Experts who analyze long-term employment trends are nearly unanimous: Despite the sticker shock, a degree beyond high school is definitely worth it. Americans with a four-year degree made nearly double the hourly pay last year compared to those without a degree, according to a recent Labor Department analysis of data supplied by the Economic Policy Institute. And the pay gap for those with a college diploma has widened over the years.
For the most part, college graduates agree. A survey of more than 2,000 people conducted online by Harris Interactive for job services company Glassdoor finds that 82 percent of U.S. college grads believe their college degree has helped their careers. But once they have that first job after college, 63 percent rank new skills learned or special training received after leaving school as the most important factor in advancing their careers.
"The job itself contains a lot more stuff than you get in college," said Rusty Rueff, a career and workplace expert at Glassdoor, which released the survey results on Tuesday. He said employers are looking for more than a college degree can provide. "The need to gain relevant skills has been exacerbated since we've come out of the Great Recession."
What About Your Major or Your GPA?
Nearly half of those surveyed say their specific degree is not particularly relevant to their job. And 80 percent say potential employers have never asked about their grade point average. Still, two-thirds say the level of the education they have already achieved has helped their careers, while 56 percent believe a higher level of education would make them more successful.
The bottom line is that a college degree definitely pays off in getting that first job. It's a baseline requirement in corporate America. But once you're in the door, your success depends on how well you do in the job and how well you prepare yourself for next step along the career ladder. Rueff says you are responsible for you own advancement.