How Valuable is Your Education?

Recently, a report from the Federal Reserve Board of San Francisco found that getting a college education can be worth $830,800 more to you over the course of your lifetime than a high school diploma. In a world where the value of a college education is being hotly debated, this seems to be an indication that it’s worth it to go to college — even if you have to use student loans to make it happen.

However, whether or not your college education is truly valuable to you depends on factors beyond just jumping through the necessary hoops to get a piece of paper.

What are You Studying?

Back when my dad graduated from college, just having a bachelor’s degree — any degree — was the ticket to a higher paying job. Many employers just looked for the degree, but the subject didn’t matter as much. If you had a degree, you qualified for a better position with better pay.

Now, though, you can’t get away with a catch-all general degree if you want access to the best jobs. You need to think about the areas that are paying better. Degrees in areas related to math, science, and engineering are going to be more valuable than degrees that you get in english or communications. You can get a decent job with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, but if you want to make good money with an english degree, you need to go to grad school and get an advanced degree, or you need to switch to a professional degree (a lot of the english majors I knew in undergrad went on to law school).

These days, with a tough job market flooded by those with degrees, just getting your degree isn’t enough. It needs to be relevant, and you need to be able to show that your degree matters in your chosen career field.

How Much Did You Pay?

The value of your education is also impacted by how much you pay. In many cases, paying to go to an expensive school can backfire on you. You might not see that $830,800 if it is eroded by what you spent. Even worse is if you spend a great deal of money and can’t actually find a high-paying job. Even though my communications degree has served my well, I hear plenty of horror stories from communications majors who went to top schools, only to find themselves $100,000 in debt and working minimum wage jobs.

It’s important to balance demand in your field by how much you spend on your education. You can do quite well at an affordable school and still get a decent job, even if you don’t spend the big bucks. Think about what really matters in the long run, and be realistic about what you can expect.

Another option is to go with an online degree from somewhere like American University. These online degrees are flexible, convenient and, perhaps most importantly, affordable. Advancements in technology have made it possible for online students to interact with professors and classmates virtually, which adds to the experience.

The courses that are available through online universities are just as difficult and rewarding as their offline counterparts. You will still learn everything that is needed to gain meaningful employment in your chosen field, except for you can skip the daily commute and do not have to worry about getting to class every morning.

When you sign up for an online program, you are also given access to guest speakers and lecturers in an online format, so you can access their speeches any time you wish. All you have to do is log in and the information will be sitting there waiting for you.

Perhaps the main misconception regarding online education is that you will not receive the same level of faculty that you would with a traditional university. While this might have been the case years ago, the truth is that some of the most acclaimed scholars in the world now teach at online universities for the same reason that students choose this option: the flexibility.

While many will say that you can’t put a price on knowledge and a good education, the reality is that you can. While it’s important to always be learning, and an education has its own value, it’s important to think about your return on investment when it comes to paying for college.

About the Author

Miranda writes about financial topics for several web sites. Her blog is Planting Money Seeds, and her book, Confessions of a Professional Blogger, is available on Amazon.