Horror stories abound of college graduates with degrees in creative writing working as baristas; recent graduates landing unpaid internships with no health insurance or retirement savings; and PhD students living on food stamps.
Those stories could deter some people from enrolling in college. They probably have. Nobody wants to dedicate four years of their life and tens of thousands of dollars to something that doesn’t end up being worth it.
Fortunately, a new report from job hunt site Simply Hired provides more evidence you’re still better off with a degree in the long run. Here’s why:
1. Better job opportunities
Simply Hired’s data show that permanent, full-time jobs for new college grads have increased more than 20 percent since 2014.
“The Class of 2015 is entering a post-recession job market where good opportunities have been growing over the past few years,” says James Beriker, president and CEO of Simply Hired. “There are significantly more real entry-level jobs available this year, which we define as full-time permanent employment rather than part-time, contract or internship positions.”
The class of 2015 is looking at jobs that have an average salary of $43,000. And sure, if you’d rather install elevators or repair power lines, you might make more money starting out. But if you’re looking for a steady job, a college degree is still the best way to get one.
2. More jobs require a degree
According to Simply Hired, demand for college degrees has increased by 5 percent in jobs that haven’t historically required degrees. Jobs like receptionists, data entry workers, customer service workers, and sales reps now require a college diploma.
“It may be harder to break into corporate America as jobs such as receptionist or data entry clerk increasingly demand a 4-year degree,” Beriker said.
3. More opportunities to change careers later
The American Institute for Economic Research found that between one and two million workers aged 45 to 65 changed careers between 2011 and 2012.
The reasons varied. Some were laid off, and some voluntarily left their careers for a new one. But AIER found that out of those who had successfully changed careers and were over 45, those who had a college degree were better positioned to transition.
“More highly educated workers have more options for changing careers,” the report concluded.
4. Student loan debt is not forever
A recent report from the Brookings Institution by Beth Akers and Matthew Chignos analyzed two decades’ worth of data on the financial well-being of American households and found that, “in reality, the impact of student loans may not be as dire as many commentators fear.”
They argue that large debt itself is not a problem, since many students who take on large balances also earn very high incomes.
“It’s true that the real cost of higher education has been rising dramatically, making it more difficult for students to finance a degree without debt,” said Akers in an interview. “However, our focus should be on the long run return of investments in higher education rather than the upfront cost.”
Of course, consumers don’t have the same focus — it is important to work on paying down your student loans, and there’s help to do it. But the long view is important, too.
5. It’s still the best investment you can make in your lifetime
There are some who adamantly believe that college is a waste of money, that college students are turning into Generation Jobless, or that higher education is like the final stage of a tournament where “kids at the top enjoy prestige because they’ve defeated everyone else in a competition to reach the schools that proudly exclude the most people.”
But it only takes one stat to blow these arguments out of the water: Typical workers with bachelor’s degrees earn $1.19 million over their lifetimes — twice what the typical high school graduate earns — according to a study by Brooking Institution’s Hamilton Project.
“College degrees may not be a guarantee of higher income, but they come closer than just about any other investment one can make,” the report concludes.