As a longtime human resources professional, I can’t tell you how many people have walked into my office and asked me to explain the value of a college education. It’s a good question, one that can be answered differently for each person. For those considering plunging back into school for the first time in years, it might seem hard to justify the investment. However, all things considered, obtaining a college degree always provides value. Here are a few ways how:
Since school is such a large financial investment, let’s begin with the most concrete return. Time and time again studies reveal adult college graduates make significantly more money compared to those with a high school diploma. In fact, adults with bachelor’s degrees earn an average yearly salary of $18,500 more than those with only a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center (NCES).
One reason for this earnings divide is opportunity. In general, postsecondary degrees provide professionals with a wealth of job opportunities and can help them rise within the ranks of a company. Achieving a college degree demonstrates dedication to a course of study. Furthermore, college coursework grants students an opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and academic knowledge related to a specific field. The reality is that when many organizations hire, they limit candidates by listing specific degrees as a minimum qualification. This allows them to filter out a significant percentage of potential applicants.
Another benefit is adaptability. Professionals with a degree have the baseline knowledge to move more fluidly to new roles within organizations in times of turmoil. Since more job opportunities are open to those with degrees anyway, this pool of applicants can also often more easily find employment in general. In 2014, the NCES found that the average unemployment rate for those with high school diplomas was 16 percent, whereas it was only 5 percent for those with bachelor’s degrees.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, college graduates tend to have higher empowerment on both professional and personal fronts. Having accomplished such an important milestone, college graduates often feel empowered by their success. That confidence becomes imperative for a person to feel comfortable when it comes time to negotiate salary and benefits, volunteer for special projects, contribute bold ideas or advocate for change.
While attending college on a consistent basis is a major commitment, the benefits of obtaining a degree are worth it: Larger salaries and better benefits, increased career opportunities, higher level of adaptability in tough times and stronger confidence in professional situations.
Jack McCallum has been with the online business department at Herzing University since 2011. When not teaching, she serves as the President/Principal Consultant for HR Balance LLC—a consulting company specializing in human resources management, organizational development, leadership coaching, and training/development. She started HR Balance LLC in 2003 after years of serving in a leadership capacity for a variety of for-profit and non-profit organizations. A keynote speaker and presenter, Jack has served as an industry expert for radio and print media.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.