The cost of a college education continues to increase, but so do the benefits. While some benefits—like job security and salary—are common knowledge, the list of advantages is much more extensive than you might think.
The benefits of a college degree listed below are great reasons to pursue a college education: You’ll be happier, healthier, and wealthier, and these benefits will echo for generations to come.
1. Increased Earnings
Most people know that college graduates earn more money than those who don’t hold a degree, but many don’t realize that these differences are so significant.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of April 2017, employees with a high school diploma earned about $692 a week, while employees with a Bachelor’s degree earned about $1,156. Those who hold advanced degrees earn even more, with Master’s degrees translating to about $1,380 weekly and those with Doctoral degrees earning a median of $1,664 each week.
The National Center for Education Statistics says that the median salary for young adults with college degrees is $49,000. This is 66% higher than the earnings of an average high school graduate, who has a reported salary of $30,000.
Of course, you’ve probably heard stories of college dropouts who went on to become wildly successful multimillionaires. However, these stories aren’t particularly common. In 2014, for example, 85% of those featured on the Forbes list were college graduates.
Additionally, the gap in income between those with a high school diploma and those with a college education is continuously increasing.
2. Increased Employment Rates
College graduates have far more opportunities for employment than those who don’t pursue a college degree.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college graduates in 2015 had an unemployment rate of 2.8%. This was about half the unemployment rate for adults who didn’t attend college, which was at 5.4%.
In 2017, only 34% of jobs in the United States require a high school diploma or less, in comparison to 72% in the 1970’s.
Not only are college graduates likely to earn more money, but they’re also likely to have an easier time finding and holding a job.
3. Social Mobility
With increased employment and income comes social mobility that can benefit your family for generations to come. Adults who earn a Bachelor’s degree are about 15% more likely to move from the mid-range family income quintile to the top income quintile.
This is an advantage that can benefit not only you, but your children, their children, and so on. Think of life as a relay race, where future generations start where the previous generation finished. A college education, plus the earnings and social mobility that come with it, can give future generations a head start, ensuring continued opportunities and success.
4. Job Benefits
Not only are college graduates likelier to have a high paying job, but they’re also likelier to have good benefits at work.
College graduates are more likely to receive both health insurance and pension benefits from their employers. While 52% of full-time employees with high school diplomas have pension benefits, 65% of Bachelor’s degree holders and 73% of those with graduate degrees enjoy pension benefits.
Likewise, 55% of full-time employees with diplomas receive health insurance, but this is true for 69% of Bachelor’s degree holders and 73% of graduate degree holders.
The likelihood of having a retirement plan throughout employment is 72% greater for college graduates, according to the Lumina Foundation, and they are more likely to have retirement income that it is independent of Social Security.
Overall, college graduates have greater job benefits than their counterparts, and this will translate to a greater standard of living as college graduates reach old age. Of course, this also benefits future generations, who won’t have to shoulder the financial burden of caring for aging parents.
5. Recession Protection
Sometimes the economy suffers, and when that happens, individuals and families suffer as well. However, this is less true for college graduates.
Holding a college degree results in better recession protection, because there are fewer jobseekers who hold specific degrees vs. those who hold only a high school diploma, and there are more jobs that require at least a college degree.
During the recession from December 2007 to January 2010, jobs requiring a college degree grew by 187,000. Meanwhile, jobs requiring an associate’s degree or some college decreased by 1.75 million, and jobs requiring only a high school diploma plummeted by 5.6 million.
Even college graduates who are affected by a recession are the first to recover afterward. In a study by Georgetown University, a “good job” was defined as full-time employment worth at least $53,000 a year with benefits and retirement planning.
Since the Great Recession, 2.9 million “good jobs” have been added to the economy, and 2.8 million of them have gone to college graduates.
College graduates are also 3 times less likely to experience poverty than those without college degrees. All in all, another benefit of a college degree is greater job security and protection against recessions and poverty.
6. Less Likely to Have “Bad Debt”
We all know about the potential debt that can result from taking out student loans to pay for a college education.
However, the Lumina Foundation states that college graduates are 8.1 times likelier to hold a bank account, meaning less debt resulting from credit cards and other irresponsible spending habits.
The fact that college graduates make more money and have greater job security also results in less debt. Even graduates who do have to pay off college loans can afford it comfortably, studies suggest. In 2010, the average household with student debt generated an income of $71,681.
These households paid about $242 a month toward loan debt. That may sound like a lot, but these same households spent $217 monthly on entertainment and $145 a month on clothing, so it’s safe to say that the loan payments were affordable (and a wise investment).
7. Happiness and Job Satisfaction
College graduates generally report higher levels of happiness, and five of the ten happiest states in the nation also rank in the top ten for educational attainment.
One major factor in this contentment is job satisfaction. According to numerous studies, college graduates are more likely to be happy in their careers than those who hold only a high school diploma, and much likelier to be happier than those who don’t earn a high school diploma.
One factor in job satisfaction is continuing to learn on the job, and college graduates also report consistently gaining more knowledge on the job. 32% of high school graduates say they’re still learning, while 46% of employees with Bachelor’s degree continue to learn at work.
Money doesn’t buy happiness, but a college degree can lead to greater job satisfaction and increased overall happiness.
8. Happiness and Healthy Marriages
Another reason that college graduates tend to be happier could be that a higher level of education is correlated with more successful marriages.
Bachelor’s degree holders are 21% likelier to be married, and they are 61% less likely to get divorced or separated.
Plus, many of these successful marriages start in college. A 2013 study conducted by Facebook found that 28% of married couples attended the same college as their spouses.
9. Building a Network
Another advantage to a college education is that it gives students the opportunity to build an impressive network.
At college, you will learn and study with classmates who are likely to go on to great success in the same field that you’re interested in.
Professors, too, are typically leading experts in the field that they are teaching. The opportunity to build many relationships with current and future employees and bosses in a potential career field should not be underestimated.
In fact, the Pew Research Center states that 45% of recent job seekers have reported “personal and professional contacts” to be the most important resource in a successful job search.
Friendships and connections made in college can certainly lead to future job opportunities. Joining a fraternity, sorority, or other organization in college can be particularly advantageous in terms of networking.
10. Opportunities to Explore Careers
Over 80% of college students participate in an internship prior to college graduation, offering valuable preparation for their future careers.
Colleges also offer career services, volunteer experiences, and job shadowing. Students can take a wide variety of general education courses, exploring several potential career paths before settling on the right fit.
Another great option for students is attending job fairs organized by their college or university. At these job fairs, many students are hired on the spot even before officially completing their degrees.
All of these opportunities help students decide on the right career, prepare for the workforce, and possibly even land that dream job.
11. Personal Development
College also teaches important life skills and job skills that will benefit graduates long after they cross the stage.
For example, college students have time to learn independence and build confidence before being fully immersed in the adult world. Students learn to live away from home and rely less on their parents while also building knowledge and expertise in their desired field.
This knowledge, in addition to achievements and awards earned in college, increases the confidence of college graduates as they venture into the workforce.
Many degree programs also require students to build portfolios, create resumes, practice interviews, etc. before applying for jobs, which can help college graduates earn topnotch positions.
College students also learn the crucial skills of managing time and money. Many college students must balance a heavy course load, volunteering, participating in clubs and organizations, and having a social life.
This teaches time management that will be useful as graduates land demanding jobs, start families, and more.
Learning to budget also becomes essential in college, and many are familiar with the “poor college student” struggle. Money management is a key skill that will help your college graduate work toward important financial goals later in life, such as purchasing a home and building savings.
12. Better Writing and Communication Skills
In the modern workforce, communication skills are more important than ever, and college provides ample opportunities to write and communicate.
Regardless of your major, writing will be required in college, and feedback from knowledgeable professors often shapes excellent writers. Networking opportunities, business classes, and internships/volunteering in your desired field also improve communication skills.
In this digital age, most jobs require tasks like emailing and marketing or networking through social media sites. It’s important for employees to be able to express themselves effectively and intelligently in writing, and college can help young adults develop this skill.
Successful careers will also bring you into contact with many different personalities, perspectives, and cultures. College exposes students to people from a variety of backgrounds, and many courses also broaden student perspectives on other cultures and religions.
This helps college graduates develop the ability to understand and embrace differences and diversity, which will serve them well as they communicate with others at work and in life.
Take advantage of all available opportunities to build writing and communication skills in preparation for a future career. These include interacting with professors and peers, participating in debates and discussions, and being active with campus events and organizations.
13. Health Benefits of a College Degree
In addition to being wealthier and happier, college graduates are also healthier than those who do not attend college. In fact, evidence suggests that it is actually earning a college education, and not just personality traits common to college graduates, that results in these health improvements.
College graduates are more likely to exercise, and they’re less likely to be obese or have high blood pressure. They’re also less likely to have children who struggle with obesity, and they’re less likely to be smokers.
Earlier, we discussed the fact that college graduates also tend to have employers who provide health insurance. In 2014, 82% of high school diploma holders had some form of health insurance. This number jumped to 92% for those who had gone on to graduate college.
According to a 2010 study by the National Center for Health Statistics, college graduates will live 6-7 years longer than those who do not hold a college degree.
This means that a college degree can lead to a healthier lifestyle, healthier children, and even a longer lifespan.
14. More Productive Members of Society
The benefits of earning a college degree extend to the community and world around college graduates as well.
According to a 2009 study, 43% of college graduates do volunteer work, while 19% of high school graduates and 27% of adults, in general, say the same.
College graduates are also less likely to be incarcerated than those who do not earn a college degree, and they are 63% less likely to be incarcerated than peers who drop out of high school.
More college graduates donate blood, fewer degree holders must rely on government assistance, and college graduates pay more taxes.
Even a 1% increase in the population of college graduates in a community attracts higher-paying employers, resulting in wage increases for everyone in the community.
15. Additional Benefits for Future Generations
We’ve already listed the following benefits for a graduate’s future generations:
- Increased socioeconomic status
- Less likely to struggle with obesity
- Less likely to shoulder the financial burden of care as parents age
- Likelier to be the product of a happy and enduring marriage
However, there are far more benefits for the children and future generations of college graduates. First, children born to college-educated parents are more likely to pursue a college education themselves and thus reap all of the benefits mentioned here.
There is also a link between lower infant mortality rates and college-educated mothers, per a study conducted by the medical journal Lancet. The study found that infant mortality rates decreased significantly from 1970 to 2009 as expectant mothers attained higher levels of education.
Additionally, college-educated parents are three times more likely to read to their children daily and two times more likely to involve their children in educational activities, such as trips to the library or to a museum.
As a result, the children of college-educated parents typically start school with the ability to recite the alphabet and count to 20, and they continue to excel throughout their educational experience. They’re also more likely to participate in after-school activities like sports, clubs, art, dance, etc.
It’s true that earning a college degree leads to better employment opportunities and a higher salary, but the benefits don’t stop there. College graduates are also happier and healthier, likelier to form successful marriages, and more likely to have a high standard of living into old age.
A college degree also offers numerous advantages to future generations. So while the cost of college is certainly high, it’s safe to say that the benefits are priceless.
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