training candidates who will take on more responsibility in a company is higher than more junior staff. Likewise, competition for good candidates is hot right now, so letting people go who are in demand, may not be the best decision. Who is in demand? You guessed it… graduates.
Here’s one you may not have thought about. Unlike previous generations, we no longer have a job for life at a single employer. While getting a higher salary may be obvious, we don’t usually consider that periods of unemployment between jobs, is becoming the new normal. We may get payoffs or have savings to cover times like this, but the less time you have between jobs, the less you spend, or you may even get to save some. The New York Federal Reserve, citing 2020 and 2021 studies, people aged 22 to 27 have a higher rate of unemployed if they don’t have a college degree. Unemployment is about 4% among those with a college degree, compared to about 10% for those without. That means for every 2 unemployed graduates, there’s 5 unemployed high school grads.
After considering the career advantages of a degree, let’s consider some things other than money…
Academic education is the core of a degree, but along the way you will learn many soft skills, skills that can be applied to working in a company. Skills like time-management, teamwork, planning, reporting, and research are in demand, and will set you apart from your peers…..but only if you can get your foot in the door. Having a degree is that foot in the door, but soft skills will make you so much more desirable. Think of it as gift wrapping around a gift. Sure everyone want s a gift, but the wow factor of presentation can’t be understated.
Even if they don’t, or you haven’t got student debt, getting into a more responsible role, and especially at larger companies, will open you up to internal and external company education and training opportunities. Companies invest in people they value, either to make them better for their present role, prepare them for their next promotion, or to cross-train them in other parts of the business, so that they can move sideways or be part of a mixed team. You may also have the opportunity to train for a professional qualification, for example in project management or a new software language, all of which you can add to your professional experience. While you reach for the stars, don’t forget that companies may pay for an advanced degree like an MBA. Suffice to say, once you take the undergraduate degree step, you’ll realize it was really a leap into another world of advanced education.
In today’s world, your network is not only your history of your professional interactions, but your future career pathway. While you may be thinking that adding a degree to your LinkedIn profile or resume will get you noticed, you have to consider that making your next career step may not actually come through such a formal hiring process. Business professionals are always looking within their trusted networks for their next hire. We’ve mentioned previously that hiring is not only about what is known about you, but also the risks associated with what is not known about you. You hear the stories of the superior on-paper candidate that turned out to be the office horror. Managers try to minimize this risk by hiring candidates that are known by people they trust, that’s the folk in their network. Starting with your relationships at college, you’ll grow your network, and also have access to your friends’ networks. So while college is getting you your degree, it will also be growing your opportunities for great roles.
Even though this article is about the benefits of a college degree, it wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk a little about the costs of a college education, let’s face it, even with all the benefits that we’ve discussed, there’s a big elephant in the room, which we’ve chosen NOT to ignore.
It can cost a lot of money to go to college, we don’t need to tell you how much, you know the numbers. While making an extra $500,000 to $1 million more over a lifetime is not out of the question when you get a degree, you may still have to shoulder student debt. It’s a daunting prospect for anyone to have $1000s of dollars in debt, let alone someone who hasn’t even started or is in the early stages of their career.
There’s three things we want to say about the cost of college:
Firstly, the exciting news is that the US government is taking student debt very seriously, recently announcing a student debt forgiveness program. We hope and expect this to become a new normal going forward, and see it as a government investing in its people and future.
Secondly, new online degree opportunities are changing accessibility to degrees for economic as well as geographic and physically challenged groups. Programs like Total Testing, now make it a reality to get a degree. The program offer unprecedented flexibility to study when you like, how you like and where you like. And the amazing news is that online programs can cost a fraction of what you would normally pay for your degree.
Finally, if you have run up some debt during your undergraduate degree, it is not unheard of for employers to pay something towards that debt as part of a starting package, if not all of it. It’s one of those negotiating points in an interview. Imagine starting your career debt free.