A college degree can make a major impact on your long-term earning potential. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, 60 percent of jobs will require a college degree by 2018, so one major benefit of college is that it opens up many more opportunities. Even some college without a degree can improve your earnings, and earnings tend to increase with educational level.
People who do not attend college make less money than people who do. A person without a high school degree has median weekly earnings of $471 per week, according to 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers. A high school degree without college can raise earnings, with high school graduates yielding median earnings of $652 per week. The unemployment rate for people who attend no college is higher than the national average, with high school dropouts having an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent, and high school graduates being unemployed at a rate of 8.3 percent.
People who attend college but who do not graduate gain additional skills beyond those taught in high school, so they typically make more. If you don't graduate college, the BLS estimates median weekly earnings at $727. Among people with some college experience but no degree, the unemployment rate hovers around 7.7 percent.
A college degree opens doors to more jobs, and the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce reports that some jobs that traditionally did not require a degree now do. College graduates, according to the BLS, have median weekly earnings of $1,066, while people who graduate with an associate degree have median weekly earnings of $785. The unemployment rate for college graduates is 4.5 percent, while unemployment among those with an associate degree is 6.2 percent.
Some college degrees -- such as pre-med, prelaw and philosophy -- prepare students for graduate level work. People who attend graduate or professional school make even more than college graduates. People with professional degrees such as law or medicine have median weekly earnings of $1,735, while those with a master's degree make about $1,300 per week. People who complete a doctoral program have median earnings of $1,624. Unemployment is lowest among people who have post-college education. People with a master's degree have an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, while a doctoral degree results in an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent. People with professional degrees are unemployed at a rate of 2.1 percent.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.