Value of Earning A Bachelor's Degree
Although a bachelor's degree does not guarantee immediate and continual employment, it probably won't pose any disadvantage as opportunities arise for a new career. A bachelor's degree, which is sometimes preferred by employers to be focused in a particular area of study, is required for some jobs and can give applicants a more competitive edge in jobs where it isn't. Individuals who choose not to enter the workforce after earning their bachelor's degree may find that the skills, knowledge, and experiences gained throughout the four or more years they spent becoming educated in an area of their interest can benefit them in other ways.
Last Month's Most Requested Bachelor's Degrees
- American InterContinental University
In 2002, unemployment rates among college graduates, who had earned a bachelor's degree, topped off at just 3.1 percent, while unemployment rates including all persons for the year reached at 4.6 percent (see Graph 1). In a comparison of median earnings, for the year 2002, bachelor degree holding college graduates also earned a higher annual income than high school graduates; $45,500 per year ($876 per week) versus $27,900 per year ($535 per week). And, the annual earnings figure for the high school graduate is nearly twice what an individual could earn working full-time in Oregon at a current minimum wage of $7.05 per hour.
For the most part it has been found that earnings increase along with a person's level of education; however, this is not always the case. In 1996, approximately 21 percent of individuals who had obtained a bachelor's degree were earning less than the median annual high school graduate earnings of $23, 317, and 15 percent of individuals without a bachelor's degree were earning more than the median annual earnings for workers with a bachelor's degree. Contributing to the existence of these outlying figures are a few distinct factors. Some profession in which a bachelor's degree is required may simply offer low wages. Other individuals, who have earned a bachelor's degree, may be working in an occupation that does not require their level of education, and may be underemployed. And, some of the workers who do not have a college degree, but are making high-end earnings, are likely to be older and at the peak end of their careers. Likewise, some workers who are earning low wages, and who do have college degrees, are likely to be younger and at the foot of their career ladders.
Field of study is an important variable in determining earnings. For example, research, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education on a number of college graduates, revealed that students majoring in education, the arts, and humanities were the only college graduates more apt to earn less than $25,000. Conversely, graduates who majored in engineering, computer science, business, nursing, and other health fields were less likely than all other college graduates to earn less than $25,000. In fact, with the exception of nursing, these college graduates were more likely than all other college graduates to reach earnings of $50,000 or more. In addition, this study showed that as of 1997, 86 percent of graduates had full-time jobs, and just two percent were unemployed.
Becoming More Competitive With a Bachelor's Degree
For many jobs that would otherwise require on-the-job training, post-secondary training, an associate's degree, or related work experience, a bachelor's degree can give an applicant the competitive edge necessary in order to get hired. For instance, supervisors working in various production and construction settings can work their way up to supervisor level after first working in the industry and obtaining related work experience. However, individuals who have some related work experience and possess a bachelor's degree may find that they have an advantage over other hopeful candidates.
In accordance with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is estimated that each year, nationwide, an average of more than 90,000 college graduates will enter employment positions that do not require the knowledge and skills learned in a bachelor's degree program. While some students will enter these positions for personal reasons, others will be unsuccessful in finding a position that both requires a bachelor's degree and matches their level of knowledge and skills. When individuals are underemployed, the jobs they occupy are then left unavailable for less educated persons who are only able to meet the actual minimum requirements for the job.