Job Seekers’ Dilemma: Does a College Degree Determine Your Destiny?

Today’s job market is a dynamic one.

Certain jobs these days emphasize soft and practical skills — some even prioritizing experience, while others eliminate the human element to some extent, replacing it with machines like artificial intelligence (AI).

And that’s why many can’t help but wonder:

  • Does a college degree still add value to one’s resume?
  • Is entering the workforce after high school better than going to college?

Whether or not a college degree is essential depends on your career goal.

Several industries, such as finance, technology, and healthcare, still heavily favor candidates with a college degree, thus allowing them to enjoy higher employability rates and salary potential.

Are you looking to climb the career ladder several times throughout your professional career?

Having a college degree might work to your advantage!

In many industries, college degree-holders serve as valuable assets where leadership and specialized roles are needed, making them top candidates for progression from entry-level to higher-level positions and pay.

However, it’s worth noting that having no college degree isn’t a hindrance to career success attainment.

job application

Who Has Jobs and Who Hasn’t

It’s a must to consider your career goal to determine whether or not a college degree would be vital.

Worry not if you are still weighing your options and have yet to decide between applying to a company for a job or applying to a college for a bachelor’s degree soon after graduating from high school.

Looking into employment and unemployment rates according to educational attainment can give a hint.

Employability Rate

A college degree increases a person’s employment rate.

It’s what statistics year after year say.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the employment rate for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or a higher educational credential between the ages of 25 and 34 is 87%.

Between male and female college degree holders, males have a higher employability rate: 90% vs. 85%.

Individuals without a bachelor’s degree but with some college experience have an employability rate of 79%.

On the other hand, those who apply for jobs armed with only a high school diploma have a 73% employability rate — much higher for male applicants (80%) than female applicants (63%).

The reason for this?

Many jobs that accept high school graduates are trade jobs.

Historically, trade jobs are male-dominated.

But a website powered by community colleges in Virginia says that the number of women taking on trade jobs keeps growing and growing — an almost 18% increase between 2017 and 2018.

It adds that experienced women in trade jobs can make over six figures a year!

Here’s a table comparing employment rates across educational attainments and genders:

Educational AttainmentMalesFemalesBoth Genders
Less than high school75%44%61%
High school80%63%73%
Some college, no degree85%74%79%
College degree90%85%87%

Unemployment Rate

It’s also critical to check the unemployment rate according to educational attainment.

Simply put, the unemployment rate is the percentage of individuals in the labor force who are not working. They are also those who make specific efforts to get a job.

The trend is the lower the qualification, the higher the unemployment rate.

Based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people whose highest educational attainment is a high school diploma is 4%.

Compared to the unemployment rate for those with less than a high school diploma (5.5%), it looks better.

However, it looks bad when you consider the unemployment rates for those who pursued higher education after high school. In some instances, nearly double of high school diploma holders are jobless!

The unemployment rate for associate degree holders is 2.7%.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders is only 2.2%.

No matter the career goal, more individuals with a high school diploma but without a college degree are not employed compared to those with a college degree, both two- and four-year degrees.

Individuals with some college but no degree, in fact, enjoy a 0.5% lower employment rate.

Of course, unemployment rates are much lower for those with degrees higher than a bachelor’s degree.

Below is a table that compares unemployment rates across various educational attainments:

Educational AttainmentUnemployment Rate
Doctoral degree1.0%
Professional degree1.4%
Master’s degree1.9%
Bachelor’s degree2.2%
Associate’s degree2.7%
Some college, no degree3.5%
High school diploma4.0%
Less than a high school diploma5.5%

Who Is Making How Much Money

Refrain from assuming that a college degree is the key to getting a good job.

Not all bachelor’s degree holders have jobs.

Similarly, not all people whose highest educational credential is a high school diploma — or even an equivalent such as the General Educational Development (GED) certificate — are unemployed.

It will depend on the typical educational requirements for your prospective career.

Skilled Trade Jobs

Some employers in some industries nowadays are okay with candidates with lower educational attainments than a bachelor’s degree but higher than a high school diploma.

They include vocational diplomas, training certifications, and online courses.

Skilled trade jobs are some career options for individuals with a high school diploma — proof such as a certification or hands-on experience can help increase their chances of employment.

Related Article: Why College is a Waste of Time and Money

Here are some in-demand jobs for high school graduates and their estimated salaries:

Job TitleAverage Annual Salary
Construction Manager$77,333
Landscape Designer$54,354
Home Inspector$51,064
Diesel Technician$84,509
HVAC Technician$55,739
Wind Turbine Technician$58,696
Crane Operator$58,101
Brick Mason$49,008
Bus Driver$46,616
Legal Assistant$52,079
Refuse Collector$41,046

Many skilled trade jobs are not dead-end jobs — there’s room for career growth.

Sometimes, individuals may have to get their hands on additional qualifications to qualify for advanced roles in the industry, while other times, years of related experience is enough.

As expected, it all depends on your career goal and the industry you are in.

Job Applicants

Professional Careers

Today’s evolving job market recognizes alternative pathways to gaining employment.

Depending on the trade or industry’s requirement, some employers prefer job seekers with hard skills or hands-on experience relevant to the positions in question.

Although a college degree isn’t a requirement for all positions, it often serves as a career advancement facilitator — numerous supervisorial and leadership roles within an organization warrant higher-level education.

It’s also necessary to consider that many professional roles require a college degree.

They include those requiring candidates to take and pass licensure exams to demonstrate their eligibility and prove they have the necessary competence and knowledge.

Here are examples of professions that require at least a bachelor’s degree and their estimated salaries:

Job TitleAverage Annual Salary
Chief Executive Officer$113,816
Software Developer$107,868
IT Manager$99,135
Electrical Engineer$94,949
Nuclear Engineer$93,383
Physical Therapist$82,574
Sales Manager$80,194
Construction Manager$82,115
Registered Nurse$78,618
Web Developer$76,968
Industrial Engineer$75,415
Marketing Manager$69,732
Finance Manager$61,673
Education Director$59,111
School Counselor$52,911

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

Similar Posts