Does Education Payoff? The Average Value of a College Degree

Higher education goes beyond the academic benefits

If you’re a full-time employee looking to advance personally and professionally, you’ve probably wondered if furthering your education is the key — and, if it is, is it worth the cost and time?

While it’s impossible to quantify your unique situation, the average college graduate earns significantly more than those who only hold a high school diploma — but more doesn’t only refer to income. Choosing to pursue a degree while working is a major life decision with long-term returns for prospective students, from retaining and growing in your current position to increasing your confidence and marketability.

So whether you’re looking for upward career mobility, a new opportunity to learn, or simply a better life for you and your family, the reasons for furthering your education are many. And, below, we’ll take a look at the most common examples.

Higher Average Earnings

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to acknowledge the correlation between higher average earnings and college education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), education has always — and continues to — boost earnings, with:

  • high school graduates earning an average of $809 per week
  • associate degree graduates earning an average of $963 per week
  • bachelor’s degree graduates earning an average of $1,334 per week
  • and master’s degree graduates earning an average of $1,574 per week.

What’s more, workers with advanced degrees have been significantly less impacted by the economic fallout caused by the pandemic. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that adults without a bachelor’s degree are more likely than those with at least a bachelor’s degree to say they have experienced problems with paying their bills, affording medical expenses for themselves or their families, or making rent or mortgage payments.

Unemployment Rate

Unemployment may be a complex issue but, when it comes to its relationship with education, the facts are clear-cut. As of the BLS 2021 study,

  • high school graduates had an unemployment rate of 6.2%
  • associate degree graduates had an unemployment rate of 4.6%
  • bachelor’s degree graduates had an unemployment rate of 3.5%
  • and master’s degree graduates had an unemployment rate of 2.6%.

These numbers are due to non-college graduates facing a lack of job options and increased economic instability, while college grads are more likely to enjoy constant economic stability throughout their lifetimes. Even when experiencing temporary layoffs, these graduates generally have enough financial reserves from previous earnings to sustain themselves during their period of professional inactivity.

Job Opportunities

The evidence that a higher degree can improve your employment prospects is overwhelming. A massive percentage of jobs require a college education and, even if your degree is not directly related to a certain role, being a graduate can improve your odds when compared to a candidate with no college education. In fact, a 2018 report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 82% of executives and 75% of hiring managers surveyed “believe that it is very important or absolutely essential for individuals today to complete a college education”.

Access to Health Insurance

With such high healthcare costs in modern America, having quality health insurance is essential — but not always accessible. Adults with a high school degree or less face significant health disparities compared with those who attended or completed college, as college graduates are far more likely to have employer-provided coverage that offsets their healthcare costs. The College Board even found that 64% of workers with bachelor’s degrees and 70% of workers with advanced degrees had employer-provided coverage, while employer plans covered just 52% of high school graduates.

Personal and Intellectual Growth

A college education goes beyond academic benefits — it gives you the chance to develop a courageous attitude, the ability to work well with others, and a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. According to a Pew Research Center study, 79% of college graduates said their education helped them grow personally and intellectually, and it’s no wonder. With professors, peers, and unfamiliar subjects testing your preconceived notions, you’ll not only enhance your knowledge but broaden your horizons and mindset.

Explore the University of Cincinnati Online Experience

At UC Online, we know choosing to go back to school is a major life decision — but we also know that as workers increasingly enter the job market with college degrees, education and professional credentials are more important than ever before. And as an employee of a UC Online partner business, there are tuition scholarships available to help you further your education in a flexible, online environment. Our enrollment services advisors and student success coordinators understand the demands of your busy life and will guide you through each step of the admissions process, assist you with course selection, answer your questions, and keep you on track toward graduation.

So, are you ready to learn more? Explore our business partnership-approved online programs or take the next step in your career by applying today.

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