Is College Harder Than Work? Depends on the School…

After graduating from high school, students have a couple of options: go to college and earn money later or get a job and earn money now. Either way, there are pros to enjoy and cons to putting up with. Both options require passion, determination, and hard work. But is it attending college or being employed that’s harder?

College is harder than work if the degree program is challenging and maintaining a certain GPA is a must. On the other hand, work is harder than college if the role is demanding and the responsibilities are high. Students who work to be able to stay in college go through the challenges of both.

Earning a college degree has never been more expensive than it is today.

As a matter of fact, tuition costs have increased by as much as 36% from 2008 to 2018. Tuition at state colleges isn’t cheap either — for instance, for the academic year 2020 to 2021, out-of-state students have to pay an average of $26,809.

It’s due to steep tuition prices why many students apply for jobs instead of applying to colleges and universities.

Also, don’t forget that sometimes school can be harder than employment. For example, these are the top stressful majors in college.

Salary by Education Level

Money — it’s the primary reason why many students are torn between college and work.

Many of those who think about getting their hands on a college degree have their eyes on having high-paying jobs after graduation. A lot of those who consider getting a job after high school, on the other hand, have their eyes on receiving their monthly paycheck.

It’s not just when you want to earn that you should take into account but also how much you want to earn.

Generally speaking, the higher the educational attainment, the higher the average salary, and the lower the unemployment rate. This means that someone with a college diploma tends to make more money than someone with a high school diploma. In addition, he or she tends to get hired faster.

But before you can take advantage of the fat paychecks a degree can throw your way, you will have to spend big bucks to earn that degree. Some people find themselves knee-deep in federal student loan debt after graduating.

Approximately 42.9 million Americans each owe an average of $36,406, an statistic says.

On the other hand, there are no college debts to deal with if you choose to go straight to being a member of the workforce after high school. However, you may not make as much money as you would with a degree.

Check out these figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) you need to see before you decide:

Less than a high school diploma$61911.70%
High school diploma$7819.00%
Some college but no degree$8778.30%
Associate degree$9387.10%
Bachelor’s degree$1,3055.50%
Master’s degree$1,5454.10%
Doctorate degree$1,8853.10%
Professional degree$1,8852.50%

As you can see, based on the numbers above, the more money (and time, too) you invest in your education, the higher the earnings you will make after graduation and the less likely you are to stay jobless.

But wait, there’s more! According to data from the US Social Security Administration:

  • Men with bachelor’s degrees make about $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than male high school graduates. On the other hand, women with bachelor’s degrees generate $630,000 more in median lifetime earnings than female high school graduates.
  • Men with graduate degrees earn $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than male high school graduates. Women with graduate degrees, on the other hand, make $1.1 million more in median lifetime earnings than female high school graduates.

Working After High School: Pros and Cons

Nothing can make you independent and make your own money faster than entering the workforce after graduating from high school instead of spending the next four years of your life at a college or university.

Sadly, it can decrease your chances of getting employed and generating lots of income.


  • Financial liberation. High school graduates who skip going to college do not have to worry about owing federal student loan debt that they need to pay off for 20 or even 45 long years.
  • Money. Besides dodging the exorbitant cost of college, those who choose to work after high school can make their own money, which is essential for establishing their independence and starting a family.
  • Better work performance. Without any homework, projects, exams and tuition to worry about all the time, high school graduates can focus more on their duties and responsibilities in the workplace.
  • More time. Many high school graduates fear that they will have no more time for the things they love in college. There is an informative article on how much free time you have in college.


  • No promotion. The absence of a college degree may keep a high school graduate from being promoted. Almost 30% of workers look for jobs elsewhere due to a lack of promotion opportunities.
  • Lower salary. Above, we established the fact that people who didn’t go to college tend to make less when compared to people who went to college.

Going to College After High School: Pros and Cons

There is no denying that going to college after earning your high school diploma can increase your likelihood of making more money.

Still, it’s important to keep in mind that a college degree isn’t all you need to be successful.

In fact, some rich people do not have college degrees, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Ellen DeGeneres.


  • Knowledge. College classes are harder than high school classes — the topics are more difficult, and the pace is faster. However, this is what makes you learn a lot about a particular subject matter.
  • Positive traits. You can enjoy better self-awareness, self-esteem and self-confidence, all of which are vital when it’s time to apply for a job, as college exposes you to various people, cultures and experiences.
  • Job opportunities. Because you have the knowledge base employers are looking for, going to college can make it easier for you to get jobs than those without a degree.
  • Money. As earlier mentioned, people with college degrees tend to earn more money than high school graduates. The higher the educational attainment, the more chances of getting rich.


  • Debts. Especially if you’re not from a high-income family and your academic performance does not make you eligible for a merit-based scholarship, going to college can be hard on the pocket.

Is School or College Harder Than Work

Apply for a job or apply to colleges and universities — you can choose any of these steps right after high school.

There are pros and cons associated with both of them. Above, we talked about some of those as well as the amount of money one can make according to educational attainment.

Take your time when making a choice between getting a job and earning a degree once high school is through because it’s your future that’s on the line.

Related Article: Is Work-Study Worth It?

Related Questions

What college year is the hardest?

The first year of college is the hardest, particularly the first semester. In fact, studies show that it’s during the freshman year when students are most likely to drop out of college. Some of the students return after a while to resume their studies, while others drop out of school for good.

Can working college students get good grades?

According to a college coach, research says that students who work tend to have better grades than those who don’t work. That’s because it helps them with managing time and connecting with people. However, working for more than 20 hours a week could impact a college student’s grades.

Related Post: How Much Free Time Do You Have in College?

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.

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