Students in the United States quickly acquire a certain path or goal to completing their education. As early as elementary school, individuals learn that their expectation for completing education is at the very least completing High School. However, some students will be politely be pressured by their parents to continue their education throughout college, in the interest of earning a better wage over the course of their lifetime. Individuals in the U.S. are not required to complete any level of education after High School, but data shows that pursuing a Bachelors degree in college has a wide range of benefits and can ultimately be the most rewarding goal they can accomplish.
A Bachelors degree is awarded for the successful completion of undergraduate coursework at a university or college. In the United States a Bachelors degree generally takes an individual four years to complete. However some individuals can finish sooner due to the courtesy of advanced courses while other students may require more time if they struggle to determine a specific degree to pursue.
In the U.S. many individuals will have little to no clue about which a Bachelor degree they will pursue upon entering college. Many institutions in the U.S. require students to complete a wide range of Liberal Arts classes before allowing them to fully focus their studies on a specific Bachelor degree. This coursework generally includes basic mathematics, history, social studies, and science classes. Upon completion of Liberal Arts requirements and a more specialized area of study, universities and colleges offer one of two Bachelor’s degrees:
- Bachelor of Arts
- Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Arts degree is awarded to an individual after the successful completion of coursework that includes a wide range of liberal arts studies as well as courses involving sciences. These degrees are usually awarded to those who complete a major such as literature, humanities, history, philosophy, communication arts, and political science. By contrast, a Bachelor of Science degree is awarded for those who complete coursework focused more on sciences and/or mathematics. These include majors such as engineering, computer science, mathematics, and the natural sciences. In some instances a Bachelor of Science degree will be given to individuals whose major is focused on professional study areas like law, business, or architecture.
Although most students will pursue their Bachelor’s degree through the traditional route of attending a four year university as a full time student, there are other options open to students in the 21st century. Students can attend night classes while working full time, increasing their knowledge base while paying for their schooling. As the popularity of the internet increases, many schools now offer Bachelor’s degree programs that can be completed online, making it even easier for students to work while they complete a degree.
The number of Bachelor's degrees available to a student is nearly limitless with large institutions offering a wide range of focus areas in Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs. As of 2010, the following careers listed below offered Bachelor's degree holders the top wages:
- Information Sciences/Systems: $54,038 average starting salary
- Aerospace/Aeronautical/ Astronautical Engineering: $57,231 average starting salary
- Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering: $57,734 average starting salary
- Mechanical Engineering: $58,392 average starting salary
- Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering: $59,074 average starting salary
- Computer Engineering: $60,879 average starting salary
- Computer Science: $61,205 average starting salary
- Mining & Mineral Engineering: $64,552 average starting salary
- Chemical Engineering: $65,142 average starting salary
- Petroleum Engineering: $86,220 average starting salary
Holding a Bachelor's degree doesn't simply increase an individuals earning ability after college, it also enhances their ability to receive and hold a job. While many question the value of a Bachelor's degree, given the expenses of attaining higher education at a four year college, data consistently shows a significant disparity in the annual earning ability of those with a Bachelor's degree and those without. The following comparison shows what those with a Bachelor's degree can expect to earn on average each year in comparison to those without:
- Bachelor's Degree: average annual salary of $50,000
- High School Diploma: average annual salary of $30,000
- No Diploma or Degree: average annual salary of $20,000
While attaining a Bachelor's degree may cost anywhere between $20,000 and $100,000 depending upon the institution an individual attends, the payoff is well worth the investment over the course of a person's lifetime. It isn't just an individual's earning power that is affected by a Bachelor's degree, individuals who hold a degree appear more employable to companies and corporations. As of 2008, unemployment statistics listed below show those with lesser educations experienced higher unemployment rates than those with extensive educations. For example:
- Individuals with a Bachelor's Degree experienced an unemployment rate of 2.8%, and were capable of earning roughly $928 in weekly wages.
- Individuals with an Associate's Degree experienced an unemployment rate of 3.7%, and were capable of earning roughly $736 in weekly wages.
- Individuals with some college but no degree experienced an unemployment rate of 5.1%, and were capable of earning roughly $645 in weekly wages.
- Individuals with just a High School diploma experienced an unemployment rate of 5.7%, and were capable of earning roughly $591 in weekly wages.
- Individuals with no High School diploma experienced an unemployment rate of 9.0%, and were capable of earning roughly $426 in weekly wages.
The evidence clearly shows a direct correlation between level of education and employment rates along with earning power. While it is possible to earn a living without a Bachelor's degree, it is obvious that holding a Bachelor's degree makes life more comfortable for the vast majority of individuals. Recent U.S. Census Bureau information has shown that individuals with just a High School diploma can expect to earn $1.3 million over their lifetime while Bachelor's degree holders earn $2.1 million on average during their lifetime. Choosing to attend college can also have the unintended side effect of helping an individual increase their marketability while avoiding poor job markets. Individuals who go to college during a bleak job market can often ride out the market while gaining vital knowledge and find a more robust job available to them in four to five years upon completion of their Bachelor's degree.