Whether you choose to enter the job market with a high school vs. college graduation under you belt can have a very significant impact on the jobs you will be able to do and the amount of money you will be able to make.
According to a report entitled “The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings,” a person with a high school degree can expect to earn an average of $1.2 million over the course of their working life, and a person with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn an average of $2.1 million dollars over the same period of time. The report estimates that people with a master’s degree will earn an average of $2.5 million, people with doctoral degrees will earn an average of $3.4 million dollars, and those who get professional degrees will earn the most, an average of $4.4 million.
That said, all those figures are an average, so it doesn’t mean they are written in stone. There are good-paying careers you might pursue with only a high school diploma. Construction contractors can make a lot of money. So can entrepreneurs, small business owners or investors. All of those careers can be difficult, risky and taxing, but they do offer the possibility for a person to make an excellent living without a college degree.
Then there are good-paying careers that require a two-year technical education such as plumbing, electrician work or nursing. Those careers pay fairly well and offer opportunities for advancement and entrepreneurship.
On the flip side, there are many careers that require a bachelor’s degree (or higher) that do not pay very well at all. To be a teacher, social worker or public interest lawyer, you almost always need an advanced degree. Yet these professions do not offer tremendous financial rewards.
When you are considering going to college in terms of how it will help you make more money, you should think about what type of job you want. If your dream is to become a general contractor, you might be better off getting construction experience, learning skills on the job rather than in a classroom. Or if your goal is to make a good deal of money with only a bachelor’s degree you might not want to graduate with an English, Sociology or Philosophy degree. Choose a more financially rewarding course of study like Engineering or Accounting.
In general, we encourage high school graduates to go on to college. A college degree is viewed as the traditional pathway to success. As stated earlier in this article, the general financial trends support that notion.
However, it is crucial for every person to do what is right for them. Sometimes, opportunities open up when they are least expected. And other times, the most obvious pathway to financial success is less rewarding. We know that people with advanced degrees make more money, but these degrees take time and money to earn. People spend years of their lives and take on a massive debt load to earn these degrees. So, they may make more money, but they will owe a significant portion of that money.
Be sure you know what you want. Have a realistic idea of how to get there, and go for it.