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How do I Define the Value of a College Education?

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 Making the decision to complete a college education can be a difficult decision. The investment of time and money is often considerable, and many prospective students must decide on whether the value of earning a degree is greater than the investment.

Post-secondary Education Options

There are many choices when considering what type of education to complete at the collegiate level. Increasingly, colleges are offering certificate programs to enable students to gain the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce in as little as one year. These options often forego any type of general education credits in place of a concentration in one specific area of expertise.

In addition to certificate options, students are also able to opt for the associate’s degree level of post-secondary education. With an associate’s degree, students complete courses that are designed to prepare for a specific area or industry in addition to the completion of general education courses such as beginning composition and mathematics courses. These programs are typically two-year commitments when attending full-time.

At the bachelor’s level, students complete numerous and various general education courses in addition to a major concentration of study and sometimes a minor. After completing a bachelor’s degree in four years as a full-time student, graduates then have options to continue on for post-graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctorate degree programs, all designed to enhance and focus an individual’s knowledge even more on a specific area or skill.

Financial Benefits

The level of post-secondary education completed is often directly related to the first benefit most people think of when considering how many levels of education to finish. For many prospective students, the possibility of earning more income over the course of a lifetime with a college degree is the deciding factor in whether or not to pursue a diploma. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, in fact, college graduates earn an average of 61% more than non-college graduates. The higher the level of education, the higher increase in median earnings. For additional information, visit the Occupational Outlook Quarterly Report.

In addition to higher incomes, college graduates are also categorized in lower unemployment groups and higher job security positions. Positions that require a college degree also often have additional benefits that are financially advantageous to employees, such as insurance and retirement plans.

Satisfaction and Other Rewards

Lower unemployment and job security also relate directly to the other rewards that can be gained from completing a college degree. Many positions that require higher education, from certificates to doctorate degrees, also offer flexibility in scheduling and vacation time, plus more freedom and decision-making responsibility in the workplace. These benefits contribute to an employee’s sense of job satisfaction, which in turn creates a more positive and enjoyable work experience.

Although a post-secondary education is not required to have a rewarding and successful career, based on research and career outlooks, graduation does offer several benefits that are worth considering when making the decision on whether or not to pursue a collegiate level education. Overall, the value of a college education can be weighed by both the financial and personal gains of earning a degree and entering into a field that is in high demand and offers job security and satisfaction.

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