October 29th, 2012

By Mr. Edward Marman

Over the next few columns I want to address different topics such a finding a career, picking out a college, and finding ways to pay for college. But to start with, I’ll start with a very basic question: Why go to college?

There are numerous reasons why you should go to college, but the key for most students should be that college leads to a career, which leads to a high quality of life. Not everyone needs to make a ton of money, but you should at least be looking at career choices that meet three very important criteria.

First, your chosen career needs to be something that you enjoy and that gives you a high degree of job satisfaction. There are a lot of people who, unfortunately, are stuck in jobs that they hate. Many times these are also low-wage jobs. Not a fun place to be.

Second, a career should allow you to live comfortably without the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. If you want an extravagant lifestyle, you’ll need to find a job that pays extravagant wages. Just keep in mind that many of these careers entail far more than the typical 40-hour workweek. Some people make scads of money but don’t have the time to enjoy it and sometimes work in very stressful occupations.

Third, there is something vital that is called job security. The question you must ask yourself is: are there currently and will there continue to be positions in a particular field? A degree doesn’t do much good in practical terms unless it leads to employment. It is important to try to work in fields that are necessary regardless of whether the overall economy is strong or weak.

How does going to college help meet these criteria? To help put it into perspective, in 1973 only 28% of careers required a college education. By 2018, it is expected that 68% of occupations will require a college degree.

Along with the degree comes earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the median yearly earnings for a bachelor’s degree was $63,430 while a high school diploma fetched $34,180. That means that a typical college degree will pay for itself in less than five years. Over a lifetime of work, this translates to a college degree that will be worth about $2.1 million, while a high school diploma will be worth $1.2 million. Rocket science it’s not; paying for a college degree is money well spent.

Next time on Counselor’s Corner: How to start finding occupations that match your own interests.