If you have just graduated from high school and are wondering what to do with your life, you should give a good look to going to college. Even if you can start working right away at a decent job, over the long run, a college degree is likely to pay off much more than the head start you get by entering the workforce right out of school.
Consider this: In the U.S., those with four-year college degrees earn about 98% more on average than those with just a high school education. Of course, averages can be skewed by all those doctors and dentists and corporate CEOs making six- and seven-figure incomes, but even when you consider the median, which is the midpoint of all salaries, those with a four-year degree earn about 50% more than people who didn’t finish college and about 60% more than those with no college at all.
What kind of degree you have also makes a difference. People who get degrees in engineering or business tend to make more than those who get an English degree, a communications degree or a human development and family studies degree. For many of the social sciences fields, you need to get a graduate degree — at least a masters and in many cases a doctorate — to see a significant boost in pay. For example, with just an undergraduate human development and family studies degree, there will not be many high-paying jobs available. On the other hand, with just a bachelor’s degree in business, you can easily find a job that pays more than the average bachelor’s degree starting salary of $45,000 a year.
There are other things to take into consideration, of course. Going to a four-year college to get a degree can be very expensive, although 83% of people who have a degree say it was worth it. And while getting a degree can cost $100,000 or more, studies show those without degrees lose more than $500,000 in wages over their lifetimes. You also need to do what makes you happy. If you don’t want the kind of job that comes with a four-year degree, then it may not be worth your while to spend the money.