If you are among the post-recession cynics who think a college degree is an expensive, but worthless, piece of paper, here's some food for thought.
In 2009, the unemployment rate was the lowest for those who held a professional degree, at 2.3 percent, while it was the highest (14.6%) for individuals whose educational qualification was less than a high school diploma. (bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm)
If that doesn't convince you of the importance of education, here are some more numbers to do the talking.
The average weekly earnings of a high school graduate in 2009 were $626, which was $135 less than the weekly wages of professionals who held an Associate's degree, $399 less than those who had a Bachelor's degree, and a whopping $631 less than those who had a Master's degree. (bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm)
Now spread that figure across a year, and then over a lifetime. That's a lot of money you're missing out on because you chose to skip college!
Education Pays and How…
The reality is education pays and the sooner we realize the importance of education, the better will be our future. Contrary to what the recession and consequential depressed job market would have you believe, getting higher education becomes even more important in a tough economy.
In today's job market, many employers look for individuals who have some kind of postsecondary education even for low-end clerical roles. The higher your career aspirations, the higher should be your level of education.
For example, most entry-level white collar jobs are available to those who have completed an Associate's degree. But Bachelor degree programs are the basic qualification for higher paying and more responsible roles. For more complex and leadership roles, graduate degrees are essential.
Students are encouraged to think independently, contribute to classroom discussions, and make important decisions on their own. This cultivates skills that are useful not just in their professional, but also personal lives.
Even though the importance of education doesn't begin and end with a fancy job, it is only practical to make academic choices that will lead to promising careers.
One field that has emerged unscathed from the economic downturn is healthcare. According to the Department of Labor statistics report 2010-2011, 10 of the 20 fastest growing professions are healthcare-related, and the sector is projected to add 3.2 million new jobs by 2018. (bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs035.htm)
While nursing and healthcare administration remain evergreen career choices in this field, some non-conventional jobs such as medical coding and billing, medical assisting, and laboratory assisting are also gaining in popularity.
The good news is that none of these careers requires extensive schooling. While a lot of these jobs are open to those who have an Associate's degree, some, such as Healthcare Administration, might have Bachelor's degree or higher as the minimum required qualification.
IT careers have also recovered some of their lost sheen, and students are attracted to a wide range of computer-related jobs, especially networking and programming that can be broken into with a two-year Associate's degree. More sophisticated roles like software engineering still require a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science.
These careers are just the tip of an iceberg that's yours to explore only if you would take the time and effort to pursue a college education.