A high school graduate without a college degree is looking at “half the pay with the gap widening, double the unemployment rate, 3.5x the chance to fall below the poverty line, worse prospects for weathering another economic downturn, and greater likelihood of losing their job to automation in the coming years.”
This is the first article in our ‘Continuing Education’ series, which will look at the challenges, skills, and opportunities for job seekers looking to finish or upgrade their degrees. You can check out part two here.
Finishing your education speaks volumes on your resume that go beyond the program you studied and your grades. It also communicates a few important characteristics about you to potential employers, namely:
- You finish things you start
- You believe in continuous learning
- You’re smart enough to get through post-secondary education
Now, those things can be true without a university or college degree, and there was a time when not having one wouldn’t damage your long-term earning potential or employment prospects.
But, like it or not, those days are long gone. It’s now become more important than it ever to achieve some level of post-secondary education to ensure a stable future for yourself. It has become more expensive to skip college than to graduate.
Here are seven charts showing the situation facing today’s high school graduates who have not finished their university degree.
If you’re a high school graduate in 2016 with no plans to go to university, or someone who graduated high school in the past and haven’t finished your post-secondary education, you can expect…
Half the Pay, Double the Unemployment Rate
According to this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), having a Bachelor’s degree and a high school diploma means you will earn twice as much and are twice as likely to be employed, compared to people with just a high school diploma.
Notice that the line representing the average for all workers is somewhere between some college/no degree and Associate’s Degree (2 year degree); this indicates that the average education level of the overall workforce is continuing to rise. That means if you’re not getting a higher education degree, you’re getting left behind.
The effect of that low pay and unemployment? You’ll be toeing or crossing the poverty line.
The chart to the right from Pew shows the disturbing trend; high school graduates are living beneath the poverty line at 3.5x the rate of university graduates.
So that’s half the pay, double the unemployment rate, and 3.5x the chance to fall below the poverty line. And if that’s not bad enough…
In the same report titled The Rising Cost of Not Going to College, Pew Research found that not only do college graduates earn more than high school graduates, but the gap has been growing over each successive generation over the past 60 years.
- The conclusion from Pew’s research is that, in the long run, the costs of not going to college outweigh the actual cost of going to college.
So, if you’re following, high school graduates without college degrees can look forward to “half the pay with the gap widening, double the unemployment rate, and 3.5x the chance to fall below the poverty line.”
An unfinished education already puts you behind. What happens if there’s another recession?
Let’s keep the fun going and move onto the how you’re likely to fare should we happen to hit another economic downturn.
The 2007 global economic downturn was officially only fun for 1% of people everywhere. You, your friends, and your family were likely hit financially and are still trying to recover approaching 10 years on.
Let’s not dive into the terrifying prospects of when we might have to face another recession, but instead look at how people with high school diplomas fared versus college graduates in the last recession.
The Recession Was Rough, But Rougher For Non-College Graduates
The numbers are staggering. Between December 2007 and January 2010, 5.6 million non-college graduates lost their jobs.
- Source: http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/30/news/economy/college-grads-jobs
Thankfully we’re in a recovery now — so surely those jobs are coming back? Think again. Of those 5.6 million lost jobs held by college graduates, only 80,000 have come back.
- Source: http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/30/news/economy/college-grads-jobs
Combining the two charts above the picture is clear. Non-college graduates were decimated by the recession, and they’ve enjoyed almost none of the recovery. Should we be so unlucky as to
continue in enter another period of economic turbulence, the prospects for those holding only high school diplomas will be even worse.
Adding up the score here, the addition of this chart puts the outlook for high school graduates with no college education at “half the pay with the gap widening, double the unemployment rate, and 3.5x the chance to fall below the poverty line, and worse prospects for weathering another economic downturn.”
Lastly, there is one more chart indicating a trend that should drive you to get your degree finished: the coming wave of automation.
Low-Skill Jobs Will Be the First to Be Automated
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but what it points to is that low-tech, labor intensive jobs (i.e. the jobs held by non-college graduates) will be the first to be replaced by machines While other jobs held by people across the educational spectrum are also at risk, there is little doubt that technology developments in automation will impact lower-skilled jobs most.
So, summing up the overall picture painted by these charts, a high school graduate without a college degree is looking at “half the pay with the gap widening, double the unemployment rate, 3.5x the chance to fall below the poverty line, worse prospects for weathering another economic downturn, and greater likelihood of losing their job to automation in the coming years.”
It’s Never Too Late To Get Your Degree
There is good news! It’s never been easier to acquire new skills, knowledge, and certifications. The rise in online programs means you don’t need to travel out of state to get a high quality degree. What’s more, there are online degrees and accelerated programs that can be completed faster than traditional 4 year programs, in some cases.
Ultimately, furthering your education is making a bet on your ability to shape your own future, rather than letting current events and fortune shape it for you.
A commitment to continuing to learn is the first step; the second one is to make a decision and go get it done.
Make An Informed Decision
One of the challenges in the modern age is too much information – how can you know which is the right program for you?
Seeking out a career/education counselor is a great first step; you can also hunker down and do some online research to find out more.
ResumeGenius has partnered with alleducationschools.com to support people looking to find more information about which college or university degrees are right for them so they can earn their degree in their chosen field. They offer assistance with choosing a program, and financial aid may be available for those who qualify.
You can visit their page here and start making moves towards earning your degree today!
Are you a high school graduate thinking about going to college or university? Are you making excuses that are preventing you from achieving your goals? What are your biggest questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments below!