Will Receiving a College Degree Improve My Career Opportunities?

Will Receiving a College Degree Improve My Career Opportunities?
Anissa Sorokin

Yes! Without a doubt, earning a college degree will have a significant positive impact on your career opportunities. Having a college degree not only expands the number of industries and roles you can be considered for, but it can also contribute to your sense of purpose and increase your chances for promotion within your existing career. Employers continue to value college degrees highly because they know that those who’ve earned them have both the skills and the determination that will help them be productive, successful employees.

College graduates have more and better employment opportunities

College has always unlocked professional doors, but over the last decade, the importance of a college degree in employment access has only increased. In the years of economic recovery following the 2008 recession, degree holders have seen increased and better job opportunities than their peers without degrees:

  • Since 2008, Bachelor’s degree holders have gained 3.8 million jobs, while those with only a high school degree have gained only 80,000.
  • 95% of jobs created since 2008 have required at least some college experience.
  • College grads have access to 57% more opportunities than those without a degree.

These trends reflect employers’ desire for highly skilled candidates who are specialists in their field. Employers in the business, healthcare, and tech sectors in particular have added jobs that require at least some post-secondary education, so if you’re hoping to land a job in one of those areas, a college degree will significantly increase the number of roles for which you’re qualified.

College graduates are happier and have higher career satisfaction rates

Economic and psychological research suggests that there’s a strong link between a person’s level of education and their happiness. In a recent survey, at least 75% of adults with a bachelor's degree reported feeling happy with their lives, compared to only 64% of adults with only a high school degree. Naturally, our level of happiness is dependent upon a lot of variables, but career satisfaction seems to be a significant one. While only 38% of non-degree holders report that they are highly satisfied with their jobs, 60% of those with a bachelor’s degree or above report feeling highly satisfied and agree that their job is more than just a paycheck.

College graduates have significantly higher earnings potential

Though overall job satisfaction depends on more than just a paycheck, pay is also an important part of any discussion about the benefits of a college degree. Earning a degree is a significant investment, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the more you learn, the more you earn. Wondering just how much?

  • $37,000 per year = the average income for someone with only a high school diploma
  • $40,000 per year = the average income for someone with some college but no degree
  • $43,500 per year = the average income for someone with an associate’s degree
  • $61,000 per year = the average income for someone with a bachelor’s degree.

Yes, you read that right: those with a bachelor’s degree make, on average, 65% more money annually than those with just a high school diploma.

College graduates are healthier

In addition to being happier and wealthier, college graduates also tend to be healthier. Some of that may have to do with the health insurance benefits associated with a job that requires a degree. Those with a bachelor’s degree are 47% more likely to have health insurance available through their employer than those with no degree.

Additionally, bachelor’s degree holders reported 74% greater health insurance contributions from their employers than those with only a high school diploma. Degree holders are also less likely to smoke or drink heavily, and they’re more likely to exercise regularly and seek preventative health care. By the age of 25, those with a bachelor’s degree have an average life expectancy of 7 years longer than their peers without a degree.

Earning your college degree provides more and better opportunities for networking

Maybe you’ve been on the fence about earning a college degree before because you’re worried that entering a new career path will be tough even with a degree. Depending on your experience and field, it may be--but you’ll have a much better chance of landing your dream job because of the networking opportunities having a college degree affords.

During your degree program, you’ll be connected with professors and peers with the same interests as you, and experiential learning opportunities like volunteering or internships can introduce you to professionals in your desired field. Though your network may not always play a role in your job opportunities, being well-connected can have a major impact on your prospects: surveys have found that 85% of jobs are filled through networking.

Earning your college degree can help you live a happier, healthier life in which you’re financially comfortable and feel a sense of purpose. Getting a degree can be inconvenient and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be! If you’re nervous about taking the plunge, signing up for a low-cost, guaranteed transfer program like StraighterLine can help you decide if college is the right step for you.

Anissa Sorokin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Stevenson University near Baltimore, Maryland. Anissa’s interdisciplinary background and extensive experience teaching research, writing, and study skills help her demystify college expectations for students online and in her classroom.

Thinking about earning your degree and wondering which majors provide the most opportunities now and in the future while also commanding higher than average salaries? Read What are the Top Degrees in Demand for the Future.

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