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The Benefits of Education

(ARA) – Unemployment is edging down. Yet with millions of Americans still out of work, many are looking for ways to make themselves better prepared to seize emerging opportunities.

As blue collar jobs have been outsourced to other nations, many white collar jobs have vanished after corporate downsizing. Those who have earned college degrees – and those who haven’t – are still feeling the crunch and facing fierce competition in the employment arena.

Micki Holliday, director of Career Services at Brown Mackie College – Kansas City, works every day with people who know first hand the consequences of increased competition for fewer job openings. “There’s a good economic argument for going back to school,” Holliday says.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau bears this out. A typical fulltime worker, age 25 to 64, with a college degree earned 60 percent more than a high school graduate over the course of a career, according to a 2009 Current Population Survey. Those with a master’s degree earned twice as much, and those with a doctoral degree earned three times as much as those who only had a high school diploma.

The same survey shows another benefit of earning a college degree in terms of the diminishing likelihood of becoming unemployed. With each level of education achieved, salary goes up and chance of unemployment goes down. “High levels of education can’t inoculate workers from becoming unemployed,” says Holliday. “However, during 2008, the unemployment rate for college graduates increased by just 1 percent, while it grew three times as much for those without a college degree.”

Dealing with unemployment often becomes an impetus for thinking about going back to school. “People often don’t know what to do. They just know they have to do something,” Holliday says. “Four years of college isn’t for everybody. That’s where degree and certificate programs come into play. Additional classes can make a crucial difference and are especially necessary if one is considering changing careers. One of the most promising careers right now is in health care. Whether you want to work in a hospital or on the staff of a private home care company, no one gets into the field without higher education.”

Industry projections anticipate 3.2 million new jobs will be created between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Career Guide to Industries. A two-year associate degree equips people with valuable skills that can help get a foot in the door to become part of a professional group. In addition to health care, two-year programs are available in many different fields, from legal to technology to business.

“There are other intangible benefits in furthering your education,” says Holliday. “It matters in terms of physical health and psychological welfare. I see people working fulltime and going to school, plus managing their families. It’s a hard-earned accomplishment. We tell our students, ‘Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.'”

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