Why Degrees Get the Big Bucks

With job after job listing “college degree required,” you may be wondering why a high school diploma or GED is no longer enough for even the most entry-level of positions. According to research from the Center on Education and the Workforce, about 36% of jobs require only a high school diploma. That leaves a whopping 64% that require some sort of specialized training and/or advanced degree. 

What Changed?

Having a college degree is the new norm. Considering the fact that about 66% of high school graduates apply immediately to college, it makes sense that 64% of jobs list a college education requirement, particularly for those that pay better. It also makes sense that positions requiring less training, qualifications, and education would be among the lower paying. Jobs with high salaries have high expectations to match, and most want a college degree.

What’s the Difference?

If you think the salary differences between jobs requiring diplomas versus degrees might not be significant, think again. 

  • The median earnings of a high school graduate are $38,792/year. 
  • Add some college classes to that, and the median earnings jump to $43,316/year. 
  • A worker with an associate degree could see earnings averaging around $46,124/year.
  • Workers who possess a bachelor’s degree often earn around $64,896/year (or $1,248/week).
  •  A master’s degree changes that number to $77,844/year on average. 
  • With a doctorate, expect earnings to jump closer to a six-figure salary. 

These aren’t small differences! If the jobs offering the salary you need require a college degree, not having one can create frustrating barriers.

What Can You Do?

There are still jobs on the market for workers who don’t possess college degrees that only require a high school diploma. If, however, those jobs don’t meet your needs or goals for the future, consider attending college in your free time to earn the degree necessary for something better. Online courses offer distance learning opportunities with flexible schedules. 

Look for financial aid, government grants, and scholarships that may cover the cost of pursuing a degree program. While finding the time may be a challenge, remember that earning the degree is an investment in your future.  

How Do You Compete in a Changing Job Market? 

As more students attend college, having a degree alone may not give the competitive edge it once did. Instead, it’s now often a minimum requirement. To shine in today’s workforce, applicants may want to strengthen their references, highlight achievements, showcase specialty skills and even consider graduate school and/or continuing education courses. In a job market where most applicants are assumed to have college degrees, finding ways to stand out can help. 

Yes, the market is changing, but more students can receive a college education — and with education comes more opportunities. The workforce is changing, and employers are changing the job requirements to match the growing number of college graduates. If you want to score one of these higher-paying jobs, a degree program is the best way to achieve it.