Want a ‘Good’ Job? Go to College

According to a study conducted by Georgetown University, the job market is recovering, at least as far as low-paying and high-paying jobs are concerned. Between 2010 and 2014, the economy created 6.6 million jobs, and 2.9 million “good” jobs — or those that are defined by a median salary of $42,700 per year. The trouble is: 98 percent of those good jobs went to workers who earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

man's hands holding phone resting on a textbook next to a cup of coffee

(Photo Credit: Maliha Mannan/Stocksnap.io)

The conclusion of this study goes against the so-called wisdom this author has offered on at least one occasion — that trade schools and blue collar jobs might provide a better return on investment. But when 2.8 million of 2.9 million well-paying jobs (and it should be noted that for the jobs that were full-time the annual salary was upwards of $53,000) are going to college grads, the conversation needs to change.

Finding Your “Good” Calling

For those of us working a full-time job, more than a third of our conscious Monday through Friday experience is spent at work, or commuting to and from it. So it’s understandable that our culture has put a sizable emphasis on “calling.” We want to make sure that we’re in the right job, doing something that our personalities and talents are best suited for. You don’t have to be a person of the cloth to have a vocation.

The problems arise when we allow our sense of vocation to override what we practically know about the job market — the two have to go hand in hand. In this case, a study has revealed that it’s financially responsible to go to college — given the higher probability of it paying you a livable salary after graduation.

Finding Your “Good” College

So is that the answer? Throw your passions to the wayside and just make sure you get your degree? Probably not. All colleges are certainly not made equal, and different bachelor’s degrees have different value. At PayScale, we quantify that as College ROI — is what you get out worth what you put in? It involves more than just early and mid-career salaries: faculty ratio, graduation rate, significance of alumni career, and more all factor in.

For example, in the case of a school like Caltech, the $221,600 price tag is worth is for the more than $900,000 graduates will make over the next 20 years — especially considering that the average loan amount for Caltech students is $22,160, and that most students who graduate do so within four years. 

Finding Your “Good” Middle Ground

By all means, pursue what you feel called to. Whether you’re passionate about medicine or public transportation, there are honorable callings in every field. It’s about playing it smart, making sure you’re investing wisely in your future, and being someone who can approach every aspect of their career with zeal.

For more on getting the most out of your college investment, stay tuned for the latest update to PayScale’s College Salary Report, coming next week. 

Tell Us What You Think!

What does a good job look like to you? Should finances even be a factor when considering what career path to pursue? Does a focus on salary and degree take away from the significance of your so-called calling? Tell us what you think in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter.