What is the Value of a College Degree?

value of a college degree

Obtaining a college degree is considered to be a prerequisite for success in the modern world. Even so, given how expensive higher education can be, many prospective students and their parents find themselves asking questions like, “What’s the value of a college degree?” or “What’s the ROI (return on investment) of a college education?”

The fact is, owning a college degree is tangible evidence of an educational background often needed to begin or enhance any career. But a post-secondary education is far more than just a pathway to better jobs and higher pay. Here are a few more reasons, tangible and intangible, to ponder and hopefully motivate you to fill out those applications.

Exposure to Different Perspectives

The value of a college degree is more than just economic gain. Undoubtedly, the economic benefits are substantial but have you considered the social and cultural benefits of higher education? College affords students the opportunity to explore what they don’t know. And the college classroom encourages observation, team working, debate, making connections, and learning about different ways of thinking. Exposure is the key to opportunity, and higher education is the key to that opportunity.

By enrolling in a variety of courses, you’ll participate in discussions on issues you never considered or knew existed. You’ll engage in intense conversations, solve problems collaboratively, and gain an appreciation for multiple perspectives. What’s more? You’ll meet other students from across the globe and share the experience of education with people from all walks of life.

Gain Specialized Knowledge

College allows students to declare a major, change a major, or create their own, which is best suited to their interests and career objectives. Below are just a few of the many areas of study at the undergraduate level:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Business
  • Health and Medicine
  • Multi-/Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Public and Social Services
  • Science, Math, and Technology
  • Social Sciences

Now keep in mind that within each of the above categories are hundreds of different majors to choose from. For example, arts and humanities includes such fields as English, anthropology, music, art history, philosophy, rhetoric, among others while business often includes finance, marketing, management, and accounting. If you want to work in marketing, you’ll likely need a marketing degree to break into the industry. The same goes for social services, business administration, IT, and other in-demand fields. Bottom line: College provides what employers require.

Increase Your Employment Opportunities

Okay, so maybe we already mentioned how a college degree leads to more job opportunities but this rightfully deserves another mention. Many employers require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level employment. Let’s repeat that: Many employers require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level employment. Without it, you may also be held back from a promotion, advancement in your current position, or from other opportunities in your field of interest. Employers look for candidates with a broad-based education, and undergraduate study provides just that.

And what if you want to earn an MBA and become a licensed CPA? You’ll need a college degree to get there. In order to pursue graduate study, a bachelor’s degree is needed. Think of it this way: College is an enabler that allows students to achieve their dreams and goals. To reiterate our point, let’s look at another graph from Georgetown University Center of Education and Development that illustrates the job projections for college degree holders:

Georgetown Graph

According to the graph, jobs available for workers with postsecondary education between 1973 and 2018 are expected to increase from 28 percent to 63 percent for all occupations!

Earn More Money!

To quote The Bureau of Labor Statistics, “education pays in higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.” If you’re interested in a bigger paycheck, a bachelor’s degree will show you a return on your investment. According to the BLS, a bachelor degree holder earned a median annual wage of $63,430 in 2010 while a high school graduate earned $34,180. That’s quite a gap between salaries. If high earnings are a priority, going to college is a no-brainer. Check out the graph below for a better look at the value of a college degree:

BLS Education Pays

Does it pay to go to college? Absolutely, especially if what you want to do requires a college degree. It’s much easier to get a foot in the door with a degree. And it’s much easier to command the salary you want with an advanced education.

Again, the difference in earning potential between a high school graduate and a college graduate is dramatic. College is worth the cost, without a doubt.

Establish Connections

College is a social marketplace for networking and meeting new people. Your professors, colleagues, and peers are great resources for personal and professional networking. If you’re looking for a part-time job while attending classes, an internship, or a career position upon graduation, college is full of countless opportunities to make connections. Many schools host job fairs and business networking mixers. You’ll meet professionals in your field of interest and get a head start on interviewing and job placement.

Improve Your Self-Esteem

Earning a college degree takes hard work and dedication, and once you’ve completed a higher education program, you just might stand a little taller. Why? You’ve accomplished something important—you’ve shown that you’re capable of achieving. And with improved self-esteem comes the confidence to kick butt in the workforce. Just think how great it felt to earn an “A” on a test you spent hours studying for. Felt pretty good, right? Now imagine completing four years of dedicated study at the collegiate level. You’ll not only stand taller, you’ll stand out.

With improved self-esteem also comes increased personal mobility, better decision-making skills, an awareness of learning opportunities, and an overall improved quality of life. Feeling good about yourself is the key to success in many areas of life.

Enjoy Higher Job Satisfaction

I Love My JobHigher job satisfaction comes from a sense of accomplishment, and with a college degree under your belt, you’ll be well equipped to achieve longevity and advancement in your career. Given how much time we spend at work, it’s important that we enjoy it, right? And with enjoyment comes motivation and motivation leads to success.

Job satisfaction comes from a few key ingredients:

  • Sense of purpose
  • Independence
  • Variety
  • Being challenged
  • Feeling of security
  • Great compensation

A college degree often provides access to these benefits. Many college graduates enjoy better pay, job security, and an overall improved quality of life. In today’s economy, obtaining a postsecondary education is worth the time and money.

So What Are You Waiting For?

Still not sure if college is right for you? That’s understandable, given the cost of tuition these days. But the return on your investment is huge. Today’s job market is very competitive and even more competitive without the training and education necessary to land a career. The value of education is growing and so is the demand for college-educated workers. However, college is not for everyone so it’s important to assess your readiness for advanced study. Ask yourself the following questions to help determine if college is right for you:

  1. Do you like to learn?
  2. Are you passionate about something and you wish you could do it full time?
  3. Are you career-oriented?
  4. Do you have the time to dedicate to studying and attending class?
  5. Are you open to new experiences?

Choosing to attend college is a big decision. It’s a decision that can change your life. Yes, it’s a serious commitment, but the rewards are plentiful and not just in the financial sense. The value of a college degree is undeniable and its benefits grow significantly over a lifetime. So what are you waiting for?

Additional Resources

Below are a few additional resources to help you with your decision. You can always contact us with questions, too, as we’re pretty in-tune with what’s happening in the higher education arena. Just let us know! In the meantime, the links below will provide you with useful advice, statistics, and extra guidance:

About the Author Sarah Bass

Sarah Bass is a writer and editor for YesCollege.com. Her background includes a Bachelor of Arts in English from Drake University as well as a Master of Arts in writing from DePaul University. As a former teacher, she knows how important a college education is and wants to help her readers navigate the increasingly complex path to a degree.