Should you go back and finish your college degree? For the vast majority of adults, completing your college degree has measurable financial, career, and personal benefits. Whether you are in your 20’s, 50’s, or pushing 80, it is now easier than ever to complete a college degree. Let’s explore the benefits of today’s degree completion options for people from all walks of life.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the average earnings of people with different levels of education, and it is clear that, on average, the more education you get, the more you will earn. For instance, someone with a bachelor’s degree will make 65 percent more than someone with a high school diploma. If you have an associate degree, you could still see an average salary increase of almost 40 percent by completing your bachelor’s degree.
As our economy evolves and changes, 65 percent of jobs will require some education beyond a high school diploma. While there are still many careers where a degree is not required, you will be more competitive for those jobs with a degree and will likely be able to command a higher salary. No matter how you slice it, a degree gives you access to more job opportunities. Plus, unemployment is lower for those with higher education degrees.
So many people are returning to college that schools have set up flexible programs ideal for adult learners. You can study online on your own schedule or attend a nearby campus for evening or weekend classes. Universities are increasingly aware of the need for flexible scheduling, with asynchronous courses that let you do the work whenever you have the time. You can take more classes when you have time and plan a lighter schedule when you are busier with work or family life.
Another factor making degree completion faster and easier is the rise in colleges that will credit you for prior learning or experience. You may be able to transfer not just your college credits from previous study but receive credit for military or employer training, skills and knowledge you can test to prove, or by submitting a portfolio that demonstrates your learning from life and work experience.
Some colleges also offer self-paced courses, so you can move quickly through the information you already know and slow down when you hit a section you don’t know. All of this can make getting your degree quicker and, as a bonus, cheaper.
Completing your college degree can give you a boost in self-esteem along with a sense of accomplishment. You can be proud of your achievement and more confident that you have increased knowledge and abilities in the world. Your degree increases your personal satisfaction but also confers an outside mark of success–you have achieved something meaningful.
While many studies have attempted to determine whether higher education makes you happier, this is a difficult hypothesis to prove. However, Pew Research found that those with less than a high school diploma are twice as likely to report unhappiness with their lives than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Of course, your happiness depends on many factors, but some of those factors may improve with a college degree, like higher earnings and more social status.
One public health study found that a higher level of education correlates with a lower risk of death. This study found that education level was much more important in longevity than race. In this long-term study, the death rate for participants with a high school diploma or less was 13 percent, compared with 5 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Each level of education completed added 1.37 years to life expectancy. Other studies have shown that higher education is correlated with better overall health, so you could see a longer, healthier life if you finish your college degree.
Now that it is easier to complete your college degree as an adult, what’s stopping you? The benefits are real, and if you put in the effort to enroll in a college completion program, you can reap the rewards for the rest of your life.