Ways in Which a College Degree Improves the Career and Earning Potential of Graduates

College Degree Earnings

The college experience is a great one, with students thriving in the environment and culture it brings, but, of course, the end goal is a degree and all that can bring to a graduate in terms of enhancing their career prospects and maximising their earning potential. A degree is never simply a piece of paper, nor is it a guarantee that both success and happiness will be reached in life, but for many people a college degree opens doors that would otherwise not have been accessible to them. Let’s examine all the valid and life-changing benefits a degree can result in for those leaving college armed with one.

Gaining of valuable skills

Obviously, the more qualified you are and the higher level of education you’ve achieved, the more skills you will possess and the more valuable you will be to a potential employer. Undertaking a college degree means that students will have developed and honed a wide range of skills that may be highly valued by employers. These include the application of critical thinking, the ability to problem-solve, the tactics and knowledge of effective communication, and the know-how and experience of how to work within a team. These skills can all help graduates appear attractive to employers and to succeed in a diverse spectrum of fields and industries. Plus, of course, there are the skills pertinent to the role itself and and the industry being entered into that make a graduate specialized in the desired field. Compared to somebody who does not hold a degree, who is an employer more likely to choose?

Better job security

Not only will you be able to gain a job more easily, beating off the competition, but a college degree should stand you in great stead to hold onto it during turbulent times and economic downturns. Graduates with a college degree are less likely to find themselves unemployed or laid off when a company or business suffers financial hardship. Because many industries have a preference for hiring college-educated workers, even for entry-level positions, their value means that that they will be held onto, to ride any economic storm, as employers recognise that they are long-term investments for the overall growth of the company. A degree is like an insurance policy, protecting an employee from redundancy, especially compared to those staff members who do not have degrees.

Networking opportunities

As the saying goes, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”, and this continues to be true in most industries where networking with the right people is key. A degree-holder will already have had experience of networking in college, building relationships with other students, both on their course and in the wider community, faculty staff members, and alumni. Not only will the skill of making and maintaining these relationships be beneficial for a graduate once they enter the world of work, but these connections made in college may help in them finding a high-paying job in the first place, through friends made, referrals given, references written, and advice offered. A degree means that a graduate has fostered relationships and can continue to do so, using their “people skills” to their advantage.

Higher paying jobs

Here we come to the crunch: the numbers. The truth is that many high-paying jobs require the possession of a college degree as a minimum qualification for entry and that graduates with a college degree simply have access to a wider range of jobs, including those that have an entire suite of benefits and monetary gains: higher salaries, better benefits, and opportunities for climbing up the ladder of advancement. Research on educational attainment has consistently recognised that college graduates certainly earn more over a lifetime than those who didn’t go to college and didn’t progress beyond their high school diploma. From information published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can see that the average weekly income for a staff member with a bachelor's degree was $1,305, in 2020, compared to $781 for those who had only gained a high school diploma. Once you reach the heights of a master’s degree, the average salary rises to $1,434 per week, and for even more advanced degrees, like doctorates, the earnings jump even higher.

Greater economic stability for life

Let’s now consider the lifetimes earnings of a college graduate. This is where the statistics bear witness to the great impact that educational level has on long-term earning potential. A high school graduate is expected to earn approximately $1.2 million in the duration of their working lives (with this data gathered from age 25 through to 64), whereas somebody with a bachelor's degree is expected to make significantly more, around $2.1 million. If you have a master's degree, then you can expect to more than double that income potential, with earnings predicted at around $2.5 million. And if we look at a given occupation, the higher your educational attainment, the higher your salary will be within that industry. For example, an elementary school teacher who has a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $1.8 million over the course of their teaching life, whilst a teacher with a master's degree can chalk up a substantially higher $2.2 million. In summary, a graduate with a degree can expect to earn on average 84% more than someone who has only ever got as far as a high school diploma.

Overall, we can see that gaining a college degree and reaching a higher level of educational attainment gives a graduate a keen advantage over others in the world of work by giving them the key to the door of many benefits. They gain access to higher-paying jobs with more prospects and greater job security, they get to develop valuable and specialized skills which will boost their earning potential, and they learn how to foster and maintain those all-important network connections. And, most importantly, they will achieve a much higher earning potential throughout their lifetime.