Is a College Degree Worth It?

Ready to start your journey?

Is a college degree worth it? Earning a college degree is one way you can open up more job opportunities and potentially get a higher salary.

Is a College Degree Worth It

Colleges typically offer helpful resources that can help you with job searching, research, and tutoring. If the cost of college is an issue, it may be worth noting that there are colleges with monthly payments available.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Getting a degree can also introduce you to new perspectives and communities. It’s a great way to network with peers and learn how to collaborate with others.

Is a College Degree Worth it?

College students discussing about their group research

Yes, a college degree is worth it for many students. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupations that typically require an associate’s degree or higher are projected to have a higher job growth increase than occupations that don’t require a college degree.

The median annual salary for bachelor’s-level occupations is $78,580 according to the BLS, which is a higher salary than median salaries for occupations that don’t require a college degree. If you want to have more job opportunities across various industries and the potential to earn a greater salary, a college degree might be worth it to you.

If your desired career choice doesn’t require a college degree, the cons of earning a degree may outweigh the benefits. There are many types of degree programs tailored to specific interests. If you have your sights set on a specific career path, you might consider what type of degree would be useful for your desired occupation or industry.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

The BLS identifies 169 occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree. An additional 36 occupations usually require a master’s degree and 63 occupations require a doctoral or professional degree for entry. At the bachelor’s level, you may find job opportunities in business and management, engineering, education, healthcare, media and the arts, social service, and more.

If you’re interested in mid to senior-level positions in your desired field, a master’s degree might be beneficial. A doctorate degree can be useful for individuals who wish to enter the academic field.

Pros and Cons of a College Degree

College students walking together to their classroom

If you’re thinking about going to college, you might be wondering, What are the advantages and disadvantages of going to college? Is college worth the cost?

Here are some pros and cons of going to college that can help you decide.

Pros: 5 Reasons Why College is Worth It

College students walking in school campus

Going to college may provide you with better job and salary opportunities and give you access to useful resources that can benefit your education and future.

  • Potential to make more money: Although getting a degree doesn’t guarantee a higher paying job, it can increase your possibilities to make more money. Many jobs that typically require at least a bachelor’s degree have higher median annual salaries than jobs that only require a high school diploma.
  • Greater job opportunities: Many employers desire job candidates with some type of college education. This can be dependent on the specific job title or industry, but earning a degree may help increase your job opportunities in your area of study.
  • Networking opportunities: Attending college can help you learn how to collaborate and network with peers and faculty. Networking can help you build a positive reputation in your field and develop strong connections that may benefit you in the future.
  • Learn new and valuable skills: A degree can help you strengthen your current skills and learn new ones. It can teach you skills that you may use in everyday life and future employment.
  • Resources and guidance: Many colleges offer free resources that can help guide you in the direction you want to go. Some resources include career and tutor services, academic advisors, and recreational programs.

Many people go to college to enter their desired career field, obtain a job with good benefits, and build a broad skill set that helps them become more desirable to employers.

College graduates are more likely to work for an employer who offers a retirement plan. According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of college-educated Millennials worked for an employer with a retirement plan, while only 36 percent of high school-educated Millennials worked for an employer offering a pension plan.

Cons: 5 Reasons Why College is Not Worth It

College students doing research in library

Considering the cons of going to college can help you answer the question, Is a college education worth it in the long-run?

  • High-paying jobs aren’t guaranteed: Earning a college degree doesn’t mean you’ll immediately get a high paying job. Salaries can widely vary depending on the career or industry. Some high paying positions may not be attainable with just an undergraduate degree.
  • Student loan debt: Students often leave college with thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Although financial aid and other forms of financial assistance might be available, you may still graduate with student loans that can be difficult to pay off quickly.
  • May take longer than four years: Unexpected circumstances can cause earning a degree to take longer than anticipated. Part-time enrollment, retaking failed classes, or enrolling in a program that requires more than 120 credits can extend your expected graduation date.
  • May not need a degree for your desired career: If you already know what career or field you want to work in, you might consider what degree you need for entry. Some jobs don’t require a degree and on-the-job training may be enough to grow in the field.
  • You may not graduate: College isn’t for everyone, and sometimes people make that decision in the midst of their degree program. Various circumstances can prevent students from finishing their degree, which may cause them to leave with student loan debt and hinder their progress toward their desired career.

College can be beneficial for a number of reasons but if you think that the cons override the pros, you can consider alternatives that may better support your goals.

College Degree Alternatives

College students walking in campus during breaktime

There are a number of alternatives you can explore if you don’t want to go to college, but still want to develop professional skills and credentials.

  • Trade School: Trade schools are postsecondary educational institutions that allow students to build a skill set in a specific trade, such as automotive mechanics, electricians, or dental hygienists. This alternative may offer a more accelerated and cheaper education option.
  • Community College: You may earn an associate’s degree or postsecondary professional certificate by attending community college. Coursework may include a general education curriculum or career-oriented studies that can be useful for a number of careers attainable with some college education.
  • Entrepreneurship: If you have a knack for business and finance, you might consider becoming an entrepreneur. Although there are degrees available that teach students about the business world, you can start your own business without any postsecondary education.

Earning a college degree isn’t beneficial to everyone. Community college, trade schools, and entrepreneurship are just a few alternative pathways you may consider to enter your desired career field if college isn’t a good option for you.

How to Decide Whether a College Degree is Right for You

If you’re stuck deciding whether college is right for you, these are some questions and considerations you can think about to help you.

1. Your desired career requires a college degree.

College students discussing their desired career

Some careers require a college degree for entry. If you’re committed to a specific career choice that requires a college degree, going to college might be a good option.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Even if your desired career doesn’t require a degree for entry, you might want to think about how a degree can be helpful in terms of job growth and advancement.

2. You enjoy learning.

College students working together on their group project

College is a commitment. It usually takes at least two years to earn an associate’s degree and four years to earn a traditional bachelor’s degree.

A commitment to learning can help you be more motivated to complete coursework that’s required in the degree program you choose.

3. You’ve considered the costs.

College students listening to their professor's advice

Tuition and other college expenses can make earning a degree quite expensive. Sometimes the cost of college can be too much to bear, but it’s worth it in the long run for some students.

An important thing to consider when calculating the costs is how much student debt you think you’ll have compared to the minimum salaries offered for careers in your discipline.

4. You’ve considered your skills.

College students taking exam

If you’re currently in high school or looking to make a career change or advancement in your field, you can think about what skills and knowledge you currently have.

Knowing what you’re interested in and applying your current skills to your chosen major might help you understand the curriculum better and make your college experience more successful.

5. How would be going to college affect your future?

College students brainstorming at school library

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? If you’re looking for a career change or want to advance in your field, is it worth going to college to help you achieve these goals? Going to college might be a good option for you if you believe that it’ll have a positive impact on your future.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

College Degrees Financial Aid

The cost of college can be intimidating at first glance. Financial aid and scholarships are ways to help you cut down those costs. You can seek financial aid from your state and the federal government.

Financial aid is income-based assistance determined by a number of factors, such as year of enrollment and household income. You can submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out if you’re eligible for federal assistance.

Scholarships are monetary awards given to qualified students. You can apply for as many scholarships as you’re qualified for to potentially increase your chances of receiving one or more scholarships. Scholarships can be merit-based, which are awarded to students for academic or athletic excellence or other related achievements.

Some scholarships are awarded to students who wish to enroll in a specific area of study, such as STEM. Other scholarships may be available to virtually any student.

What is a College Degree?

College students comparing their assigned book reports

A college degree is a professional credential awarded to students by a postsecondary educational institution. There are four main types of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral. Associate and bachelor degrees are undergraduate degrees. Master’s and doctoral degrees are graduate-level degrees.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Each type of degree has a different level of focus. Undergraduate degrees include general education coursework and introduce students to their selected area of study. Graduate degrees delve deeper into specialized coursework surrounding one’s discipline. Each degree level can help students broaden their skill set and make them more marketable to potential employers.

How Much Does College Cost?

College students walking out of the campus

The cost of college can vary depending on if you’re attending an in-state versus out-of-state school, public or private college or university, and your major.

According to the College Board, the average cost of attendance for in-state students attending public college is $27,940. The average cost of attendance for out-of-state students attending public college is $45,240. Attending a private college can be more expensive. The College Board states that the average cost of attending a private college is $57,570.

There are a number of things that go into the total cost of attendance, including tuition, housing, fees, books, other supplies, and personal expenses. Tuition refers to the cost a college or university charges students for courses taken. Housing costs can differ depending on whether you choose to live on campus or off campus. Students are charged various fees by colleges for the services they offer.

Books and school supply costs can vary depending on whether you buy or rent books and how many supplies you need. For example, if your major includes a lot of lab work, you may have to buy a lab coat and safety glasses.

How Much Does it Cost to Apply to College?

College students discussing about their lecture

Colleges typically charge students a fee to submit an application to be considered for admission. Some college application fees may be as low as $40. On the high-end, application fees can range from $75 to $90.

Some colleges may waive the application fee under special circumstances. Additional costs to apply for college can include official transcripts and testing, such as SAT or ACT exams. Some schools may not request SAT or ACT scores, but there is a registration fee to take these exams. Students typically have to pay for material costs if they request copies of their official transcripts.

What Should I Major in?

College students walking in school hallway

Thinking about your interests and career goals is a good start to selecting the right major for you. Do you enjoy STEM subjects, the arts and humanities, fine arts, or business? Choosing a major in a subject area you’re passionate about might help you enjoy your studies more.

When deciding on a major, you can think about potential careers and salaries and job outlook. Making a list of careers and subject areas you’re interested in can help you narrow down different major options. Choosing the right major for you ultimately depends on your personal career goals and aspirations.

How Long Does It Take to Get a College Degree Online?

Student taking his college degree online

If you enroll in a traditional, 16-week semester bachelor’s program and attend full-time, it will take four years to complete. If you follow an 8-week semester and stay enrolled year-round, you can finish in less time. Some bachelor’s programs require more credit hours to complete, which can take longer than four years.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

If you’re taking a combined degree program to earn your bachelor’s and master’s, you could finish in 5-6 years. A master’s degree usually takes two years to complete. A doctorate degree takes four or more years to complete depending on the program.

What’s the Difference Between a College Diploma vs. Degree?

You can attend college to obtain a degree or diploma, but here are some differences between these achievements:

College Degree College Diploma
  • Four types of degrees (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate)
  • Takes 2 years or more
  • Awarded by a college for completion of study
  • Two types of diplomas (graduate, post-graduate)
  • Takes 1-2 years
  • Awarded by a college for completing specific coursework

A college degree is awarded to students who’ve completed a degree program, while a diploma is awarded to students who complete specific coursework. A degree is more in-depth than a diploma because it involves a wider range of coursework.

What’s the Difference Between an Associate Degree vs. Bachelor Degree?

An associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree are two types of degree options students may choose depending on their goals. Here are some differences between the two:

Associate’s Degree Bachelor’s Degree
  • Takes 2 years to complete
  • Limited coursework
  • Usually costs less
  • Takes 4 years to complete
  • More in-depth coursework
  • May open up more career opportunities

An associate’s degree usually costs less and doesn’t take as long as a bachelor’s to complete. A bachelor’s degree includes general education coursework similar to an associate’s, but it dives deeper into a specific area of study.

Is College Worth it?

group of people working together in office

Yes, college is worth it for many professionals. Attending college allows you to explore your interests on a deeper level. Potential outcomes include gaining a competitive skill set, more job opportunities, and higher salaries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bachelor’s-level occupations are expected to experience a 10% job growth increase over the next few years. You can develop a specialized set of skills that can set you apart from others and make you more desirable to potential employers.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

There are a number of high paying degrees that you can earn in both on-campus and online colleges for those who need a more flexible schedule as well.

Getting Your College Degree Online

student getting her college degree online

Looking at the pros and cons of going to college while taking your career goals into consideration can help you answer the big question: Is going to college worth it?

Earning your college degree online can be the next big step toward your career goals. It can offer you flexibility and potentially increase job and salary opportunities. Finding a major that coincides with your passions and teaches you how to navigate your desired field may set you up for success.

You can begin your educational journey by researching accredited colleges and degree programs that best support your interests and career goals.

Ready to start your journey?
Amy Hayes

Amy holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Old Dominion University, with a minor in English. She previously worked as an educator before starting her career as a writer. Amy spends much of her time researching and writing, with the goal of sharing valuable information with readers.