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Does a College Education Really Guarantee a Better Job?

by Marie Anderson

Many students attend college with hopes of securing a stable economic future and higher paying jobs. While a college degree typically translates into higher earnings and more employment opportunities, in an ever-changing economy, there are no guarantees. Many jobs pay well without requiring a college degree, and college graduates in certain fields might find themselves unemployed or underemployed at the same rates as those without degrees.

With and Without a Degree

While many factors influence unemployment rates, statistically speaking, workers with college degrees generally have an easier time finding work. The unemployment rate in 2012 for those with only a high school diploma was 8.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those with some college credit fared slightly better, at 7.7 percent. Those with associate degrees experienced a 6.2 unemployment rate, while workers with bachelor's degrees had an unemployment rate of only 4.5 percent.

Better Earnings for College Grads

For some, a better job means better pay. BLS data from 2012 shows that those with an associate degree, on average, made about $41,000 a year. Earnings for bachelor's and graduate degrees were even higher, at $55,000 for a bachelor's and up to $84,000 for employees with a doctorate. Workers with only a high school education averaged roughly $34,00 a year, while those with some college credit but no degree made about $37,000.

Good Jobs Without a Degree

Even with higher earnings and lower unemployment, according to financial advice website Kiplinger.com, many good jobs do not require a college education. Insurance sales agents, manufacturing sales representatives, plumbers, electricians and brick masons are just a few jobs projected to grow, have salaries higher than the national average and do not require degrees. Although many require a vocational certificate or on-the-job training, these costs are less than the cost of a four-year college degree.

Degrees with High Unemployment Rates

A college degree does not make workers immune to economic problems associated with the job market, especially in certain fields. A 2013 study by Georgetown University found that college majors have a huge impact on future employment. Unemployment rates for recent college graduates with degrees in architecture is about the same for those without a high school diploma -- 12.8 percent. Those with degrees in the arts experienced a 9.8 percent unemployment rate, while recent graduates with degrees in information systems had a rate worse than high school dropouts, at 14.7 percent.

About the Author

Houston area native Marie Anderson began writing education articles in 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise and sports science and a Master of Science in education administration. She has seven years of teaching and coaching experience within the Texas public school system.

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