How Will Getting my Degree Help Me in the Job Market?

Pursuing a college degree isn’t free. In fact, the cost is so high that you may find yourself in debt for several years after you graduate. Before you start college, you must therefore be sure that the investment of time, money, and effort will pay off.

Career Outlook With No Postsecondary Degrees

In its 2012 survey of full-time wage and salary workers over age 25, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  stated that median salary earned by all workers was $42,380 and the unemployment rate was 6.8 percent. The same survey discovered that those who did not graduate from high school had the lowest median earnings of $24,492 per year and the highest unemployment rate of 12.4 percent.  Obtaining a high school diploma pushed median wages to an annual $33,904 with an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent. Taking some college courses increased pay to a median $37,804 yearly and reduced unemployment to 7.7 percent.

Career Outlook For Those With Degrees

A two-year associate degree yielded a median yearly salary of $40,820, which was still lower than the median for all workers. However, the unemployment rate also fell to 6.2 percent, which was lower than the rate for all workers. Typical careers for this degree include surgical technologists, licensed vocational nurses, dental hygienists, and nuclear technicians.

A four-year bachelor’s degree pushed salaries above average to a median $55,432 per year, and reduced unemployment to 4.5 percent. Occupations that require such degrees include software developers, accountants, chemical engineers, marketing specialists, and economists.

A master’s degree increased pay to a median annual $67,600 with unemployment at 3.5 percent. Typical jobs for this credential are physical therapists, financial managers, petroleum engineers, and marriage and family therapists. Doctoral degrees are needed for scientists, college professors, and psychologists. Median pay for the education ran $84,448 with an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent.

The highest pay goes to those with professional degrees, such as those for doctors and lawyers. Annual salary was a median $90,200. The unemployment rate was also the lowest at 2.1 percent. The top highest-paid jobs, which were all in the medical field, belonged to holders of professional degrees.


In conclusion, the more education you get, then the higher your pay. In addition, your chances of being unemployed also decrease with better degrees. While you can enter some careers with a lower-level degree, you may need the higher education to advance through the ranks. For example, you need only an associate’s degree to become an administrative assistant. However, if you want to manage a department, companies may demand a college degree. And to move into the highest managerial levels of a company, you generally need a graduate degree.

Note that these figures do not include training programs, such as apprenticeships or on-the-job education, which may require only a high-school diploma to enter. According to the BLS, apprenticeships paid a median $44,550 per year in 2010. Moderate on-the-job-training produced median annual pay of $35,650 while long-term on-the-job training yielded $45,370 yearly. The BLS did not provide unemployment figures for these programs.