College degrees still valuable

Despite the unemployment rate reaching nearly 10 percent, some students are certain their college degrees are still worth pursuing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a 9.4 percent unemployment rate last month, and many recent graduates are taking lower-paying jobs in less desirable places instead of going unemployed.

Drema Howard, director of the Career Center, said many of those graduates will likely take higher paying jobs down the road.

According to the 2008 Current Population Survey (CPS), college graduates are earning more than those who drop out. Last year, 54 percent of college graduates earned more than those who attended college but did not graduate.

That’s one reason why Marc Vincent, who graduated last spring with a degree in
biomedical science, chose to attend college.

“The income level of people that don’t go to school is not the level I want to be at, and a degree is just a stepping stone to a higher level,” he said.

Last year, workers with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $26,000 more than those without a degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The higher the degree earned, the higher they were paid – while bachelor’s degree
holders earned an average of about $978 per week, master’s degree holders earned an average of about $1,228 per week, according to the CPS. Professional degree holders and doctoral degree holders both earned averages of more than $1,500 per week.

Though statistics show college graduates earn more, Howard said students need to remember that college is about more than just receiving a diploma.

“Having a degree is just the first step,” she said. “It’s a different work world now, and it’s important that students gain career-related experience.”

While a degree is a helpful tool in one’s career search, conducting the search is just as important, Howard said.

“Students need to understand that getting out there and talking to people and getting a foot in the door is just as important as having a degree,” she said. “We try to teach students to be effective job seekers.”

Howard said traveling, gaining career-related experience and creating social associations are key complementary components to a degree.

“It’s a global world. People who travel have a wider perspective,” she said.

Julia Virgilio, a senior majoring in special education, said she thought about dropping out of school but didn’t want to jeopardize her career by doing so.

“In most fields, you need a degree,” she said. “It’s a deciding factor.”

Gracie Smith, a junior majoring in education, said she would get a degree even if she knew she would be in debtforever.

“Money is temporary, but my education is not,” she said.