The Advantage of a College Degree

In times of economic uncertainty, it is still empirically evident that a Bachelor's degree is still a safe investment.

There are many reasons to pursue a higher education, but rarely are those reasons so clearly expressed as they are in the statistical data and recent report released by The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. After reviewing this report, College Compass is proud to present a concise and informative summary of the most important reasons to pursue a Bachelor’s degree. We hope you all enjoy our presentation, and encourage you to comment if you have any thoughts or questions!

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce recently released a study detailing the benefits of a post-secondary education in the recession and post-recession workforce.  The report, aptly named The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm, details the particulars of the nation’s recent economic turmoil, specifically in regard to the benefits of a Bachelor’s degree in the present-day workforce. It should come as no surprise to our readers that a college education is desirable, but the difference in wage earning potential, employment rates and underemployment rates, as well as the intangible benefits, that a college degree affords its recipients is astonishing. Additionally, according to the Georgetown University report, a bachelor’s degree not only increases the likelihood of someone finding a job, despite the economy’s sluggish performance, but also of keeping it. For these reasons, and many more, it is clear the advantages of a college degree are essential components to succeeding in a modern workforce.

"The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute affiliated with the Georgetown Public Policy Institute that studies the link between education, career qualifications, and workforce demands."

According to their Press Release, “The wage premium for a bachelor’s degree or better relative to high school degrees skyrocketed from 44 percent in 1981 to 100 percent in 2005 and has only fallen to 97 percent since the beginning of the recession.” This means the average wage earning potential is almost double for a college graduate; the historic trend of degree-holders dwarfing the wage earning potential of less educated workers has significantly increased despite, and in the face of, the recent economic recession.

In terms of job creation since the beginning of the Recovery, which is considered to be the period from January 2010 to February 2012 (Note: the recovery is ongoing, but February 2012 is when Georgetown’s study stopped using data for this report), “Jobs that require a bachelor’s degree have been the big winner, increasing by 2.2 million jobs … At the same time 5.8 million jobs for those with high school (degrees) or less have been lost since the recession began.” These startling statistics make it clear that one of the safest investments you can make in a national and global recession, and subsequent recovery, is in your education. A bachelor’s degree significantly increases your chance of finding a job; in fact, “more than half of all jobs created (since the recovery) have gone to workers with Bachelor’s degrees or better.”

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During the Recession, which is considered to have occurred in the period from December 2007 to January 2010, not only was there no aggregate job loss among workers with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, there was actually a creation of 187,000 jobs; this means that even before entering into the Recovery, jobs requiring a Bachelor’s degree were not only NOT being eliminated, they were being created. Consider these statistics, taken directly from the GUCEW’s report, “… the unemployment rate for recent four-year college graduates … is at 6.8 percent. At the same time, the unemployment rates for recent high school graduates are near 24 percent.” Taken together, these statistics suggest a bachelor’s degree increases your chances of not only finding a job, but keeping it.

Another interesting perspective to take when considering the benefits of a college education is not just unemployment but underemployment.  Someone is underemployed when they are employed at a low-paying job that requires less skill or training than they actually possess. In a comparison of relative underemployment, “the underemployment rate for four-year college graduates is currently (May 2012) at 8.4 percent … for high school graduates (it) is … at 17.3 percent.”  So, even if you were to set aside the obvious financial incentives of obtaining a post-secondary education, there are still important reasons to pursue a bachelor’s degree, i.e. job satisfaction.

A graphic example of success with or without a Bachelor's degree.

There are a number of reasons, even aside from the compelling data offered by The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, to believe a bachelor’s degree is a critical component to financial success in a modern economy and contemporary workforce. A Bachelor’s degree, or even an Associate’s degree, demonstrates to potential employers that you are competent and intelligent. A degree also represents an ability to commit to, and succeed in achieving, long term goals.

Disregarding the conspicuous advantages afforded to potential employees by a Bachelor’s degree, as compared to less educated applicants, another important aspect to consider when deciding to pursue a post-secondary education is the actual investment in oneself it represents. This idea can be referred to as “Human Capital,” which is the real knowledge and experience a college education gives you. There is no way to quantify or exactly measure everything you learn through the experience of graduating college, but it is evident that a graduate is much better prepared for the “real world.” This is because a college degree is not just for show; you learn valuable information by attending class regularly and gain equally valuable, and practical, experience by rising to the challenge of applying that information in a classroom setting.

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The economic statistics from the recession have proven that a Bachelor’s degree meaningfully increases your ability to not just find a job, but keep one. A Bachelor’s degree also improves the likelihood of you not just finding and keeping a job, but finding and keeping a job you can be happy doing. Additionally, a Bachelor’s degree represents an investment in self, in the form of “Human Capital,” that provides an unparalleled advantage in preparedness for the difficulties and challenges of a struggling economy. For all these reasons, it is clear the benefits of college degree are meaningful and significant.


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