A Comparison Of College Degrees And Jobs

by on February 13, 2013

What kind of paycheck can you earn with a college degree? What kind of paycheck can you earn without one? The answers might surprise you. Overall, prospects are still better for those with bachelor’s degrees than those without any higher education. In July the unemployment rate was 8.7% for high school graduates, 7.1% for those with an associate degree or some college and just 4.1% for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, earnings and job prospects vary widely by degree and specialization, and the future for college grads isn’t nearly as rosy as it once was. According to a study by Rutgers University, among college graduates who finished their degrees between 2006 and 2010, only half have found full-time jobs. The recession has given rise to the “boomerang generation,” since One in four Americans age 18-34 have moved back in with their parents because they have no other economic options. Twenty-two percent of the same age group have delayed having a baby because of the economy, and another 20% have delayed marriage as well, leading to a falling birth rate approaching a 25-year low.

In such an economic mess, what is a young adult poised to begin a career supposed to do? To go to college or not to go to college? Despite popular cultural belief, a college degree no longer guarantees a good job with a steady paycheck. The academic culture of a four-year degree is not a good fit for everyone. Associate degrees, trade schools and apprenticeships are pushed out of the public attention but deserve consideration as an equally viable opportunity. For starters, here’s a list from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the highest-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. The top five are…

  1. Air traffic controllers
  2. General and operations managers
  3. Construction managers
  4. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
  5. First-line supervisors of police and detectives

The rest can be found here.

If you do choose a four-year degree, know why you are there. A college degree is not a guarantee. It’s not hard to believe that in today’s job market, if you went to school, earned mediocre grades, played video games and partied all week and didn’t participate outside the curriculum, your job search will be difficult no matter what your degree. That said, some degree holders have an undeniable advantage. Students in technical fields like engineering and computer science are more likely to obtain paid internships before graduating, which can be a much-needed financial relief and a career springboard. Creative fields like fashion design and music performance, while culturally valuable, may not translate to well-paid employment, or even steady employment. The five best paying bachelor’s degrees all boast six-figure median salaries, while the two worst paying degrees will give you earning power of…less than $20K. Whether or not a college degree is a good investment is a function of many factors beyond the category of degree, a subject which will be further explored in coming articles.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve March 18, 2013 at 4:36 am

This post is a real eye-opener given the statistics provided. And very well said college degree isn’t a guarantee. And therefore, I prefer online college education and that also gives a better opportunity to working professionals.


aubrey August 30, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I would say i’m really disillusioned with college right now. Alot of my friends are struggling to get work, even with a good degree.
I feel that trade schools are a good option, because you are learning a skill. But a general degree from a 4 year school doesn’t seem to have the weight that it used to.
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