Career Advancement through Education

You can find numerous different opinions on the importance and value of education to your career success. Unscientifically, I’d say the weight of opinion probably favors having a college degree–preferably at least a bachelor’s and in some cases a master’s degree. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you’re not necessarily home-free, but you probably are well ahead of most of those people who don’t have one. This aspect of career management deserves thoughtful attention, because it can have a major effect on your future, both financially and in terms of your marketability to employers as a professional.

Unemployment rates for non-college graduates versus college graduates

According to a recent study by Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce (shared via the Recruiting Trends website), individuals who recently earned a bachelor’s degree have an unemployment rate of 8.9%, which is higher than anyone would like. However, they’re still way ahead of job seekers who have a high-school diploma or less; those individuals have an unemployment rate that’s a huge 22.9%! What’s happening, apparently, is that the gap is widening between well-educated job seekers and those who for whatever reason dropped out of the educational environment much earlier. Hopefully, you’re not in that group, because if you are, you could face a tough climb to move up and out of it.

What impact does a college degree have on your career success potential?

It varies. One important factor is the field you choose. For example, a liberal arts major might be considered well rounded, but unless he or she has some more specifically marketable qualifications, that major is not likely to provide a strong career boost. Similarly, if you choose a major in an industry that is either in decline or stagnating, you might easily find yourself with an expensive piece of wallpaper after you earn your degree! According to the study, as reported by Recruitment Trends, here are a few key points to consider with regard to your education and career prospects:

  • “What employed college graduates make also depends on what they take.” For example, higher end=engineering and lower end=arts, psychology and social work.
  • “People who make technology are better off than people who use technology.”
  • “Unemployment is lowest where the ties between majors and occupations are highest.” For example, lowest=engineering, the sciences, education and healthcare; highest=architecture (construction-related factor).

Bachelor’s degree versus graduate degree

If you have a four-year degree but are thinking about going back to obtain a master’s degree because you believe it will significantly enhance your prospects for career success, consider the options carefully. An advanced degree can take a lot of time and money to earn, so you want to be as sure as you can that it really offers the potential value you need. I’ve known clients who went back to school to get an MBA, for example, and subsequently found that it didn’t appreciably speed up their job search for a desirable new position. It’s very important to research the situation in the industry or profession you are targeting, so you can try to confirm that you will be investing your time and money productively.

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