Choosing to return to school is no small decision. Increased time commitments, the responsibility of paying tuition and the innate challenge of working through an academic degree can seem daunting at first. However, evidence suggests that the payoff far outweighs the effort. Below are seven convincing reasons why going back to earn your degree is the right choice.
Reason 1: Soon, 65 percent of employers will require a college education
One of the most obvious reasons to return to school is the impact it can make on your career. By 2020, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute estimates that around 65 percent of all American jobs will require postsecondary education and training.
With a percentage this large, it is impossible not to recognize the significant impact that earning a college degree can have on your life. It means that most employers will almost certainly be asking for this credential. Without a college degree, you'll be less likely to find a well-paying job or, in some cases, any job at all. In 1973, the number of positions that required a college degree was only 28 percent. While previous generations may have been able to earn middle-class salaries without higher education, times have clearly changed.
Reason 2: Going back to school increases income by more than 40 percent
It's no secret that a college degree impacts how much you earn. But did you know just how valuable this credential can be? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that workers with a high school diploma make an average of only about $678 per week. In comparison, those with bachelor's degrees make $1,137 weekly. When you earn a master's or professional degree, this number only increases in value.
To put this in perspective, $678 is just $200 above the poverty line for a family of four. Living so close to the financial edge makes it difficult — and sometimes impossible — to save for the future. The inability to put away money impacts everything from your retirement to buying a house, to whether you can effectively bounce back from a financial emergency. Earning your degree, quite simply, adds up to more fiscal stability.
Reason 3: Unemployment doubles for those with no degree
The BLS reports another significant finding: The unemployment rate doubles for those with only a high school diploma. Those with just a high school education are unemployed at a national rate of 5.4 percent, versus 2.8 percent for those who have obtained their bachelor's. When comparing this to the increased number of employers who are requiring a college degree from candidates, we can see that this correlation is no accident. Without at least a bachelor's degree, it is disproportionately more difficult to get a job or get ahead in your career.
Reason 4: 41 percent of new jobs come from networking
The old adage is true: "It's not always what you know, it's who you know." Networking was and continues to be the No. 1 way to find a job. According to a report presented by Forbes, the number of people who found jobs due to networking was consistently found to be the highest (in the 40 percent range) out of all possible methods. (Networking was also found to be at least 16 percent more useful than internet job posts — the next most common method.)
College — no matter if it's online or on-ground — is the perfect place to meet the people who will help you throughout your career. Both formats offer ample opportunities to discuss, connect and learn in a warm and welcoming community. You can get a recommendation from a professor, for example, or hear about a job opening from a fellow classmate. At the University of Findlay, there are valuable opportunities to complement your online connections in person, such as the summer institute for the Doctor of Education program. Ultimately, networking is something that you'll use throughout your professional life.
Reason 5: There are more options for parents going back to school
Before online education, raising a family was a significantly larger barrier to getting your education. But did you know that there are around 4.8 million parents currently enrolled in college degree programs? The Institute for Women's Policy Research explains that on-campus child care options are declining. Therefore, online degrees are a convenient way for parents to balance both their home lives and careers.
When parents enroll in an online college, they choose a far thriftier and more convenient option. They eliminate many of the expenses associated with going to a traditional university, including housing, meal plans, extra commuting and fees associated with campus life. And even if you don't have children, attending an online college can still provide the same economic benefits.
Reason 6: You don't have to be in your teens and early 20s
Many individuals who would otherwise enroll in college may fear that they've "aged out," having grown too old to become a student again. However, this fear is unjustified. Nontraditional students are going back to school in record numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), "nontraditional" students are defined as those who:
- Are considered "independent" (for financial aid purposes)
- Have one or more dependents
- Are a single caregiver
- Do not have a traditional high school diploma
- Have delayed postsecondary enrollment
- Attend school part-time
- Are employed full time
The DOE reports that 74 percent of undergraduate students have at least one nontraditional characteristic. This means that there is no "normal" when it comes to age or life situation for college students. Any age is the right age to enter the classroom.
Reason 7: You can work full time while going back to school
There's a myth that says you can't simultaneously hold a full-time job and go to school. Consider that myth busted. Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy reports that 70 percent of college students currently work while enrolled. Out of these, about 40 percent of undergraduates and 76 percent of graduate students work full time. Plus, one-third of working learners are age 30 or older.
Because of their flexibility, online degrees allow students to go to class anytime that fits their schedule. It's even true that many employers sponsor their employees' education to help them gain relevant skills and competencies. (Examples of these companies include UPS, Starbucks and Fidelity Investments.)
The evidence is clear: Earning a college degree might just be one of the best choices you can make for your future.
Is Online Higher Education Right for You?
Ultimately, only you can decide whether online college is the right decision. However, it would be difficult to deny the proof. At the University Findlay, going back to school means taking the next step toward your educational goals. With numerous quality, relevant degrees offered in a convenient online format, you'll be well on your way to the next phase of your career.