Lately, there’s been a lot of press about companies no longer requiring college degrees—and stories of brilliantly successful founders who didn’t finish college are always in vogue.
But while it’s true that organizations are reducing their requirements for degrees, having one still provides a tremendous advantage for the job you get, the money you’ll make, the advancement opportunities you’ll have and the happiness you’ll achieve.
You can still be successful if you choose alternative paths, of course, but you’ll want to know the data and the tradeoffs so you can make the best decision for your passions, ambitions and aspirations.
Stats to Guide You
The tight labor market has caused many employers to loosen their requirements and seek expanded pools of candidates. For example, ZipRecruiter found that the number of jobs specifying a bachelor’s degree dropped from 18% to 14.5% from 2022 to 2023.
But on the other hand, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that attaining a higher level of education was correlated with greater earnings and it was linked with lower likelihood of unemployment. And 87% of people believe education is essential to success at work, based on a poll by ResumeNow.
But in addition to the realities of the market and the statistical correlations with accomplishment, there are additional benefits that arise from getting your degree.
1 – Embrace Your Accomplishment
Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of obtaining your degree is in your own mindset. In particular, 87% of those with degrees feel proud of their achievements and 85% feel more self-confident. In addition, 83% feel empowered to follow their dreams for their careers, according to ResumeNow.
This confidence and sense of agency, are invaluable, because when you feel good about what you’ve achieved and where you’re going, you’ll communicate this positivity—influencing interviewers, leaders and colleagues who will want to work with you.
2 – Get a Great Job
Another benefit in having your degree is in the recruiting process. In fact, 66% of people in the ResumeNow poll have been rejected from the selection process because they hadn’t achieved the necessary education level—so having a degree helps you avoid this barrier.
In addition. 80% believe that a degree will get you a more prestigious job, and 83% believe it increases the chances you’ll work in a managerial role.
Having a higher status job or a leadership role won’t guarantee you happiness—but if these factors are important to you in your employment, you’re wise to complete your degree in order to increase the chances you’ll achieve them.
3 – Get Great Salary and Security
Fully 66% of people with less education believe they would earn more money if they had achieved a higher degree. Similarly, 81% believe that a degree drives higher earnings, and 85% expect that it increases job security, based on data from ResumeNow.
Research demonstrates that after a certain point where you have your needs met, money doesn’t buy happiness. But you’re wise to consider salary and security in terms of the lifestyle you want and their level of importance for you—so you can make choices that align with your aspirations.
4 – Get Promoted Based on Performance
There is also a strong belief that education is linked with performance. In fact, 84% of people in the ResumeNow poll believe that having a higher level of educational attainment drives better performance. And 78% agree that promotion opportunities are greater with more education.
When you perform better, you’ll feel more rewarded and fulfilled, and enhance your esteem—and your performance will get you noticed. So seek the education that will prepare you best for the kind of work you want to excel at.
5 – Get Happy and Satisfied
Perhaps because of the other variables—performing better, having greater rewards and getting access to more growth opportunities—obtaining a degree is also linked with satisfaction and happiness.
Specifically, 81% of people believe that better education is correlated with greater job satisfaction and 42% see that it is linked with more joyful and fulfilling work experiences, based on ResumeNow data.
On its own, learning is linked with happiness, but it also paves the way for other conditions which influence your positive experience.
Build Your Experience
At the same time you value your education, don’t underestimate the quality of the job experience you’ll get. While education is considered to be the most important factor in accessing career opportunities, in reality experience matters just as much.
In fact, 68% of people said they missed out on a promotion because of their education level, but 64% said their lack of experience was a barrier, according to ResumeNow.
In progressing through your career, your education will be important, but you’ll also want to take advantage of assignments, projects and responsibilities which grow your skills and your experience.
As you’re pursuing your education, you’ll also want to choose your major well. Fully 44% of people regretted their college major and 72% were disappointed with their area of career specialization.
They were especially disappointed because they were interested in something else instead (56%), because they didn’t feel there were enough opportunities within their area (23%) and because the pay didn’t measure up to their desires (21%). All of this was according to a poll by Dreambound,
When asked what they wish they’d studied, computer science was the number one response, followed by business, engineering and nursing. Also on the list were finance, history, biology, law, psychology and accounting, based on the data from Dreambound.
The bottom line: While you’re completing your degree, be sure to invest in what interests you most—since these areas are the ones you’ll have the most energy for and be most passionate about continuing to develop.
In addition, research the job market and the opportunities related to your field—and ensure your interests are aligned with your aspirations—making necessary adjustments in order to plan your best pathway toward happiness and success.
Define Success for Yourself
Overall, you’ll need to define success for yourself. Most important to you, may be work that energizes you. Or you may prioritize prestige more highly. On the other hand, flexibility and autonomy may be most important to you—or constant opportunities to grow and advance.
Factor these into your decision making, and know you can achieve your aspirations with focus, intention and careful decision making—and course correction when it’s necessary.