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How do you decide whether further education will be beneficial for you and your future? 

There are many qualitative ways to do so, of course. You can look forward to the personal development, networking, and life experiences that often come with working toward a college degree.

However, with the cost of education at most institutions skyrocketing, you may need a quantitative way to determine whether to enroll in a college program. Here’s the info you need to determine whether a college degree will help you get where you want to be in the industry of your choice! 

Dollars and Sense: Higher Education Value, from High School to Doctorate

Let’s take a quick look at how much graduates can expect to earn after completing various levels of education. 

The median weekly pay for people who don’t have a high school diploma is around $680, as a baseline. If you put in the work and attain higher degrees, how much does education (literally) pay off in the long run

Starting Out: High School Diplomas and Associate’s Degrees

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has found that the median weekly earnings for people who have earned a high school diploma start at around $850, which may translate to an annual salary of about $44,000. That helps—but it’s just the starting point. 

If you can pursue an associate’s degree, you may be able to boost your weekly and yearly earnings by quite a bit. The BLS has found that with the addition of an associate’s degree, earners tend to see a median weekly pay of around $1,000, which adds up to about $52,000 per year. 

The Bachelor’s Degree Leap: The Economic Impact of a College Degree

Does the addition of a bachelor’s degree come with a commensurate leap in pay? 

As it turns out—yes. Whether you get your bachelor’s immediately after high school or wait a few years, get some life experience, and then enroll in an online degree program to achieve this milestone, you can expect to earn substantially more after you graduate. According to the BLS, bachelor’s degree holders earn a median weekly income of about $1,400 or a yearly salary of around $73,000. 

This number does vary from industry to industry, and it’s a good idea to remember that it’s the median, meaning that the starting salary for a candidate with a bachelor’s may be a little less. However, even without more education, that same candidate may be eligible for significant salary growth as they pursue more training and gain more experience in their field. 

But here’s the thing: The value of a college education doesn’t stop there. 

Mastering Your Potential with a Master’s Degree

On average, it takes about two years to complete a master’s degree. 

That’s not an insignificant amount of time. If you decide to go that route, you want to know it will be worth your time. 

Is a master’s degree worth it? Let’s look at the BLS data. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that people with a master’s degree earn a median weekly wage of $1,660. That’s about an $86,000 annual salary, which is a sizable increase over the median annual salary for people with bachelor’s degrees. 

And, of course, those are generalized numbers. Specific specialized master’s degrees, such as those in business administration, can come with even greater financial rewards. In 2022, Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduates earned a median base salary of about $115,000, or even higher in select industries. 

The Pinnacle of Educational Value: Doctoral Degrees

Getting a doctorate in any field represents enormous amounts of hard work, time, and resources invested.

Does all that effort result in the highest possible earning potential? 

The BLS has found that people who take the time to get a doctoral degree can earn a median weekly salary of about $2,100—or about $109,000 annually. As with master’s degrees, the actual salary you can command varies depending on the field you specialize in.

Regardless, we can see a clear trend as we work up through the degrees, matching salary to time and effort spent on education. The more educated you are, the more people with your education tend to earn. 

To put it another way: Is a college degree worth it? 

If you’re looking solely at your earning potential after graduation or the cost-benefit analysis of college education, the answer would seem to be yes

Of course, there are other benefits of a college degree. But job market trends for college graduates indicate that if you’re wondering about college degree ROI, the numbers seem to say enrolling is worth your time.

Exploring the Impact of Field of Study on Earnings

In this guide, we discussed the median earnings by level of degree. The median simply represents the middle value—not the most likely salary or even the average one. The actual range of possible salaries you could expect after attaining any of these degrees is vast.

One of the biggest determining factors in your salary is the industry you specialize in. Although you should always let passion and interest guide your choice, understanding the financial implications of your selected major is a wise move. 

For the past several years, science and tech careers (including STEM fields, or those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) tend to come with higher salaries. We’ve also seen that business and healthcare jobs offer higher pay when compared to jobs in the education, arts, and humanities fields. 

Before you decide upon a plan of study, it’s important to remember that your take-home pay is just one part of the way you’re compensated. Having a job that aligns with your personal satisfaction is valuable too. Take this information as a way to find a career path that helps you earn enough to thrive and feels rewarding on a day-to-day basis, if at all possible. 

Boost Your Earnings with Continuing Education and Certifications

Continuing education and professional certifications can help you enhance your earning potential and career advancement opportunities. Obtaining certifications in their field can lead to promotions, salary increases, and new job opportunities. 

In fields such as information technology, cybersecurity, project management, and healthcare, specific certifications are highly valued by employers and can significantly differentiate candidates in the job market. Engaging in lifelong learning and pursuing relevant certifications demonstrates a commitment to professional development and adaptability—key qualities in the modern workforce.

Practical Guide: Steps to Advancing Your Education and Career

As you consider advancing your education to enhance your career and earnings potential, follow these practical steps to navigate your path forward:

  1. Begin by considering your long-term career goals. How can further education help you achieve these goals?
  2. Investigate the demand, average salaries, and educational pathways for careers that interest you. 
  3. Assess your lifestyle, learning preferences, and financial situation to decide whether a flexible online program or traditional on-campus education best suits your needs.
  4. Look into scholarships, grants, and loan options to finance your education. Many institutions, including MVNU, offer financial aid resources to help make your education more affordable.

Are you interested in making the leap? MVNU’s Enrollment Counselors are here to guide you through the process, from selecting the right degree program to navigating the online learning environment. Take the next step in your educational journey and discover how MVNU can help you unlock your full earning potential.

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