5 Surprising Benefits Of Earning A College Degree

What are the benefits of a college degree? It’s not surprising to know that college graduates can make more money than high school graduates, have higher employability rates and greater chances of getting better jobs. But earning a college degree can come with benefits that might surprise you. Have you ever asked yourself whether a college degree can make you happier or healthier? It just might, according to our research. Take a look at these 5 surprising benefits that come with higher education, whether you plan to do that online or on-campus.

5 Surprising Benefits of a College Degree

1. Good Health


A study conducted by the Lumina Foundation called “It’s Not Just the Money”, reports that college graduates are 44 percent healthier than their non-graduate peers. According to a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, college education typically results in healthier habits, occupations with healthier working conditions and better access to healthcare. They are also less likely to smoke and more likely to wear a seatbelt, exercise, see a doctor regularly, volunteer, and (believe it or not) live longer.

2. Happiness


Are college graduates happier? College graduates are more likely to remain happy, as reported by Huffington Post. You are more likely to see your glass as half full with a college education. They typically have a greater sense of personal well-being and life satisfaction than those without a higher education qualification. Additionally, college degree may give you a better shot at job happiness, too. According to GenFKD, more workers are happy than unhappy with their jobs. This could also be due to promotions and job advancement as well as more opportunities that come with that experience.

3. Positive Example For Children


Children benefit when their parents have a college degree. A study from NCES indicates children whose parents attended college are much more likely to attend university (and graduate) themselves. This is especially good news for returning students with children, who may find themselves sacrificing some family time now to pursue the degree. In addition to laying the foundation for better health and well-being in the future, college-bound parents can serve as positive role models for their children while still in school.

4. Stronger Relationships


Marriages thrive with higher education, too. College graduates seek to build a mutually fulfilling marriage and strive to pursue family stability, as reported by the Atlantic. The report suggests that high school graduates seem less likely to marry, and when they do marry, they are less satisfied and more likely to divorce. One reason for this is there are less good jobs available for those with less education.

5. Expand Your World View


Those college-level analytical skills aren’t just for your resume and future employer. You’ll use them to solve everyday problems and make rational decisions. According to a study by IRAP in 2016, college graduates are better able to apply their learning to real world situations and have an expanded world view. College trains you to think independently and rely on reason rather than prejudice. These skills serve you well whether you are looking for the best deal on a used car, running your own business or deciding how to spend your free time.

How Much Can a College Graduate Earn Than a High School Graduate?

Apart from the 5 non-monetary benefits of earning a college a degree described above, the significant difference in earnings that comes with higher education can make a strong case for individuals who are on the fence about earning a college degree. Take a look at the median weekly earnings by education level, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2018:

  • High school diploma holders earn $730 week
  • Those with an associate degree earn $862 a week (about 18 percent more than high school graduates)
  • Those with bachelor’s degree earn $1,198 a week (about 38 percent more than those with an associate degree)
  • Those with a master’s degree earn $1,434 a week (about 20 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree)

Think of how much more that translates when you consider total monthly and yearly earnings over a decade. Higher education attainment can also lead to greater job security. Those with a bachelor’s degree enjoyed an unemployment rate of 2.1 percent in 2018, while BLS reports that 4.1 percent of people with a high school diploma were unemployed that year.

In conclusion, your higher post-graduate income won’t buy you love or happiness — but your college education could get you there. The connections you make and knowledge you gain while in college may just help you live happily ever after.


  • Association of Educational Attainment With Lifetime Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, JAMA Internal Medicine, August 2017, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2630755
  • College Enrollment and Work Activity of Recent High School and College Graduates Summary, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2018, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm
  • Elka Torpey, “Measuring the value of education,” Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2018, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/data-on-display/education-pays.htm
  • Educated Americans paved the way to divorce- then embrace marriage, The Atlantic, January 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/01/education-divide-marriage/57968
  • Education Pays 2016, The College Board, accessed March 2019, https://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/education-pays-2016-full-report.pdf
  • First-Generation Students: College Access, Persistence, and Postbachelor’s Outcomes, NCES, February 2018, https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2018421
  • Want to be Happier and Healthier? Then go to College, Huffington post, October 2016, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-merisotis/want-to-be-happier-and-he_b_8288354/
  • Will A College Degree Lead to More Job Happiness? GenFKD, accessed March 2019, http://www.genfkd.org/will-college-degree-lead-job-happiness
  • 5 surprising benefits of getting a college degree, California College, San Diego, July 2018, https://www.cc-sd.edu/blog/the-lesser-known-benefits-of-your-college-degree

What Is Career Advancement And How To Achieve It?

Career advancement

It simply is not a one-career-per-lifetime world anymore. People change jobs on a routine basis and may even jump careers. It is not unimaginable to move from real estate to the nursing profession or from a vet tech occupation to elementary school teaching.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) even shows that people change jobs on a consistent basis. A BLS study revealed Baby Boomers had an average 11.7 jobs over a 30-year period. In other words, they changed jobs about every 2.5 years. Interestingly, both men and women switched jobs on a fairly equal basis, suggesting that both genders are interested in job change and advancement.

Yet, job advancement can be different from career development, both strong motivators in the workplace. Nicole Andazola, MBA, and CEO of Solutions at Work, explains the difference between the two, but said that both are important to engaging and motivating employees and retaining quality workers.

Southern New Hampshire University

  • Some of the nation’s most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
  • Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
  • Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access
  • Offering over 200 online degree programs

“Career advancement is basically having the opportunity to be promoted to a higher position, move ahead in a company or position or be given more responsibility in a current role,” she said. “This is very important to the emerging workforce of millennials. Career advancement is, quite frankly, more tangible and therefore easier to identify with.”

Career development, on the other hand, is more intangible in the sense that it deals with the professional journey that an employee travels over a lifetime, Andazola stated.

“It includes more than getting promoted, it encompasses an individual’s experience, training, education, etc.,” she clarified. “It is the big picture, in other words — what an individual ultimately aspires to accomplish career-wise.”

Yet, good employers know the importance of both and offer career advancement opportunities as well as career development opportunities for employees, she said.

Career Advancement: The Financial Advantages

One significant advantage to advancing in your career is the potential it may bring for more pay. It seems obvious there would be an education-to-pay link, but the BLS offers actual data as evidence.

In fact, the BLS reports that the median pay for master’s degree holders was $1,341 weekly. This compares favorably to people having only a bachelor’s degree – $1,137 weekly — and those who completed associate degrees – $798 weekly.

High school graduates might feel this data as a financial crunch, with their median weekly wages estimated at $678. (Note: That’s $663 less than the weekly wages for a master’s degree holder.)

However, no one has ever said that obtaining a college education is easy to do. The truth is tuition and fees can be expensive and the amount of time that needs to go into a program can be draining, particularly to adults with families.

Also, advancing in a career can come with unforeseen ‘surprises.’ For example, an employee who recently advanced to a higher position might quickly see what it means to move from a nine-to-five job to one with on-call responsibilities. Similarly, that person with more upper-level management responsibility may need to put in the extra hours to finish off a report before a board presentation. Career advancement opportunities, in other words, can lead to both beneficial and challenging outcomes.

Career Advancement: Not All The Benefits Are Monetary

While data from the Pew Research Center also shows a clear difference in pay for bachelor’s degree holders (an annual pay of $45,500) compared to those with two-year degrees (an annual pay of $30,000), career advancement is not always about money. There could be other motivators that drive people to look for new opportunities. Those might be opportunities to:

  • Become involved in research
  • Work or travel abroad
  • Publish professional findings
  • Become better at a skill
  • Qualify for membership in a professional organization
  • Take on new challenges and learn more

“Motivation, broad-based engagement, job ownership and loyalty are also byproducts of working for an employer who invests in providing advancement opportunities,” Andazola said. “Job satisfaction also wins the day for employees.”

Other benefits of advancement can be personal. In fact, 62 percent of college graduates felt that an undergraduate education helped them to grow both personally and intellectually, according to Pew Research.

Career Advancement: The Challenge

In some jobs, the door to opportunity easily swings open, but in some careers moving up the ladder requires resilience and a never-give-up-attitude. Challenges can pop up to career advancement opportunities, such as a lack of higher-level positions, a lack of mentors and that “glass ceiling” bias that may prevent women from garnering top-level C-suite positions. Each can be a real and even deflating experience.

  • Lack of upper-level jobs: The truth is that without an opportunity to try out new skills employees can experience substantial frustration. An article published on the Workplace Psychology website notes that employees may leave a company after receiving training when there are no advancement opportunities. At the same time, employees are likely to stay, following training, when they find the opportunities to move up. As well, a Society for Human Resource Management study, dating back to 2008, shows that one-third of interviewed employees would leave a job due to a lack of career advancement opportunities.
  • Lack of mentors: Sometimes someone within a business is needed to advocate for an employee and to ensure their name comes up when new opportunities or promotions arise. A mentor who can provide feedback about the skills worth developing and act as role model can be that person. The challenge can be finding a mentor with as much interest in investing time in you as you are in your own job and career path.
  • “The Glass Ceiling”: This bias can prevent women from moving into positions of authority and create a rocky path to career advancement opportunities. Gender discrimination, an old-boy network and stereotypes about the types of roles that women hold make this glass ceiling more palpable. Does this bias really affect women? A study by Procurement Leaders, which did research in the corporate purchasing field, indicates the answer is yes. The study not only revealed that women earned only 75 percent of the pay of men, but that fewer females held roles such as senior vice president and senior director.

Finally, lack of experience can be a challenge, particularly to those who are just starting out in the field, Andazola added.

“I can give you an example, in my chosen industry of Human Resources — when recruiting for a vacant position like Human Resources Generalist — I prefer candidates with experience, HR certifications as well as a formal education,” she said.

She noted she could always just hire an individual with a formal degree in human resources and that they would be able to recite applicable regulations and laws.

“However, they would not be able to apply this knowledge on completing job functions like communicating a related policy to employees at large. They would not know how to follow work flow and paperwork processes/procedures, or be able to manage any programmatic related areas.”

Certification, a step that can be helpful to career advancement in many different fields, typically requires a set number of years or experience in the field and an education for a reason.

How To Advance Your Career?

The ways to advance in your career can be affected by your current position and goals. Working on an education is one strategy, but gaining professional certification or seeking sponsorship are others. In more depth, these strategies could include:

  1. Looking for training opportunities through your company: Many organizations offer ways for employees to build skills; sometimes companies even pay for these. For example, at the Whirlpool plant in Clyde, Ohio, employees can be reimbursed for tuition expenses for college-level skilled trade classes they take. This opportunity might surprise employees. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how many different opportunities are inside the plant, it’s not just line work,” said 11-year-worker Heather Arndt in an WTOL News 11 article about the Whirlpool plant.
  2. Earning professional certification in your profession: Professionals of all types could seek career advancement by applying for certification in their field. For example, registered nurses can seek certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center while the HR Certification Institute offers certification for human resources careers. As Andazola previously mentioned, certification typically does require an education as well as a specific number of years on the job.
  3. Earning an advanced degree: Some careers simply require more education to develop the needed skills and understanding. For example, a graduate-level certificate or degree program in nursing enables nurses to become licensed as advanced practice registered nurses, a professional step above the RN. In the auditing and accounting field, professionals with a master’s degree or an MBA could find better career opportunities than those without one, reports the BLS. Employees should just be sure to carefully choose a degree program and understand the learning outcomes before enrolling.
  4. Seeking sponsorship: While sponsorship may seem synonymous to mentorship, it actually entails finding a person to advocate for you professionally in your career. According to The Balance Careers website, a sponsor could put your name forward for a job, make calls on your behalf, introduce to you others or advocate for you in meetings. Finding a sponsor may require a significant amount of networking and outreach until you discover the person that is right for you.
  5. Moving horizontally instead of vertically: It may be common to think that vertical movement is the only way to experience career advancement, but looking for horizontal opportunities is another way to move. An article in Forbes describes horizontal advancement as the opening of doors on the “floor you are already on” instead of the route of taking an elevator upward. Horizontal movement could also be thought of as adding ‘value’ to your current job and requiring mastery of self instead of a mastery of others, according to the piece.

Funding Your Education For Career Advancement

Numerous opportunities could be available to help you cover the cost of career advancement. One of these is an employer who pays for or partially pays for the cost of an education, but this might not be an option — although it certainly is a highly desirable one. Other options for paying for a degree program can include scholarships, grants, work-study programs and loans for those who qualify or are eligible for such financial aid.

  • Scholarships can assist students who are changing careers or seeking higher education opportunities. A good resource for scholarships, which do not have to be repaid, can be through the college at which a student enrolls.
  • Grants typically come from the federal government and are need based. The federal government’s umbrella of offerings includes the Pell grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grant and Iraq and Iran service grant.
  • Work-study programs may be available on campus or off-campus, including at a non-profit organization or public institution. An added benefit is that both undergraduate and graduate students can apply for work-study.
  • Federal financial aid is available through the U.S. Department of Education in the form of loans. While these loans do need to be repaid, the repayment period usually starts after a program of study is completed — not while a student is finishing school.

A person’s traits as much as their goals and aspirations may affect their career advancement. While there may be challenges along the way, the potential benefits to advancement can be motivating. After all, the chance for more pay, more job satisfaction and more opportunities ring out loud and clear as worthwhile and rewarding.

Methodologies and Sources

Sources :

  • Accountants and Auditors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed September 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-6
  • Education Matters, Career Outlook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed September 2018, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2016/data-on-display/education-matters.htm
  • “Five Reasons Why Education Helps to Advance Your Career at Any Level,” Ellie Walburg, February 28, 2018, Cornerstone University, https://www.cornerstone.edu/blogs/lifelong-learning-matters/post/five-reasons-why-education-helps-to-advance-your-career-at-any-level
  • “Glass Ceiling Still Keeps Top Jobs For The Boys: Women Earn 75% Of Men’s Salary,” Forbes, Jonathan Webb, January 30, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jwebb/2017/01/30/glass-ceiling-still-keeps-top-jobs-for-the-boys-women-earn-75-of-mens-salary/#67bf024c2bb2
  • Grants and Scholarships, Federal Student Aid, Office of the U.S. Department of Education, Accessed September 2018, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships#federal
  • “How to Keep and Attract a Sponsor in Your Workspace,” Jone Johnson Lewis, The Balance Careers, August 25, 2018, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-a-sponsor-in-the-workplace-1917656
  • Interview, Nicole Andazola, CEO of Solutions at Work, September 2018
  • “Lack of Career Advancement Leads to Turnover Despite Training,” Workplace Psychology, August 9, 2012, https://workplacepsychology.net/2012/08/09/lack-of-career-advancement-leads-to-turnover-despite-training/
  • Lack of Career Advancement Main Reason Workers Consider Leaving, Kathy Gurchiek February 29, 2008, https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/lackofcareeradvancement.aspx
  • National Longitudinal Surveys, FAQ, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed September 2018, https://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsfaqs.htm#anch41
  • Role of Mentoring in Career Development, The HR Digest, February 5, 2016, https://www.thehrdigest.com/role-of-mentoring-in-career-development/
  • “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” Pew Research Center, Accessed September 2018, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/
  • “The Value of a College Education,” Pew Research Center, Accessed September 2018, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/10/06/5-the-value-of-a-college-education/
  • “Professional Advancement,” Anslin Sugil Kamesh, Accessed September 2018, https://www.slideshare.net/anslinskamesh/professional-advancement
  • “The Benefits of Horizontal Versus Vertical Career Growth,” William Craig, Forbes, February 13, 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2016/02/13/the-benefits-of-horizontal-vs-vertical-career-growth/#5aa10a557547
  • The Glass Ceiling Effect: Another Perspective on Women and Leadership, Insight Success, Accessed September 2018, https://www.insightssuccess.com/glass-ceiling-effect-another-perspective-women-leadership/
  • “Whirlpool offers career advancement for workers at Clyde plant,” Jonathan Monk, October 10, 2017, WTOL 11 News, http://www.wtol.com/story/36565709/whirlpool-offers-career-advancement-for-workers-at-clyde-plant

Data Suggests A Bachelor’s Degree Is More Valuable Than Ever

Even with the turbulent job market, recent data suggests that a bachelor’s degree is more valuable than ever. The New York Times reports that the wage gap between college graduates and those without postsecondary education continues to grow. In fact, according to the latest data from the United States Census Bureau, bachelor’s degree holders make almost twice the median annual wage of workers who possess only a high school diploma.

Perhaps because of this disparity, an increasing number of high school students are electing to pursue degrees following graduation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 68.3 percent of 2011 high school graduates were enrolled in college in October 2011. Furthermore, of those college-bound students, six out of 10 were enrolled in four-year institutions.

Due to the changing professional climate, more employers are requiring bachelor’s degrees for positions that haven’t traditionally required postsecondary education. The Times highlights a list of careers that, between 2007 and 2012, saw the most significant increase in job advertisements that include a bachelor’s degree requirement. Positions with the largest change are dental laboratory technicians and chemical equipment operators, but some surprising careers also make the list, such as photographers, fashion designers, record clerks, athletic trainers, and freight agents.

While this transformation is primarily contributed to a greater emphasis on technical skills, the changing professional climate seems to be a significant factor as well. The surplus of applicants allows employers to have more selective hiring requirements than they had five years ago. Today, many businesses use the bachelor’s degree prerequisite to filter through the mountain of resumes they receive, regarding it as a sign of drive or talent rather than for the skills actually acquired.

Despite the influx of college-bound students, many believe there may not be enough qualified graduates to fill future positions. This workforce discrepancy is already a reality in states like California, for example, where demand for workers with a bachelor’s degree is growing steadily.

The Public Policy Institute of California predicts that two out of every five jobs in the state will require a college education by 2025. This statistic is particularly alarming, as the institute estimates that less than one-third of California’s working-age adults will have a degree by then. Today, according to the Census Bureau, only 28.5 percent of the U.S. population 25 and older possesses a bachelor’s degree or above.

“2011 American Community Survey,” census.gov
“California’s Future Workforce: Will There Be Enough College Graduates?” ppic.org, December 2006, Deborah Reed
“College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2011 High School Graduates,” bls.gov, April 19, 2012
“Degree Inflation? Jobs That Newly Require B.A.’s,” economic.blogs.nytimes.com, December 4, 2012, Catherine Rampell

6 Things Employers Care About More Than Your Degree

Gone are the days when students graduated college with several job offers in hand. Today’s employers are looking for more than just a degree. In fact, in a 2013 poll of business leaders conducted by Gallup on behalf of the Lumina Foundation, 84 percent of respondents said the amount of knowledge a candidate has in a particular field was “very important,” followed by 79 percent who said the same about applied skills. What’s most telling is that these two reasons were chosen significantly more times than what the candidate majored in (just 28 percent deemed that a very important factor), or which college the job seeker attended (only nine percent picked that choice).

In other words, whether you attend an Ivy League school or complete a vocational program at a community college, you’re more than your degree. The good news is that if you didn’t go to a highly lauded school or perhaps didn’t study something that is directly related to your intended career path, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed. What makes you an ideal fit for a specific role and a good match for a company’s culture goes beyond just the name of the school you attended, your degree level, or your major. Employers look closely at the “holistic job seeker,” says Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster.com. In other words, they consider the bigger picture that includes your technical skills, soft skills, experiences, leadership abilities, and more.

That’s not to say that your degree doesn’t matter. On the contrary, employers in fields like accounting or engineering might have very specific degree expectations. And, in most cases, having an advanced or four-year degree is favorable to having an associate degree. However, even for those candidates with the strongest educational credentials, acing your college years isn’t all that matters.

Here’s a look at six things employers care about just as much if not more than your degree, and how you can get a leg up on the competition:

Job skills

Job skills

Why employers care: Quite simply, employers need to know you’re skilled (or at least have relevant skills) for the job you’re pursuing. So if you are applying for a graphic design position, you need to demonstrate your knowledge of specific software, and be able to show samples of your work, regardless if you majored in design or not.

How to show it off: Your resume needs to highlight skills at first glance, says Salemi. “Recruiters and hiring managers literally spend seconds perusing your resume so these skills need to stand out front and center,” she says. Tailor the first several bullets of your resume so that they match the very same skills outlined in the job description as a requirement for the role.

Soft skills

Soft skills

Why employers care: Employers need to know that you not only have relevant on-the-job skills, but that you’re the kind of person they want working for them. “Are you tactful, professional, and most of all, do you ‘play well in the sandbox’?” says Salemi. In essence, you want to show that you can be that go-to person everyone wants to be around.

How to show it off: Demonstrate this during your interview and during every interaction with your employer, including when you introduce yourself to the receptionist, says Salemi. “You’re not exactly going to list soft skills on your resume, so instead you have to show that you’re a joy to be around.” That starts with a kind smile, making eye contact, exchanging pleasantries, and being polite and positive. Also, keep in mind that when choosing people for your reference list, these are the types of attributes a potential employer might ask about, so select people with whom you have a good rapport.

Internship experience

Internship experience

Why employers care: Early on in your career, employers don’t expect you to have had loads of job experience. However, it helps to show that you’ve already gotten the hang of working in “the real world,” says Salemi. Even if it’s unrelated to your major or the career path you’re pursuing, having a couple of internships or part-time jobs under your belt says a lot.

How to show it off: Showcase your internships on your resume as if they were jobs. Describe the skills you learned, the responsibilities you had, and the contributions you made. And don’t belittle the work you did. “I’ve seen job seekers purposely not include aspects from their internship which were actually points to highlight,” says Salemi. For instance, perhaps you helped create an online training manual to help the next crop of interns transition into their roles — that’s huge! If you’re unsure about what to include, work with a resume writer, career coach, mentor, or reach out to your former supervisor to review your accomplishments in order to properly represent them on your resume.

Relevant coursework

Relevant coursework

Why employers care: “School teaches you a variety of skills such as how to write, research, multi-task, and more, and it also provides you with leadership opportunities, study abroad opportunities, and countless more ways to demonstrate your soft skills during an interview,” says Salemi. In other words, regardless of major, you probably developed a lot of relevant qualities that will come in handy on the job.

How to show it off: While you’re not exactly going to list every single class you’ve ever taken in college on your resume, you could mention anything that might be of interest to the employer, whether it was a related concentration within your major, or the fact that you took general business courses. Or, perhaps one of your courses provided you with the chance to do field work or hands-on experiments — those unique experiences might help set you apart as well.



Why employers care: Employers like hiring well-rounded employees. Being involved in a variety of activities shows that you get along well with others, and enjoy being part of a team or group.

How to show it off: On your resume and in your interviews, highlight extracurriculars for which you had a leadership role or gained valuable experience, such as if you were a campus tour guide or treasurer of the Psychology Honor Society. Be able to discuss a challenge you overcame, a problem you helped solve, or an accomplishment you achieved.

Volunteer work

Volunteer work

Why employers care: Similar to extracurriculars, hiring managers and recruiters are often impressed by candidates who find time to pursue volunteering interests, especially if charitable endeavors are a big part of the company’s culture.

How to show it off: Highlight the work you’ve done, and talk about what it’s meant for your own personal growth. If you have a strong volunteering background, it’s also a smart move to research the company’s community outreach efforts to see if your causes are aligned in some way. Bringing that up at the interview will not only indicate a cultural fit, but you’ll get bonus points for showing that you did your homework.

After looking over this list, don’t fret if you’re not strong in every single one of these categories. Remember that each applicant brings something unique to the interview room. The key is to figure out what your strengths are, and be able to articulate how you can apply them if you’re hired. If you can do that, having a college degree is just icing on the cake.

“Business Leaders Say Knowledge Trumps College Pedigree,” Gallup, February 25, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/poll/167546/business-leaders-say-knowledge-trumps-college-pedigree.aspx
Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster.com, interviewed by author on September 28, 2015

Is Grad School Still A Smart Choice?

grad school still-a smart choice

A grad school degree is the new minimum standard education level for any profession, says the study from Sallie Mae, a company that services education loans and college planning, and Ipsos, an independent market research company. Whether you’re coming to the end of your bachelor’s or you’re a mid-career professional dreaming of a new career path, you may be considering attending grad school. That’s why, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of it. You may be wondering: Is grad school still a smart choice?

A report by the Council of Graduate Schools says the large majority (83.4%) of all first-time graduate students in 2017 were enrolled in programs leading to a master’s degree or a graduate certificate, indicating that many potential students are considering grad school. Furthermore, the large majority (83.4%) of degrees awarded in 2017 were master’s degrees.

The report clearly indicates that graduate education is meeting the increasing workforce demand for master’s degree holders. More and more jobs are requiring a higher skill level, and grad schools are adapting to meet those needs, as evidenced by the increase in grad certificates.

Master’s-level education can be crucial if you are looking to advance your career. But addressing all elements of the opportunity is important in order to decide whether going to a grad school is right for you. We have come up with a few factors that can help you make a smart decision:

What is the purpose of going to a grad school?

Grad school gives an in-depth understanding such that the student usually becomes an expert in the topic of study. A good graduate program also teaches advanced skills in such areas as problem-solving, mathematics, writing, oral presentation, and technology, each as applied to the particular field of study. If gaining mastery in your field is what you desire, then going to a grad school may be right for you.

Do I need to go to a grad school to succeed in my profession?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that career paths related to STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – usually requires a graduate degree to move beyond entry-level jobs. But for marketing, computer science and creative fields, experience and quality of work are more important than having an advanced degree. You can check out job requirements at BLS, a comprehensive resource that matches job titles with the skills and education required for that position, to decide whether you actually need to go to a grad school.

Is it too late to go to a grad school?

Grad school is appropriate at any age and stage of life. You should go to grad school when you are ready to get the most out of the experience. However, it may be more difficult to gain admission after several years in a career as compared to someone fresh out of college simply because of the gap in your education. In that case, it’s advisable to learn more about the education requirements of your chosen school and program before you apply for admission.

What financial aid is available for grad school?

Now it’s time to assess what the grad school may cost you. Calculate tuition, cost of living, books and fees for the program you’re considering. Grad schools can be expensive, but, fortunately, help is available. According to the CNBC 2019 report, Bowdoin College has a well-endowed grant budget, coupled with work study and other scholarship and grant opportunities, meaning that 52 percent of enrolled students who qualify can receive need-based aid. Princeton University has eliminated loans for students who qualify for aid. Instead, it typically award grants that do not need to be repaid. Other colleges may offer similar benefits to help lower college costs.

Check with your school financial aid office to see what options you have that can help you pay for grad school.

Is a grad school worth my investment?

Tuition and fees can translate into high student debt that can take long to pay off. But it can also yield a well-paying job that makes the investment worth it. Employers expect to hire 16.6 percent more new graduates from the class of 2019, according to results of a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Additionally, 96 percent of employers plan to maintain or increase their hiring for college grads.

You can calculate the ROI of the graduate program you’re considering by calculating the average amount it would cost you to pay for the education associated with your desired profession, as well as how much it would cost to pay off your student loans.

Will I be able to study and work at the same time?

Pursuing grad school may mean having to juggle a full-time job while taking evening classes. To combat this problem, you can also look into the possibility of going to grad school part-time while you hold down a job to cover expenses. Alternatively, consider enrolling in online graduate degree programs that offer more flexibility than traditional campus-based grad schools. A report from Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics shows that between 2000 and 2017, more than one-third of total postbaccalaureate students (1.1 million) enrolled in online education. Furthermore, 29 percent of these students opted for online programs exclusively.

In conclusion, enrolling in a grad school can be quite an investment, requires hard work and it can take a lot of time. At the same time, it’s true that grad school can equip you with knowledge, skills, a network and a wider set of career opportunities too. Your choice of opting for a grad school should be a clear and intentional decision you make to get you closer to the career of your dreams.


  • Best Financial Aid, The Princeton Review, accessed May 2019, https://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings?rankings=best-financial-aid
  • CGS Graduate Enrollment and Degrees 2017, accessed May 2019, https://cgsnet.org/ckfinder/userfiles/files/CGS_GED17_Report.pdf
  • Elka Torpey and Dalton Terrell, “Should I get a master’s degree?,” Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2015, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm
  • Employers plan to increase college hiring by almost 17 percent, NACE, November 2018, https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/press/2018/employers-plan-to-increase-college-hiring-by-almost-17-percent/
  • Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2017; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2017, accessed May 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019021REV.pdf
  • Is it Worth it to get a master’s degree? Fiscal Tiger, February 2017, https://www.fiscaltiger.com/is-it-worth-getting-masters-degree/#How_to_Know_Why_You8217re_Getting_a_Masters
  • Students Say Grad School is Becoming the New Minimum Standard, Business Wire, January 2018, https://mms.businesswire.com/media/20180111005582/en/634562/5/3178640_How_America_Pays_for_Grad_School_Infographic_FNL.jpg?download=1
  • The 10 best colleges for financial aid, March 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/08/the-10-best-colleges-for-financial-aid/
  • The condition of education, postbaccalaureate enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, May 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_chb.asp
  • What is the purpose of graduate school, Boston College, accessed May 2019, https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/careers/pdf/gradschool.pdf

What Employers Wish You’d Learned In College

Note to new grads: Your boss doesn’t care if you can tweet like a pro.

A recent survey shows employers aren’t satisfied with the skills fresh graduates bring to the table. Most employers surveyed said new grads lack “soft skills,” those interpersonal abilities that go beyond mere technical know-how.

The most stark contrast came in the realm of technological and social media skills. Although these landed at the bottom of desired traits, they were the only skill in which business executives believed new college grads met expectations.

The survey of 500 elite business decision-makers nationwide was commissioned by design company Woods Bagot and conducted by research firm Global Strategy Group. Respondents were asked to evaluate the quality of their work force, especially those hired out of college with no prior work experience. Overwhelmingly, business executives said that in general, graduates excel in technology but are weak in areas like solving problems and communicating.

Asked what skills they most desired, employers ranked abilities such as problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking and written communication skills at the top of this list. Yet when asked about new grads’ actual abilities, employers generally felt they failed to meet expectations in these areas.

Soft skills can have big impact on bottom line

The shortfall in skills is not a problem among just a few students. Sixty percent of all respondents said that fewer than half of graduates have the skills they need to succeed.

At civil engineering firm George, Miles & Buhr in Salisbury, Md., HR Director Amanda Pollack is feeling the pinch.

“A big part of what we do as engineers is write reports and specifications for our plans, and we find that writing isn’t something that is really taught to engineers,” she said. Her novice employees likewise have trouble presenting their ideas outside the office.

“There is a challenge when people go out and give presentations. Public speaking isn’t talked about or highlighted at school,” Pollack said.

When soft skills are lacking, there’s a direct effect on the bottom line. Shortfalls in these areas make people less productive and less able to achieve specific ends. That’s why employers put such a premium on these capabilities.

“Most importantly, employers are looking for teamwork,” said Brian Tabinga, a program manager with recruiting firm Bradley-Morris.

Tabinga works primarily with military members transitioning to the civilian workforce, and he sees similarities with newly minted college grads. Just as military personnel need to work together to accomplish their mission, so do business professionals.

“In most corporations there are multiple components needed to accomplish a mission or a job. It’s not just dependant on one person. So you have to be able to grasp the fact that your contribution is still part of a greater whole,” Tabinga said.

As the Woods Bagot survey shows, critical thinking also rates high among desirable traits.

“Critical thinking means being able to look at a problem from multiple angles. A lot of times you are trained to go from A to B in a straight line, and that’s not always what’s needed. Critical thinking means taking a step back to look at multiple solutions,” Tabinga said.

The economic downturn has added to the problem. At a time when businesses have had to cut back their workforces, employers don’t want new hires who have to be taught the basics.

“With a smaller staff and folks having to do more, we’ve had companies where the boss just doesn’t have the time to train this person, because they are busy filling in for someone else who isn’t there anymore,” Tabinga said.

How you can improve your skills — even after graduation

For new graduates looking to stand out in the workplace, there are ways to get up to speed on these skills. As an HR professional, Pollack offers these ideas:

  1. Get a mentor, someone in the office or outside work who can spot your shortfalls and coach you to improve them.
  2. Listen openly to feedback from your supervisor.
  3. Join young professional groups like The United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees), where peers get together to improve their career skills.

Some propose a more unorthodox approach. At Cutco Cutlery, for instance, college students sell knives through in-home personal demonstrations — good old-fashioned door-to-door work. It’s tough on the shoe leather, but they learn how to communicate, make presentations and manage their time: All skills employers want to see.

“Graduating with a solid GPA is no longer enough to win that much-coveted first job after college,” said Sarah Baker Andrus, director of academic programs for Vector Marketing, the sales division for Cutco Cutlery.

You need the grades, sure, but you also need the skills that go beyond textbook learning.

Methodologies and Sources