Many young people feel pressured to attend university while student loan debt in the US has ballooned to $1.5 trillion. If you’re one of those people, you might be surprised to learn that only 33 percent of Americans over age 25 have a Bachelor’s degree. Most who enroll in university or receive their undergraduate degree have parents who also attended college, adding to the perception that college is a necessary part of adult life. But how does that piece of paper affect your ability to gain lucrative employment, or enter a satisfying career?
By sheer numbers, young adults aged 25 to 34 are more likely to be employed if they attain a Bachelor’s degree or higher, at 86 percent. Young adults with only a high school diploma have an employment rate of 72 percent. Even getting an associate’s degree or attending college, but not graduating, raises that figure to 80 percent. Overall, high school grads with no college education have an unemployment rate of 4.1%, and college grads have an unemployment rate of 2.2%.
More importantly, how much does a college degree put in our pockets? If you only went to high school, your median income is $37,752. If you have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, your median income is $68,120. That’s almost double. So why do we hear that a college degree isn’t what it used to be, and millennials are underemployed? Why do 25% of retail workers and 14% of waiters/waitresses have a Bachelor’s degree?
Having that degree also affects your health later in life. College graduates have better physical function when they’re middle-aged. They’re also more likely to have higher subjective well-being (how you view your mental and emotional quality of life). College grads tend to feel they don’t have as much free time as non-grads, however. Moreover, these benefits decrease if you attain a post-graduate degree.
Overall, you’re better off with a college degree financially, physically, and mentally. Even attending college for part of the way has its benefits. Choosing a major that has value in the labor market makes a great difference to your income after college. Plan ahead, and make sure the benefits outweigh the ever-increasing costs.