You hear it all the time: “Go to college. You’ll have more opportunities. You’ll be able to get a better job. You’ll have the chance to earn a higher salary.” Is that true? Times have changed, and many people are opting not to go to traditional universities. But higher education is still important.
Unfortunately, many young students develop an attitude of aversion to anything educational. Because independence and autonomy are often limited in the lower grades, children feel as though education is a chore. Therefore, they may hesitate when it comes time to make a decision about what to do after graduating from high school.
Sometimes, going to a higher education institution seems more like a duty than a choice. However, students should know that there are so many options for post-high-school education that they can truly pave their own path.
Higher Education in the U.S.
Higher education refers to schooling that extends beyond 12th grade. Many high schools aim to prepare students to continue their education.
There are several types of higher education institutions in the U.S., including private and public facilities. Because students can choose to attend an institute of higher learning, the idea of continuing your education promotes competition and capitalism. If you can afford to attend some type of college or vocational school, you can learn skills that may set you apart from other candidates in the workplace.
However, the rising cost of tuition is a concern for many people who feel as though higher education doesn’t provide an equal opportunity for those who can’t afford it. Student loans make up a significant portion of non-mortgage debt in the U.S. Wages aren’t increasing fast enough to balance out the high prices of getting a higher education.
The average cost per year for a public four-year university hovers around $19,000. The yearly fee for a private university is closer to $40,000. These numbers have nearly doubled since the 1980s.
But wages haven’t increased at the same rate. In the past three decades, the cost of college tuition has grown approximately eight times faster than job compensation.
Types of Higher Education Institutions
In the U.S., universities generally offer graduate and undergraduate programs. The state university system is influenced by the federal government. But private universities abound.
If getting a higher education is important to you, you don’t have to limit yourself to a college or university, though. There are many types of schools and educational programs, which offer varying certificates and degrees.
Also known as junior college, community college usually offers two or four-year degrees. A community college may also offer diploma and certificate programs.
Most community colleges allow graduates to earn an associate’s degree. Some states allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees. However, this option isn’t pervasive everywhere.
Many students go to community colleges to get some higher education, but hope to join the workforce within two years. Others take classes at community college because it’s usually more affordable than other universities. Once they have a better idea of their area of interest, they may migrate to a four-year school to earn a more advanced degree.
Community colleges typically offer flexible schedules. You might be able to attend part-time if you have other obligations to take care of and aren’t able to go to school full-time.
Vocational schools, trade schools, and technical schools usually provide training that is specific for certain trades. These are focused study programs that may take one or two years to complete. Vocational schools are ideal for people who want to get into a skilled trade that requires certain technical skills.
Some of the types of programs that are available at vocational schools include:
- Auto mechanic
- Web design
- Dental assistant
- Physical or occupational therapy aide
- Veterinary assistant
- Floral design
You typically don’t have to take general education courses at a vocational school. Therefore, some students feel that these types of schools are more efficient. Individuals can get specialized technical training that they need to move into the workforce quickly. Many students will take part in apprenticeship programs so that they can get hands-on experience while they’re completing their studies.
If you’re interested in the STEM fields, which encompass science, technology, engineering, and math, you might want to attend a technology institute. These usually offer a wide variety of degrees, including associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D.
Colleges and universities may also offer specializations in technology. If you’re into this field, you’ll need to decide how specific you’d like to get with your education and whether you’d like to attend a university with more diverse options.
Art and Design School
Art and design schools are geared toward creative individuals who are into music, performance, dance, theater, visual arts, and similar pursuits. Depending on the school, students may be able to earn a certificate, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or advanced degree.
Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities
Liberal arts colleges offer the widest range of study options. They usually provide programs and degrees in the humanities, social sciences, visual arts, and technical sciences. Most liberal arts students are required to take classes across a broad range of interests. After a year or two, they may pick a major and focus their studies.
Liberal arts colleges offer bachelor’s degrees. Some also allow students to earn more advanced degrees.
Universities are typically bigger than colleges and offer even more opportunities for taking a wide variety of courses. Different universities may have distinct specialties. Some may be renowned for their nursing, engineering, theology, criminal justice, psychology, or business departments.
Many traditional schools of higher education have expanded their offerings to allow students to take courses online. There are also several schools that only offer online learning.
This is an excellent option for people who need some flexibility when it comes to attending school. Individuals who are already in the workforce, have families, or don’t have higher education opportunities nearby may benefit from furthering their education online.
Graduate and Professional Schools
Graduate and professional programs are usually available at universities. Graduate programs offer master’s degrees, while professional programs offer Ph.Ds.
Students in graduate and professional programs are usually required to do some research. They may also receive a stipend for teaching at the university through which they’re obtaining their degree.
Higher Education Statistics
People with a higher education are more likely to become employed than individuals who haven’t gone to college. In 2018, the employment rate for college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 86 percent.
In comparison, 79 percent of young adults with some college education were employed. About 72 percent of students who had completed high school had jobs. However, the employment rate for those who had not graduated from high school was only 59 percent.
So you have a better chance of securing employment if you have a degree than if you don’t. But what kind of wages are you likely to earn with higher education?
In 2017, the median salary for adults between the ages of 25 and 34 with a bachelor’s degree was $51,800. Individuals in the same age group who had master’s degrees earned a median annual income of $65,000. High school graduates earned salaries closer to $32,000.
Your earning potential goes up with every level of degree that you earn. In a 2018 U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics Study, researchers found that people with a doctoral degree earned an average of $1,743 per week. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $1,173 per week. But people with a high school diploma and no college received an average weekly wage of $712.
The same study found that employment rates also increased with advanced degrees. People with doctoral degrees had an employment rate of 98.5 percent, while those with high school diplomas had an employment rate of 95.4 percent.
Research shows that getting a higher education may improve your financial potential. It has economic benefits. However, you still need to take the impact of student loan debt into account. Instead of thinking about higher education as a drain on your budget, consider it to be an investment in your future.
Higher Education May Improve Your Health
Studies show that getting a bachelor’s degree or another advanced degree is beneficial for your health for many reasons. People with higher education are less likely to work in a dangerous job. They’re also likely to secure a position with benefits, including medical insurance, gym discounts, paid sick days, and retirement options.
Preventative care is essential for maintaining good health. So is taking time off to rest. If your job doesn’t offer you paid leave, you may push yourself more than you should, even when you’re under the weather.
They may also have better access to material resources because they are financially stable. Housing, healthy food, and medical services are essential for physical and mental health. People with less education –and lower incomes—may struggle to access nutritious foods and meet their medical needs.
Even people who wait to earn their degrees have better health. People who get a higher degree after age 25 have better health at mid-life than those with just a high school education. People with higher education also live longer than those with less schooling.
Something that might surprise you about higher education is the fact that people with more schooling are less likely to smoke cigarettes. People with a four-year education are less likely to become obese than their high-school-graduate counterparts. Their children are also less likely to be obese than kids of people who stopped their education after high school. This difference may be due to the fact that people with higher education are more likely to exercise than people who haven’t extended their studies.
Higher education may be important for your mental health too. Gainful employment can reduce stress and keep you happy.
Unemployment has been linked to poor mental health. If you can’t get a job, you undermine your social development. You may also develop feelings of helplessness because you feel like you don’t have control over your income or finances.
People want to feel as though they’re contributing to their lives, their community, and their family. Unemployment can be devastating. The helplessness that you feel can contribute to depression.
Although there is no guarantee that you’ll get a job if you have a higher education, you increase your chances of being employed. The self-esteem that you can gain from attending college or university can improve your mental health and life experience long after you graduate.
Higher Education Can Improve Your Relationships
Do you remember when you were in high school? You probably enjoyed the social aspect of school as much as or more than the intellectual aspect. School promotes social development.
While you’re going through your studies, you’ll have a chance to work with others and relate with your peers. You’ll also learn how to engage with your professors and other authority figures. Staying in school gives you the opportunity to work on interpersonal relationships.
Higher Education Keeps You Marketable
The job market isn’t what it was even 15 years ago. Artificial intelligence is taking over for many jobs that used to employ people. Staying competitive in the workforce involves staying up-to-date with current technology.
Whether that means that you’re learning how to operate AI systems or work on a different technological specialization, you’ll stay abreast of the trends when you continue your education. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, don’t turn your nose up at the idea of going back to school.
No matter how much education you had several years ago, things have changed. You could boost your knowledge and improve your skills in modern fields that weren’t as important decades ago.
Employers are also looking for people with well-rounded knowledge. Even if you focus your studies on science your math, you’ll be expected to have strong communication skills and speak articulately.
These are known as soft skills. They’re not the proficiencies that you need to perform your job specifically. Instead, soft skills are interpersonal aptitudes that you pick up through your life experience. You don’t learn them by taking classes. You adopt soft skills over time.
Some examples of soft skills include:
- Creative thinking
- Work ethic
- Critical thinking
- Time management
- Conflict resolution
Employers like to see candidates with soft skills because it shows that they are adaptable. Soft skills are also vital for client-facing employees.
Higher Education Teaches You Life Skills
Higher education doesn’t just deliver information on a platter. It doesn’t just make you successful in your career. It provides you with life skills that you might not get elsewhere.
In our culture, we may not talk about this aspect of higher learning. Our society places so much importance on grades and achievements that they undermine the significance of the other benefits of higher education.
Continuing to study after high school gives you a chance to practice your discipline. Although you’ll learn plenty of facts, you’ll also learn how to study. Higher education teaches you how to prioritize and organize. It gives you experience with time management.
Have you ever looked at a job description that indicated that the employer was looking for a self-starter? Making the decision to get a higher education and work hard teaches you how to have that intrinsic motivation.
You have to juggle multiple courses and assignments. You aren’t monitored the way that you were in high school. It’s up to you to hand in your projects on time. If you don’t do well in school, the only person who you’re cheating is yourself.
Therefore, use your post-secondary education to practice the skills that you need to thrive in every other area of your life. Don’t sell yourself short by expecting higher learning to teach you only the facts that have to do with your field of study. Take it all in and get the practical life skills that will take you to the next level.
Higher Education Increases Your Self-Esteem
Many people consider earning a certificate or degree to be a challenge. Therefore, pitting yourself against that challenge and succeeding can increase your confidence. Having a degree may boost your self-worth.
Although your self-esteem comes from the inside, accomplishing your goals can give you a sense of pride. It reminds you that you are motivated, determined, and driven. Reaching your objectives underscores the fact that you can overcome obstacles and challenges.
When you encounter hurdles later in your life, you can look back at your time at post-secondary school and remember how you faced challenges then. Being able to handle difficult obligations is a skill that you’ll take into the working world and beyond.
Higher Education Makes You a Good Role Model
If you’re going back to school as an adult, you may be a good role model for the young people in your lives. Many parents hesitate to go back to school after they’ve had children. They might feel as though they have no time to devote to their studies. They may think that they can’t work a class schedule into their busy routine.
However, going back to school shows your family that you’re dedicated. It demonstrates that you recognize the importance of dedication. You get to teach your kids how to follow their interests.
If you want your kids to go to college, one of the best ways to serve as an example is to finish your own degree. When parents see education as valuable, their kids usually do too. Mothers who have bachelor’s degrees are more likely to have educated children than mothers who don’t hold that degree.
Moreover, children look up to their parents and caregivers as role models. They use these individuals as examples to guide their behavior. They seek out models for their own decision-making process.
If you have a teenager, there is even more reason for you to continue your education. Teens generally choose role models who are high achievers because it raises their self-esteem. Show your family that you’re ambitious by pursuing your education, no matter how old you are.
Higher Education Helps You Discover Your Passions
Many high school graduates hesitate to continue their education because they’re not exactly sure what they want to do when they grow up. They might take a few years off and explore the world before settling down at a college, university, or vocational school. However, the longer you stay away from school, the harder it is to go back.
If you’re not sure what you want to do with your life, going to an institute of higher learning with a wide range of course and program offerings could help you find your focus. At most schools, you don’t have to select a major right away. You can take classes that interest you so that you can make a conscious decision about your major when the time comes.
Because tuition can be high, if you expect to spend several years in college, you might want to start at a community college or public school. A state school is usually heavily discounted for locals. Community college is another way to take courses in your range of interests without spending too much on tuition.
As you learn more, you’ll discover your passions. You’ll begin to notice what you’re good at. You really can be anything that you want to be. You often have to have the education to back it up, though.
Higher Education Improves Job Satisfaction
How many people do you know who are unsatisfied with their jobs? They complain about the nine-to-five. They groan about heading into the office every day.
People who have earned a higher education may be more satisfied with their jobs than people who haven’t. Graduating with a specific major puts you on track to search for a job that you actually want. When you choose your position instead of settling for something mediocre, you feel more empowered.
That sense of enfranchisement is inspiring. It can help you keep going when life starts to feel mundane, or your salary doesn’t seem high enough.
Higher Education Improves Your Civic Responsibility
People who stay in school are part of a greater community. The educational institution becomes a community that students can be part of. There are plenty of opportunities to join clubs, volunteer, and participate in extracurricular activities while you’re in school.
That sense of civic duty extends well past the college years. People with bachelor’s degrees are two times more likely to volunteer than those with high school degrees. Voting rates among people with advanced degrees are also higher.
When more citizens in a society have access to education, the standard of living is higher. This benefits everyone.
Should You Get a Master’s Degree?
We have referred to college, university, and bachelor’s degrees throughout this article, but we wanted to touch on the concept of a master’s degree. A master’s degree gives you highly specialized knowledge about your field. Getting this degree requires you to do a great deal of research in a specific niche.
If you’re passionate about something, why not advance your interests? The research that you do while earning a master’s degree gives you a different perspective on your studies. It allows you to take control. You get to decide what you want to learn and how to learn it.
Some people hesitate to continue their education because of the cost. Fortunately, many graduate school programs allow students to work or perform research in exchange for a stipend. The stipends can help pay for tuition, housing, books, and other expenses.
The experience that you gain in graduate school is valuable when you’re applying to jobs later on. Employers want to see that you have real-world familiarity with your industry. You’ll likely be able to enter the workforce with a higher position and a greater salary than someone with a less advanced degree.
Some people spend time working before they return to school to get their master’s degree. If that’s the case for you, you might be able to boost your career by furthering your education. Are you seeking a promotion or trying to harness an opportunity to work at a high-profile firm? Getting more experience and a master’s degree could make you a shoo-in.
If you’re thinking of changing careers, you’ll be more apt to position yourself well if you’ve continued your education. Getting a specialized degree demonstrates your commitment to the field. Employers may take you more seriously when they see that you’ve devoted time, money, sweat, and tears to earning an advanced degree.
Although you might hear that going to college is not important, extending your education can benefit you in several ways. Citizens with more education have better access to resources, are more likely to be healthy, and engage with the community. They also pass along their values to future generations, providing greater opportunities to their children.