Never Stop Learning: Education Can Get You to the Top


Never Stop Learning:  Education Can Get You to the Top    |
Published in the May / June 2013 issue of print
Search & Employ®   |

The word “learn” contains the word “earn.” That sounds like something you would find on a poster in a high school career counselor’s office. But older people should appreciate the message as well. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, the higher one climbs on the education ladder, the more likely he or she will be successful and earn a better-than-average paycheck.

Some people have said that the rising cost of college education is making getting a degree too expensive and not worth it in the long run. But labor economists – people who study the relationship between education and earning – say that is a dangerous myth. In fact, the best evidence says that a college degree leads to a lifetime earnings increase of up to $300,000, even after subtracting the cost of the higher education. That kind of increase applies to virtually all undergraduate majors.

Here is an example from the medical field – which offers a lot of opportunities, job satisfaction, and job security. There are plenty of opportunities in that field for people who do not have college degrees, but people who pursue an education beyond high school have much greater earning potential. Medical jobs that do not require a college degree pay between $20,000 and $40,000 per year in most areas of the country. For people with a two-year college degree, the pay is between $40,000 and $60,000. Advanced nursing jobs that usually require a master’s degree pay upwards of $90,000. And we all know that doctors – who spend a lot of time in school – make the big bucks.

The value of education goes beyond what students read in books or hear from their professors. Employers understand that people who have earned higher education degrees know how to learn and will be quicker to pick up new skills and knowledge on the job. And, when students interact with one another, they can develop communication skills such as persuasion and conflict resolution. Because they are so busy, students also have to develop time and task management to manage the many projects deadlines and other demands of obtaining an education. Students also have the advantage of learning from others – not just professors – while they are “hitting the books.”

The phrase “knowledge is power” applies in good times and bad. While the recent recession hit everybody in one way or another, people without college degrees tended to be hit the hardest. So education, at the very least, can be a shield against economic adversity.

Many people gain valuable education through on-the-job training and independent study. But more and more employers are looking for college degrees when it comes to hiring for open positions. That is especially true now that there are more ways than ever to get a college degree. The traditional way is to learn on a college campus with ivy on the buildings and Frisbee on the quad. But as the non-traditional student becomes more traditional, colleges of all levels have learned to adapt. Colleges are offering more and more classes online and at night so that people who work day jobs can further their education at their own pace.

About the Author

This article was written by Lisa Dunster