Develop Career Skills in College

By Joanna Nesbit

A college degree might not automatically land you your dream job, but it can increase the chances of those job doors opening for you. So, it’s important to explore whether the career you are interested in requires a four-year degree. Here are some of the ways college can benefit your professional life and help you develop career skills. 

Access to Professional Jobs

College degrees are becoming more and more necessary for access to the highly-skilled labor force. In fact, 70% of college grads reported their education benefited them by “opening doors” professionally, according to a 2021 Pew Research survey

Some career paths only require a two-year program, like dental hygienist, associate’s degree in nursing, massage therapy, or cybersecurity. Technical colleges also offer two-year degrees and certificates in areas like electrical systems, manufacturing, culinary arts, and information technology. Working in the trades or healthcare can earn good salaries.   

You might find similar programs at four-year colleges, though typically they involve more in-depth coursework and cost more money. It is important and helpful to research differences between the college types you are considering especially when it comes to career opportunities that might come from the programs you are considering. This will help you and your family—if they are involved—decide what is most affordable and in alignment with your goals. A two-year program or technical certificate might be all you need. You can always return for additional education as it makes sense for your life and goals.

Find out about all your college options

Earning Power Considerations

Not surprisingly, people with college degrees generally earn more money than their peers who don’t go farther than high school. In 2022, Pew Research found a growing wage gap between young college grads and peers who don’t have degrees, with bachelor’s degrees earning an average of $22,000 more than high-school only peers. 

Even so, with the amount of student loan debt many students have incurred to attend 4 year colleges and with costs promoting wider discussion about the importance of having  a four-year degree employers are beginning to loosen their degree requirements.

Find out what you need to know about financial aid

A degree opens doors for many college graduates, but it needs to be affordable, because taking on a lot of debt out of the gate means a chunk of your earnings will go to paying off that debt. High college loan debt can limit your opportunities to explore careers after college, as well, since loan payments begin not long after graduation. Plus your projected income will depend on your field of study. Weigh the cost of college against your ideal career choice, if you know it (and, by the way, it’s totally normal to not have a good sense of that until later in college or after you graduate), to see if the benefits outweigh the upfront costs. For many, the investment is worth it. Only you can decide. 

Learn more about whether college is right for you

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