With college tuition increasing and an uncertain job market, students and their parents are questioning if a college degree is worth it. Although the majority of Americans believe that a college education provides students with intellectual growth, marketable skills and an alumni network, many U.S. households do not believe that college is necessary to have a stable, successful career or even become a millionaire.
With the cost of tuition rising, an incredible 97% of people agree that the cost of student loans is enough to make them second-guess their career choice. So, is college worth it anymore? Answer this question for yourself after comparing the pros and cons of a college education.
Advantages of Going To College
1. Your choice of career may not offer you the option of skipping college. High paying jobs in America such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, computer programmers, IT professionals, financial analysts, psychologists, and architects require a college degree.
2. Employers are more likely to promote you. While a candidate without a degree may be perfectly capable of doing the job, employers will trust you have the education to adapt to a job with more responsibility because, in their eyes, a college degree demonstrates ambition, worth ethic, and the ability to learn and adapt.
3. The uncertainty in life becomes more certain. Going to college will help you find direction in a career path. The ability to take a variety of classes allows you to experience what you like and don’t like. In addition, college professors and advisors are a valuable resource. They are there to help you network when searching for internships and jobs.
4. You will make life-long friends and build relationships. The people you meet in college often become your best friends or part of your professional network. Because your friends and professors can help you get your foot in the door at potential employers, connections are a very valuable key to success.
5. You will experience personal growth and mature. A well-rounded college education exposes you to different concepts, perspectives, philosophies, and experiences.
6. You will develop valuable life skills. In addition to having a college degree and education, your university experience will supplement your creative insights and self-discipline. Time management with deadlines, productivity, public speaking, and effective interpersonal communication skills are just a few of the marketable job skills you can acquire. These skills are not only useful for personal growth, but make you a stronger candidate in today’s competitive job market.
College Is Worth The Cost
Unfortunately, the top schools come with a much higher price tag than the average run-of-the-mill college. The advantage of attending a competitive school is not only the increased likelihood of being hired when you graduate, but the comprehensive scholarships, grants and financial aid packages offered to top academic recruits. Many top universities will meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for students who exhibit academic ability.
Another option is attending a junior or community college for 2 years and then transferring to a 4-year college. This option provides you with nearly the same opportunities, but at half the cost. Plus, you still get a prestigious degree. A great college is worth the money, especially if you are seeking a high paying career.
It Depends On Your Choice of Career
Not all degrees are created equal. Borrowing $150,000 in student loans for a job that pays $30,000 a year isn’t logical. Before applying to college, consider the amount of money you will be spending on your education in comparison to the anticipated return of your future career.
Careers That Require A College Degree
- Anesthesiologist: Anesthesiology is one of the highest paying fields in medicine. An anesthesiologist administers anesthetic to a patient for surgical procedures and monitors vitals during the surgery.
- Median Salary: $250,000
- General Surgeon: General surgeons are in high demand. General surgeons specialize in performing procedures concerning the digestive tract, liver, skin, head and neck, and other major body parts.
- Median Salary: $250,000
- Gynecologist/Obstetrician: Caring for women throughout pregnancies and delivering newborns, obstetricians and gynecologists say their jobs are extremely rewarding.
- Median Salary: $210,000
- Petroleum Engineer: Petroleum engineers use math, physics, and geology to keep oil and gas production running smoothly. Evaluating drill sites, cost estimation, and supervising cleanup are a few responsibilities for engineers working at oil companies.
- Median Salary: $163,000
- Chemical Engineer: Chemical engineers develop and design chemical manufacturing processes to produce chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products.
- Median Salary: $120,000
- Civil Engineer: Civil engineers turn blueprints into buildings. Some duties include planning projects, directing staff at the work site, and troubleshooting technical issues.
- Median Salary: $75,000
- Civil Rights Attorney: Civil rights attorneys help clients resolve legal problems regarding constitutional rights. Tasks may include research, drafting legal documents, and presenting cases in court.
- Median Salary: $120,000
- Family and Divorce Lawyer: Family and divorce lawyers specialize in divorce, domestic abuse, or child support, among other possible fields. Because laws vary state to state and may be subject to change, family and divorce lawyers must be cognizant of current state laws.
- Median Salary: $116,000
- Personal Injury Lawyer: A personal injury lawyer specializes in cases regarding physical or emotional damage. Some examples include medical malpractice, assault and battery, and product fault.
- Median Salary: $113,000
- IT Manager: IT managers are responsible for delivering short and long-term visions for the company’s technology needs and goals. Managers typically supervise workers and protect the office network from hackers, spyware, and malware.
- Median Salary: $121,000
- Software Developer: Software developers design and create or modify software according to customer specifications. Computer system design, electronic manufacturing, and finance are just a few examples of industries software developers are in demand.
- Median Salary: $90,000
- Computer Programmer: Computer programmers write code to develop, refine, debug, and test software and programs.
- Median Salary: $74,000
- Finance Director: Finance directors are responsible for managing financial risk, working with businesses to maximize profits, and planning budgets.
- Median Salary: $121,000
- Actuary: an actuary evaluates the probability of risk for companies. Actuaries determine the likelihood of future events, create ways to reduce the chance of undesirable events and decrease their financial impact.
- Median Salary: $129,000
- Market Analyst: A market analyst collects and analyzes data on consumer purchasing preferences and reports sales trends to companies.
- Median Salary: $80,000
Public Health Administration and Policy
- Director of Industrial Hygiene: Directors of industrial hygiene work in the field of environmental health and safety in public and private sectors. Examples of potential employers include government agencies, hospitals, universities, and research laboratories.
- Median Salary: $111,000
- Radiation Safety Specialist: Companies that use radioactive materials must appoint a radiation safety specialist. Some duties include developing environmental safety programs and managing hazardous materials.
- Median Salary: $84,000
- Director of Epidemiology: A director of epidemiology is the foundation of public health, and is in charge of determining the causes of diseases and a plan for prevention.
- Median Salary: $98,000
- Psychiatrist: a psychiatrist is a medical doctor that treats and prescribes medication to patients with mental disorders. Psychiatrists have a medical degree and are trained in psychiatry.
- Median Salary: $168,000
- Industrial Organizational Psychologist: an industrial organizational psychologist uses their knowledge of psychology to optimize corporate productivity and employee well-being in the work place.
- Median Salary: $98,000
- Clinical Psychologist: a clinical psychologist works in hospitals, mental health clinics and private practices. They specialize in assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness.
- Median Salary: $73,000
Disadvantages of Going To College
Time is of the essence. A 4-year Bachelor’s Degree is time consuming, and certain degrees may require additional school – 2 years for a Master’s and 4-6 years for a PhD – causing some families to see school as an opportunity cost. Alternatively, those years could have been better used to gain experience. For example, young adults working in retail may prefer to be promoted to management within 4 years, instead of taking 4 years to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree. Below, find a list of well-paying jobs with no college degree required.
Careers That Don’t Require A College Degree
- Firefighter: A firefighter responds immediately to emergency and fire situations. Firefighters protect the public and property and require a high school diploma, 0-2 years of experience in the field, and successful completion of a fire program and a series of tests.
- Median Salary: $83,000
- Electrician: An electrician inspects, repairs, installs, and maintains electrical/electronic equipment and circuit systems. A career as an electrician requires a high school diploma, completion of a formal program and 5 years of experience in the field.
- Median Salary: $60,000
- Automotive Mechanics: An auto mechanic performs maintenance and repairs on cars. Mechanics are responsible for diagnosing, installing, and repairing car parts and systems. Working as a mechanic requires a high school diploma as well as successful completion of formal training or apprenticeship. At least 4 years of experience in the field or in a related area is highly preferred.
- Median Salary: $52,000
- Receptionist: A receptionist greets and helps vendors, customers, job applicants and other visitors. A receptionist is expected to route incoming and outgoing calls. No degree, diploma or certification is required.
- Median Salary: $30,000
Is College Worth The Money?
Ultimately, those with a college degree tend to be more financially secure than non-graduates. To support this, statistics confirm that unemployment rates are higher for high school graduates compared to college graduates. So, to answer the question “is college worth it?”, the answer is: it depends. The value of a college education is contingent upon your career, life and financial goals and only you can determine whether attending college is the right decision for you.
Contributed by Gina Maekawa.