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Is a Degree Worth It?

Do you often wonder whether a degree is really worthwhile? It does appear that many people can be successful in their field without formal training of any kind. You always hear about artists and athletes dropping out of high school or choosing not to go to college in order to pursue their careers. While this may often be the case, it is the success stories that are told, re-told, and glamorized. People don't discuss, and thus don't hear about those who fail. There are also many industries, unlike art and sports, where individuals require more than just talent to succeed.
The numbers below are based on the 1998 and 2000 Census Bureau statistics respectively:

Level of Education: Average Individual Income

  • No high school diploma $20110
  • High school graduate $28307
  • Associate's Degree $36392
  • Bachelor's Degree $50056
  • Master's Degree $63220

US Census Bureau 1998 Data
Excel File Bureau 2000

As you can see in the above data, on average, the level of education an individual has can make a major difference in the salary that they will earn. Although experience and skill are important in today's job market, they can only take you so far. Gaining a solid education, either by certification in the specific field you are interested in or by obtaining a more general degree (Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, etc.), lets an employer know not only that you are qualified to work for him/her, but also that you are capable of working towards a goal and, more importantly, of learning what he/she needs you to do on the job.

If you're still not sure whether getting a degree is the way to go, consider this; based on the latest statistics from the Census Bureau (2002), a college graduate can expect to earn $2.1 million working full-time in a typical work-life period (which is approximately ages 25-64). When you compare that to the average $1.2 million that a high-school graduate can expect to earn over the same time, you can see that a college education nearly doubles your earning potential. You can further enhance the likelihood that you will make more by continuing your education beyond college with either a Master's Degree (projected $2.5 million) or a Professional Degree (projected $4.4 million).
With these projected outcomes, you can think of your training or degree in terms of an investment with an incredible payoff. To put it succinctly: YES! A degree is worth it.

References: USA Today.com AP 7/18/2002
Amount of Schooling Affects Earning Potential


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