The cost of college may leave you wondering whether a college degree is a good investment for your future. While the average cost of college has steadily risen, studies show that a college degree continues to be worth the cost. While there are important benefits for any type of postsecondary education, people with a college degree have increased employment opportunities and are more likely to have a higher paying job. College is a worthwhile investment that pays off over time for most students.
Which kind of college degree offers the most benefits?
When you hear the term college , you may automatically think of a four-year degree (also known as a bachelor’s degree). While a four-year degree provides many benefits, there are other educational pathways available after high school, such as trade school certificates (less than two years) and associate degrees (two year). These different degrees can also lead to higher wages and more job opportunities compared to a high school diploma.
The type of degree you get, the length of time required to earn it, and how much it will cost, depends on your career goals and field of study.
What do you gain from attending college?
Higher lifetime earnings
Research consistently links a college education with higher earnings. For most people, there are financial benefits to going to college. In fact, education beyond high school is linked with an increase in pay at every level.
Some studies have shown that bachelor’s degree holders have median lifetime earnings of $2.8 million dollars, which is over $1 million more than those with a high school diploma alone.
Lower unemployment rates
When you earn a college degree, you’re helping to protect yourself from unemployment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that as your degree level increases, unemployment rates decrease. Unemployment rates are even lower for those with advanced degrees, such as a master’s degree or doctoral degree.
Increased job opportunities
Employers have increasingly made college education a requirement for employment, even in jobs that didn’t require it before. And industries that require more education are also hiring more people, showing a 68% increase in employment between 1980 and 2015. Jobs in education and health services, which overwhelmingly require a college degree, have been gaining the most employees.
Better health, job satisfaction, and more
Some studies have shown that a college education is associated with a healthier lifestyle. College graduates are less likely to smoke tobacco, and more likely to exercise regularly. They may also be less likely to be exposed to dangerous working conditions. The children of college graduates benefit as well, making it more likely for them to have access to preschool and other enrichment activities.
More than half of two-year and four-year degree graduates report that their college education was very useful in opening up job opportunities, and led to personal and intellectual growth.
What you can do now to prepare for college?
There are many personal and financial benefits to earning a college degree. As you make the decision for yourself, some things to consider include:
Exploring your own passions and interests. What kinds of careers or fields of study excite you? What level of education or credentials would you need to earn in order to work in the industries you’re most interested in?
Talking to others about their college and career trajectory. Ask some college graduates what kind of degree they’ve earned, and what kind of career it enabled them to pursue.
If possible, saving money. Saving even a small amount of money from part-time work, summer jobs, or gifts, can help you cover the costs of college. There are many different ways to save for college, depending on what’s best for you and your family.