Sometimes it seems like higher education has become so ingrained in our culture that it’s simply a platitude to suggest anyone go back to school. That said, only 39.4 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 hold college degrees, meaning that the benefits of higher education must not be as apparent as we may think. Let’s examine three concrete benefits derived from continuing your education: higher pay, better work and greater happiness.
Continuing Your Education Helps You Earn More Money
Let’s begin with what’s likely the most commonly cited benefit of pursuing higher education: making more money. But exactly how much more money are we talking about? Median wages at our baseline, a high school diploma, are $668 a week, or $34,736 a year. A bachelor’s degree raises those numbers to $1,101 a week, or $57,252 a year – an increase of almost 65 percent. A master’s degree improves things even further, bumping median weekly wages to $1,326 and annual wages to $68,952 – almost 99% percent over our baseline. It takes a high school graduate two days to earn what a master’s degree holder earns in one. Now that’s value!
Continuing Your Education Can Get You a Better Job
Higher wages are a result of better job opportunities, which require greater educational attainment.
Let’s start at the bottom of the equation with unemployment. The unemployment rate at high school graduates is 6.0 percent. That’s nearly double the rate for bachelor’s degree holders, which is 3.5 percent, and more than double for master’s degree holders, which is about 2.8 percent. Without higher education, you’re twice as likely to not have a job, period. Indeed, it’s predicted that by 2018 almost two-thirds of all occupations in the United States will require a college degree.
Beyond winning you a job, higher education can get you more work. Underemployment, or being employed only part time when seeking full time work, is less frequently discussed than unemployment, but it is much more pervasive. Underemployment of high school graduates currently stands at 12.9 percent – more than twice the rate for holders of bachelor’s degrees, at 6.2 percent, and thrice that of master’s degree holders, at 4.2 percent.
Seventy-four percent of American adults believe a postsecondary degree is essential to getting a good job, but what do the people making hiring and promotion decisions think? The same! Companies themselves attest to this, a third of managers surveyed say they have sent workers to back to school for higher education, 81 percent of them even picking up part of the tab. That is a win-win!
Continuing Your Education Can Make You Happier
Now this may be something you haven’t heard before, but higher education may not just be the key to more money and a better job, but to greater happiness. That’s a big statement that the numbers support: When examining well-being levels across American cities, researchers found that happiness has the closest relationship not with wages, unemployment or output, but with educational attainment, measured as the share of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Similarly, educational attainment has been shown to boost happiness early in life and keep it that way, unlike income, which raises over time but does not increase happiness.
More money, a better job, greater happiness — you can have it all, and higher education is the way to start.
Roslyn Tate is an editor on the 2U Inc. website. A recent Goddard College MFA she enjoys helping people achieve their goals through academics and art. 2U partners with leading colleges and universities to offer online master’s degree programs to students around the world.