Anyone who is a teacher or school administrator understands the importance of education – after all, you’ve dedicated your careers to the cause. But the importance of education – especially of completing some level of higher education beyond high school – is becoming more apparent in the job market as well.
This is a good story to share with your students, fellow education professionals, and anyone else who can help spread the word. The job market is sending a strong message: “Stay in school!”
Even in today’s tough job market, it pays to stay in school. People who graduate from high school are much less likely to be unemployed than high school dropouts, and people who finish their college degree are less likely to be unemployed than people who start college but do not complete their studies.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of August 2010, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma was 14%. Meanwhile, high school graduates had an unemployment rate of 10.3%, people who completed some college or obtained an Associate’s degree had an unemployment rate of 8.7%, and people with a Bachelor’s degree or higher had an unemployment rate of only 4.6%.
There are a lot of people in America who are struggling to find work right now – the national unemployment rate is almost 10%. But it’s clear if you look at the statistics that the situation is even more difficult for people who have not completed a high school diploma – and college graduates are least likely to find themselves out of a job.
Not only are more highly educated people less likely to be unemployed, but they also earn better money when they’re working. According to another survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, during 2009 (a very bad year for the job market – this was the depths of the Great Recession), finishing college leads to significant gains in earning power compared with people who only finish high school.
High school graduates age 25 and older earned a median income of $626 per week. People who had finished high school and attended some college courses (but not completed a degree) earned $699 a week – not much of a difference. But once people finish a degree, whether it’s an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, they see a significant increase in income.
People with Associate’s degrees earned a median income of $761 a week – 22% more than the average high school graduate – and people with a Bachelor’s degree earned a median income of $1,025 per week – 64% more than a high school graduate.
If you take this difference in weekly earnings and multiply it over 50 weeks a year and a 30-year career, these statistics indicate that an Associate’s degree is worth an extra $202,500 in lifetime income, and a Bachelor’s degree is worth an additional $598,500 compared to the earning power of a high school diploma alone.
College costs are continuing to rise, students are borrowing more than ever before, and some people ask “is it worth it?” I would say, if you look at the typical earnings of college graduates (Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees), there are significant benefits to staying in school and finishing your degree. The job market has its ups and downs, but a college degree still seems like a good investment that will serve you well for the rest of your working life.
Ben Gran is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Des Moines, Iowa. He is an award-winning blogger who loves to write about careers and the future of work.
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