The Benefits of Higher Education
Higher Earning Potential
One of the most compelling arguments for attending college is the potential for higher earning power. On average, individuals with a bachelor's degree earn more than those with only a high school diploma. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for workers with high school diplomas is $38,792, while those with bachelor's degrees earn a median salary of $64,896. Over the course of their careers, college graduates can earn hundreds of thousands more than their non-college-educated counterparts.
Increased Job Opportunities
Another significant benefit of obtaining a higher education degree is the increased access to job opportunities. In today's competitive job market, many employers require a bachelor's degree as a minimum qualification for various positions. Without a degree, it can be more challenging to find high-paying job opportunities, and competition for available positions may be fierce. Even when jobs don't require a university degree, some employers prefer hiring candidates who have one.
A degree can also be a starting point for some high-status professions such as an engineer, physicist, doctor, therapist, finance manager or other related occupation. These professions require candidates to have a unique and wide set of skills and expertise which you can’t always learn on the job. Having a degree will.
Skill Development and Specialisation
Higher education provides a structured and comprehensive learning experience. In addition to gaining in-depth knowledge in a specific field, students develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. These transferable skills are highly valued by employers across various industries.
Furthermore, degrees often offer opportunities for specialisation. Whether through choosing a specific major or pursuing additional certifications and internships, students can tailor their education to align with their career goals. This specialised knowledge and expertise can give graduates a competitive edge in the job market.
There is also the opportunity for industry work experience which is often offered to students studying relevant subjects. While this shouldn’t be your sole motivation for choosing a degree, it can be a great way to get your foot in the door before you’ve even left education.
Personal Growth and Networking
Getting a degree is not just about academic learning; it is also a transformative period of personal growth and self-discovery. It provides a unique environment for students to explore their interests, passions, and values. Through extracurricular activities, clubs, and organisations, students can develop leadership and interpersonal skills while forging lifelong connections with peers, mentors, and professors.
Additionally, colleges and universities offer networking opportunities that can be invaluable for future career prospects. Building relationships with professionals in your field of interest and participating in internships and cooperative education programs can open doors to job opportunities and mentorship.
The Drawbacks of Higher Education
Cost and Student Loan Debt
One of the primary concerns when considering college is the significant cost associated with obtaining a degree. Over the past decade, university and college fees have increased dramatically. placing a financial burden on students and their families. In Australia it can cost anywhere from AU$20,000 to $45,000 for an undergraduate degree, an additional AU$22,000 to $50,000 for a postgraduate degree and AU$20,000 to $42,000 for a doctoral degree.
Financial aid, including scholarships and grants, can help alleviate some of the financial burden, but the price tag can still be overwhelming, particularly if the field you want a career in requires more than the standard undergraduate degree. It's crucial to assess your financial situation and evaluate whether the potential benefits of a college degree justify the investment.
Job Market Uncertainty
The job market is constantly evolving, and there are no guarantees that a college degree will automatically translate into a high-paying job. Economic downturns, technological advancements, and changing industry demands can affect job prospects for both college graduates and non-graduates. The recent COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how unforeseen circumstances can disrupt the job market and make it more challenging for recent graduates to find employment.
Moreover, some industries prioritise practical skills and experience over formal education. It's essential to research your desired career path thoroughly and assess whether a degree is a prerequisite or if alternative routes, such as vocational training or entrepreneurship, may be more suitable.
Earning a higher education degree typically requires a significant time commitment, with the standard duration being three to four years for full-time students. However, it's important to note that not all students graduate within this timeframe, and if you wish to study a postgraduate or doctoral degree this will add even more time, which will mean there is a longer delay before you reach the career you want.
Alternative Paths to Success in the Job Market
Attending a vocational college is a more affordable option compared to a four-year university. TAFEs offer associate degrees and certificate programs that can lead to stable careers. For example, degrees such as business management, data engineering, renewable energy engineering, finance and investment and network security can all be obtained for a lower cost and in a shorter time.
Trade schools, also known as vocational schools or technical colleges also provide hands-on training for various skilled careers. These programs are typically shorter in duration, ranging from six months to two years. Attending a trade school is often more affordable compared to traditional college education and trades such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and mechanics offer median incomes that can provide comfortable living.
If you have a business idea and a strong entrepreneurial drive, starting your own business may be a viable alternative to a college degree. While entrepreneurship comes with its own set of risks, it offers the opportunity to be your own boss and set your own salary. With careful planning, dedication and an abundance of free courses and resources available on the internet, entrepreneurship can lead to financial success and personal fulfilment.
Is a Degree Still Worth the Investment?
The decision to pursue a higher education degree is a personal one that depends on various factors, including your career goals, financial situation, and alternative options. While there are potential drawbacks, such as student loan debt and the challenges of the job market, if you’re looking for a career in a specialised subject with high earning potential, a degree could be the perfect thing to kick start you on the road to your dream career.