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What Are the Financial Advantages to Getting a College Degree?

by Dr. Mary Dowd, studioD

Earning your college degree involves a major investment of time and money that can yield a big pay off in terms of future financial security and overall career satisfaction. A survey conducted by Pew Research in 2011 indicated that 86 percent of college graduates believed their college degree was a sound investment. Employers are more likely to find value educated professionals who learn quickly and adapt to changes in society and the marketplace.

Higher Lifetime Earnings

A 2011 U.S. Census Bureau survey found that college graduates can expect to earn $2.4 million over a 40-year work life. By comparison, the survey forecast the median lifetime earnings of high school graduates at $1.4 million. Your choice of an undergraduate major also can influence your projected lifetime earnings. College graduates who major in science, technology, engineering, math, social science and business typically earn more during their lifetime than liberal arts graduates.

Advancement Opportunity

With a college degree, you will be almost twice as likely as a high school graduate to be offered on-the-job training because employers value educated workers with high level skills, as discussed in a 2010 report by the Center on Education and the Workforce. Additional training will make you eligible for advancement opportunities and give you a competitive edge in the job market. Your earnings are likely to steadily increase as you gain experience and acquire new skills leading to promotions.

Fringe Benefits

Jobs requiring a college degree provide better fringe benefits because employers must offer competitive wages and benefits to attract educated workers who are in high demand, according to a 2010 study released by the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center. A typical fringe benefit package includes health and dental insurance, vacation, family leave, pension plans, workers compensation, child care assistance and tuition stipends for professional development. Fringe benefits can enhance your quality of life.

Lower Unemployment

A college degree is increasingly essential to job security. Job openings for uneducated workers continue to decline as employers find new ways of using machines to replace unskilled laborers. The unemployment rate for college graduates is lower than the unemployment rate for high school graduates even during an economic downturn, according to findings published in a 2010 College Board Advocacy and Policy Center report. College graduates are more likely to hold full-time jobs and less likely to work seasonable jobs.

Job Satisfaction

The National Opinion Research Center analyzed workplace survey data and reported in 2007 that college educated adults, particularly those in the helping professions, were the happiest and most satisfied in their line of work. Feelings of unhappiness and job dissatisfaction were more prevalent among workers in low-paying, unskilled jobs in retail, food service, customer service and manufacturing.

About the Author

Mary Dowd holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's degree in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. In her 20 years of higher education experience, she has taught classes, served as interim dean of students, and worked in many areas of student affairs, including student discipline, career advising, orientation and violence prevention.

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