7 Benefits That Prove the Value of Education
Is College Worth the Money? Find Out the Answer and More.
Is college worth the money? It's an important question. And you certainly wouldn't be the first person to ask. Most of us need to feel confident that the value of education is truly positive before investing in it.
So, what's the answer? Well, that depends on you and the choices you make. Going to school can help you achieve success, but you first have to define what success means to you. Different types of post-secondary schools have different focuses and can lead to different results.
What's your desired outcome? Maybe you just want to be a more informed and engaged citizen. Maybe you love learning and want to become a full-time scholar. Or maybe, like the majority of people, you mostly want to secure a career that you enjoy, that pays well, and that makes it possible to create a comfortable life.
Think about that last option. It involves getting into a good career. But a lot of traditional colleges and universities don't make that their main emphasis. Instead, they tend to focus on giving students broad bases of knowledge that, although useful and enriching, may not apply directly to specific career paths.
That's not to diminish the type of value those schools provide. Depending on how you set your educational goals, they can absolutely offer beneficial learning and social experiences that result in meaningful credentials and other significant outcomes.
So, are trade schools worth it? In short, yes. Here's something key to understand: A whole lot has changed since the time your parents were in college and starting their careers. In the 21st century, tangible skills and industry qualifications are what get most people in the door. And those are often most easily gained by attending schools that specialize in career, technical, vocational, or trade school education.
In fact, it's been shown that many post-secondary graduates from technical or career-focused programs earn significantly higher incomes than people who major in strictly academic fields.* And almost 80 percent of all college-level credentials below a bachelor's degree are awarded for specific vocational fields.**
So as you consider what the value of a college education needs to look like for you, keep in mind what trade schools can offer. Below the infographic, check out seven good reasons to get career-focused training:
7 Benefits That Prove the Value of Education
1. Higher Income Potential
Let's begin with the very first thing people tend to investigate when exploring whether to go to college: return on investment (ROI). For most of us, that means money. How much will we make after we graduate? Will it be more than we would have made without going to college?
When it comes to college, ROI is usually thought of as the additional amount of money you can earn as a graduate after accounting for the cost of your schooling and how much you would have made if you didn't go to school.
At an individual level, that is obviously hard to predict with absolute certainty. So many factors are at play. But we can make an educated guess by looking at some recent and historical trends. And the good news is that, in general, the average income of college graduates tends to be more than what those without a post-secondary education make.
In fact, the value of a college degree, diploma, or certificate might be greater than ever. One big reason is that the wages of people without any college-level training have been on a downward trend.*** So you risk falling further and further behind if you don't go to school. But, beyond that risk, college ROI still looks positive when you account for the other variables involved.
According to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, students who earned associate's or bachelor's degrees, on average, experienced an ROI of about 15 percent over the decade from 2003 to 2013. And look at these fascinating statistics:
- Between 1970 and 2013, the average yearly incomes of college graduates were significantly higher than those of non-grads. Bachelor's degrees earned people about $64,500. Associate's degrees were worth about $50,000. And high school diplomas only earned about $41,000.***
- On average, bachelor's degree holders make over $1 million more—over the course of a lifetime—than those with only a high school education. And associate's degree holders make roughly $325,000 more.***
Of course, not all degrees are created equal. A big factor in how much you make is the course of study you choose and the field you work in. Training that is hands-on, technical, and geared toward thriving areas of the economy tends to have the best ROI. The result is that a significant number of people end up making more money with a career-focused associate's degree or diploma than those who have bachelor's degrees. For example:
- Over 30 percent of young people with an associate's degree—and 27 percent with an industry-relevant license or certificate—earn higher incomes than those with a bachelor's degree.*
- People with associate's degrees or other fast-to-attain credentials geared toward specific careers and in-demand technical skills—such as for the healthcare field—make an average of $4,000 to $19,000 more per year than people with associate's degrees in the humanities.*
2. Better Job Prospects and Employability
Here's an eye-opening statistic: Seven out of 10 people in the U.S. workforce do not have a bachelor's degree. But that's because most jobs don't require a four-year education.**** In fact, many of the most reliable jobs only require two years or less of formal vocational training.
Today, it's all about skills—the practical application of knowledge. Employers want to know what you can do, not just what you can think. As a result, trade and technical skills are among some of the world's most marketable commodities. And the reality is that, for many occupations, the only way to acquire the skills and qualifications that get you noticed is to complete a career-driven program.
Just take a look at these facts:
- According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations only require an associate's degree or less. And 18 of the 20 occupations projected to have the most new jobs by 2020 have the same minimal requirements.*
- By 2020, about 55 million job openings could be created. Of those, about three out of 10 will require only a two-year degree or some college.*
Despite those facts, a lot of employers say that they have trouble finding qualified workers with the right skills. It seems that, in some fields, too few students are pursuing the short but focused training options that lead to the above opportunities.
Here are just a few examples of sectors facing a shortage of workers in the U.S., which means they give you more opportunity to benefit from getting industry-specific skills:
- Healthcare—About 18 million people are already employed in this sector. But another 5 million job openings are expected by 2022. And eight out of 10 of them will require at least some post-secondary training. Some of the fastest-growing vocations include nursing, pharmacy technology, sonography, and occupational therapy. But don't forget that the healthcare industry also needs a lot of business and IT professionals.*
- Energy—By 2020, more than 60 percent of this sector's labor force could need to be replaced. In the area of shale energy (i.e., natural gas) alone, as many as 1.7 million permanent jobs could be created. And solar energy is also on the rise with the potential creation of almost 300,000 new jobs by 2030. These industries will need skilled tradespeople in areas like HVAC technology, welding, electrician work, and construction management.*
- Information technology—Employment in this field is projected to grow by 18 percent through the year 2022, and most of the jobs will require some vocational education at a minimum. But the income potential is what really stands out. On average, IT workers earn more than double the average U.S. salary ($76,000 compared to $35,000). They include tech pros in areas like web development, software programming, and network administration.*
3. A Faster, More Convenient Path to a Career
Programs at vocational colleges and trade schools tend to take less time to complete than those at other institutions. In fact, many are designed to last from only a few months to two years at the most. But even the ones that award higher credentials like bachelor's degrees tend to be more streamlined and focused than what you'll find at many traditional places of higher learning.
And the programs often aren't just short; they can also be quite flexible. Many vocational schools cater to working adults who need the option of attending class at night or even online from home. Plus, a lot of them include externships in their programs for real-world, on-the-job practice before graduation. It's all meant to help students enter their fields as working professionals as quickly as possible.
4. Respect and Credibility
Part of the value of higher education is that earning a degree or other type of credential shows your ability to stick to something. That's why college and vocational school graduates are often taken more seriously than those with only a secondary education.
5. Enhanced Confidence, Engagement, and Health
Completing a college or trade school program means that you've faced a big opportunity head-on—and succeeded. The result is that you feel more confident and have more ability to turn your thoughts into action. In fact, people with a post-secondary education tend to be more engaged citizens, get more opportunities to learn new things, and take better care of their health. For example, just look at these numbers from 2012:
- Over 40 percent of college graduates with a four-year degree—and almost 30 percent of those with at least some college—were active volunteers in their communities (compared to 17 percent for those who only finished high school).†
- More than 55 percent of bachelor's degree holders (or above)—and 44 percent of people with at least some postsecondary education—strongly agreed that their jobs allow them to keep learning (compared to 32 percent for high school graduates).†
- Among people aged 25 to 34, almost 70 percent of those with bachelor's degrees or higher—and 56 percent of those with an associate's degree—performed vigorous exercise at least once a week (compared to 40 percent for those with just a high-school education).
Networking in college means meeting people who share your interests. If fact, many people say that school is where they made some of their best lifelong friends. Plus, a lot of schools host networking events with potential employers. And since many instructors are active professionals in their fields, they are often able to help students find additional mentors or other people who can assist with their career development.
7. Greater Flexibility and Mobility
Getting a higher education—especially a career-focused one—tends to result in having more options and possibilities open to you. It can enable you to get a lot more out of your life. And it can come in particularly handy when moving to a new location. Since you may not know anyone at first, your education can act as an important signal of your capabilities and value to potential new employers.
Take Advantage of the Value of Education: Start Training!
In exploring the value of education, one thing becomes very clear: college is worth the money when you find the right type of school and program. And finding training options near you is easy! Just search below using your zip code to get started.
* Association for Career & Technical Education, website last visited on May 12, 2016.
** U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, website last visited on January 27, 2017.
*** Federal Reserve Bank of New York, website last visited on April 21, 2016.
**** National Education Association, website last visited on April 21, 2016.
† The College Board, website last visited on April 21, 2016.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York, "Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs?", website last visited on April 21, 2016.
Purdue University, "Study shows what makes college buddies lifelong friends," website last visited on April 21, 2016.