For decades, it was a given that a college degree was good for your career - then the Great Recession hit. For years afterward, it was difficult for anyone to find employment. Graduates faced the further challenge of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. This caused a reappraisal among experts and degree holders alike about the value and purpose of higher education.
Today, we are faced with a similar ongoing discussion about the value of continuing education and if this is a worthwhile pursuit for everyone. If your greatest ambition is to be a fine artist, you might not benefit much from a Ph.D. Conversely, if you are looking to break into a competitive field filled with highly trained professionals - like tech, medicine, law, or business - you need to acquire the appropriate skills and knowledge to find a job. Many jobs increasingly require some form of certification to get in the door.
Although it is important to balance continuing education with one’s desired goals and interests, the right kind of training and education provides many short and long term benefits.
Education Gets You a Job
In past years, it was not as difficult to find a job. The economy was booming after World War II and almost anyone could find employment. However, then as now, acquiring a high-paying career was tougher, which is why university-level education became so important.
Unfortunately, these days, it is not easy to obtain steady entry-level work. During the Great Recession, all sorts of jobs disappeared - but the first to come back were given to those with college degrees. In fact, 99 percent of post-recession jobs have gone to those who are highly educated, proving that continuing education continues to be vital to those looking to secure lasting employment.
Education Earns You Better Salaries and Benefits
Just after graduation, it can be difficult to see how worthwhile an education is. But the value proposition is quite strong when you observe a college graduates increased earnings over a lifetime. From the time they enter their workforce to the time they retire, bachelor degree-holders earn an average of 2.3 million dollars, compared to only 1.3 million dollars for high school. Even more impressive, doctoral students tend to earn around 3.3 million dollars in the working lives and those who endure medical school net over 6 million dollars during their full careers. Though entry-level jobs might not feel like a significant improvement over those who skipped continuing schooling, the opportunities they allow for later in one’s career are simply unattainable by those without training and education.
Education Gives You Extra Skills and Knowledge
It is possible to become qualified for an advanced position through experience alone. Stories abound of entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Rachel Ray, and others who achieved great success without the benefit of education. However, while such stories are popular, they are the exception to the rule. The vast majority of successful business people stick around to graduate.
Education not only imbues students with the skills and knowledge they will need in their future careers, but it is a strong signal of a student’s abilities. In a world where it is hard to assess candidates, a degree and a transcript tell prospective employers and partners about a student’s intelligence, aptitude and maturity. In short, degrees and certifications from continuing education are hard evidence that most employers prefer to see before offering paying positions. Then, workers can build on those foundational abilities with real-world experience over their working careers.
Education Connects You With Important Networks
In most careers, what one knows is important - but it is just as important as who one knows. Building a strong network of contacts in a particular industry is crucial for finding a good job, making partnerships, receiving advice/mentoring and more. When working, a person’s sphere of influence can sometimes be incredibly small - especially when they start in entry-level positions, surrounded by low-level workers.
Continuing education puts students in contact with dozens of present and future power-players, from peers in their courses to professors and speakers. Fellow students often come to the classroom at the same turning point in their lives and make great mutual support networks as well as potential future business partners. Engaging with these groups and maintaining relationships allows those who have returned to school to build broad, strong networks that will benefit them throughout their careers.
Education Helps You Decide Your Path
Finally, not everyone graduates high school knowing what they want to be. Even those with secure jobs should consider returning to school to dabble in alternate fields. Everyone deserves to find a career they are passionate about. Continuing education gives you the opportunity to decide the best path in life while opening doors to careers that were previously closed to you.
By NextStepU Staff