Bachelors degree no longer enough for job market

When most students enter college, they have spent thirteen years preparing for a bachelors degree. That may not be enough.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an employee with a bachelors degree earned about about $1,053 a week in 2011, while one with a high school degree with no college earned an average of $638. Unemployment rates, too, were significantly higher for those without a college degree.

Still, the bachelors degree seems to be declining in value, especially because of its commonality in the face of an increasingly competitive job market and a declining economic environment. According to the College Board, it takes the average college student who began college at age 18 until age 33 to repay his or her bachelors degree debt.

Additionally, the Labor Department has reported that college tuition and fees have increased by 184 percent during the past 20 years, while salaries for college graduates have only increased by nine percent during that time.

With such statistics, it makes sense for students to attempt to gain an edge against their future competitors in the job market, and a bachelors degree used to be the means to do so. While bachelors degrees still give students an advantage over those who have not earned a degree, with the increased demand for jobs and subsequent increased demand for education, the degree has become common and less of a competitive edge.

The college degree is a basic requirement for most jobs. As a result, earners of college degrees must find alternative ways of distinguishing themselves from the copious other degree-holders of similar merit. To some, internships or previous job experiences have become crucial for the process.

Others have found an alternative in higher education at professional or graduate school. According to the New York Times, about two out of every 25 people above the age of 25 have earned a masters degree. The U.S. Census Bureaus predictions for the salaries of those who hold masters degrees is significantly higher than for those who only have a bachelors degree, with an average expectation of $2.1 million throughout the adult work life of a bachelors degree holder, compared to $2.5 million for a masters degree-holder. Of course, the costs of the degree in light of increasing tuition must be considered as well.

It is not necessary to obtain a degree of higher education beyond a bachelors, but it adds to ones credentials. College degree holders must distinguish themselves from their peers. Whether through a prior internship, experience or degree, something extra is necessary, because a bachelors is no longer enough.