by Bart Moss
I’ve been fortunate to be able to write a column for local newspapers for a couple of years. The subjects have been wide ranging from conservative political to motivational and inspirational to education. I have settled in on education for a variety of reasons but none more so than how much education affects our daily lives, our standard of living, our relationships, our health and well being. I could go on an on.
It is a well-established fact that the higher education level one achieves the more money one earns over the course of a lifetime. There are exceptions to this rule but they are rare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a high school graduate with no college can expect to earn on average about $35,000 per year and faces an unemployment rate of 7.5%. Someone with a Bachelor’s degree can expect to earn on average about $53,000 and faces an unemployment rate of only 4.0%. The numbers obviously get better with Master’s and Professional degrees. Think about it this way, the person with the Bachelor’s degree stands to earn over a half million dollars more over the course of a career than the person with just a high school diploma.
I will be the first person to tell you that money cannot and will not buy happiness. But one can’t argue the fact that it makes life a little easier. Take your health for instance. According to the National Poverty Center, people with an extra four years of education had fewer incidences of heart diseases and diabetes. People with only a high school education were twice as likely to report that they were in fair/poor health and used twice as many sick days than their higher educated counterparts. They were also twice as likely to report that they smoked and almost three times as likely to report they drank excessive amounts of alcohol on a daily basis. Naturally, these numbers would validate what the Population Reference Bureau reported; that people with an extra four years of education outside of high school lived on average 12 years longer.
Remember, all the numbers above are averages. Some will be much higher and some will be much lower. I know many people who have only a high school education and have done quite well for themselves. There’s a catch, however. They have worked hard to develop a skill or a trade that has made them marketable in the workplace. I know several people who have a four-year degree working in jobs they could’ve got right out of high school or they are unemployed waiting for someone to GIVE them a job.
If you plan to go to work right out of high school by learning and developing a skill or trade that is marketable then you are going to be much better off than a person who spends four or five years in college accumulating debt and majoring in a subject that has no value in the marketplace. So, again, numbers can be misleading but they are good indicators.
When we counsel young people (and, older adults changing careers) we need to be very careful in the advice we give. We shouldn’t push everyone to a four-year college degree because it isn’t for everyone. My advice would be this: 1) Research, research, research to find a skill/trade/career field that you are good at and one that people will willing pay you to do, 2) work to develop that skill/trade/career field to the best of your ability, 3) learn everything you can about your field and become an expert, 4) find a mentor in that field that will help you learn the ropes and navigate your chosen field, and 5) develop the soft skills necessary to be an great employee and maybe, if it is your goal, you can one day become a good employer. What are soft skills and why are they so important? That is the column for next week. Until then, remember that education matters!
Education Stat of the Week: According to the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. ranks 25th in math and 17th in science among industrialized nations.
Education Quote of the Week: “A formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn