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EPY 101 - Educational, Career, and Personal Development: College and Happiness

College and Happiness

10 Benefits of Having a College Degree

By Shayna Joubert
January 9, 2020

1. Increased Access to Job Opportunities

Having a bachelor’s degree opens up rewarding opportunities that might have otherwise been inaccessible. College graduates see 57 percent more job opportunities than non-graduates, and it is estimated that, by 2020, two-thirds of all jobs will require postsecondary education. A degree enables you to qualify for these additional opportunities and offers you more flexibility in where you choose to work.

Not only are there more jobs available to degree holders than high school graduates, but the existing jobs are also more accessible. According to research by Burning Glass Technologies, two million new jobs posted online per quarter require a bachelor’s degree or higher. For job seekers, these online job postings are a primary tool for finding and applying to available roles. While more than 80 percent of all job openings for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are advertised online, only 50 percent of jobs requiring a high school diploma are posted online, making it harder for these workers to connect with prospective employers.

Pursuing a college education also expands your access to opportunities by connecting you to a lifelong network of colleagues, advisors, professors, and mentors. Over the course of your career, this network can open doors and connect you to industry leaders with whom you can share ideas and explore new ventures.

2. Preparation for a Specialized Career

As the world changes, the job market changes with it. Technology, education, and health are three of the most rapidly growing fields for a good reason; they evolve so often that only the most accomplished individuals can do the work. Getting a bachelor’s degree will help you learn the specific skills and habits needed to make a living in these areas. 

While not all degrees offer a direct route to a particular job (English, philosophy, or political science, for example), many are created with a specific career path in mind. An educational degree, for example, is designed as a funnel for teaching jobs; some health degrees also have very specialized jobs waiting at the end for those who complete them.

3. Increased Marketability

Having a bachelor’s degree will keep you in demand as the need for skilled, college-educated workers continues to rise. 

Over 80 percent of jobs in four of the fastest-growing occupations—healthcare, STEM, education, and government services—demand postsecondary education. Thus, it’s estimated that, by 2020, there will be 13 million available jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees. Although 36 percent of adults ages 25 to 36 currently hold a college degree, the United States will still fall short of meeting employer demand by five million qualified workers by 2020.

On your path to earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll gain skills that will give you a competitive advantage in the job market. Today’s employers are most interested in applicants with exceptional communication, leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills

In college, you’ll have access to rigorous coursework and experiential learning opportunities that will arm you with these skills to make you more attractive to employers.

4. Increased Earning Potential

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shared the average salary for those with various education levels, and the data is clear: The greater your level of education, the higher you can expect your salary to be.

The difference in earning power is striking: 

  • Those who have not earned a high school diploma can expect to earn an average of $520 per week, or $27,040 annually. 
  • Those with high school diplomas can expect to earn an average of $712 weekly, or $37,024 annually. 
  • Associate degree holders earn an average of $836 per week, or $43,472 per year.

Earning a bachelor’s degree brings with it a substantial jump in pay. Bachelor’s degree holders make an average of $1,173 per week, or $60,996 each year. That is more than $17,500 more than associate degree holders and nearly $25,000 more than high school graduates.   

5. Economic Stability

Of the 11.6 million jobs created since 2010, over 8.4 million jobs—95 percent—have gone to bachelor’s degree holders. Meanwhile, jobs for high school graduates have only grown by 80,000. It makes sense, then, that bachelor’s degree holders have a significantly lower rate of unemployment than high school graduates. In 2014, the unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees was just below four percent, while over 12 percent of high school graduates in that age range remained unemployed.

Consequently, individuals without a degree are three times more likely to be living in poverty. According to Pew Research Center, only six percent of bachelor’s degree holders live below the poverty line, while an alarming 22 percent of people without a college degree live in poverty. Earning a bachelor’s degree will help afford you economic stability and security for the future.

6. Networking Opportunities

In today’s job market, building and maintaining a professional network is critical to success. Certain aspects of getting a degree, from interning to volunteering, are designed to help you meet people who can help design your future. 

Taking advantage of the various job fairs and career development resources that college students have available is a great way to put that degree to work, as well. 

When you get ready to finish your degree and head out into the world, degree earners can expect a level of support from their mentors and professors that isn’t available anywhere else.

7. A Pathway to Advancement 

Have you considered a career as a physical therapist, head librarian, or nurse anesthetist? These popular jobs usually require a bachelor’s degree as the first step before going on to get another, more-advanced degree. 

You’ll also need a bachelor’s before any Master’s or PhD, as well as the ever-popular MBA. Even if you’re not sure you’re up for the entire career path, earning a bachelor’s degree now puts you in the driver’s seat should you decide to pursue it later.

8. Personal Growth and Improved Self-Esteem

If you aren’t looking for the type of career that often comes from a four-year education, you may be questioning the value of a bachelor’s degree. 

There’s more to it than the paper, however; many students have found the experience to be deeply and personally rewarding, as well. In addition to gaining skills like writing, time-management, and working on a team, there are opportunities to polish presentation skills and interact with professors and students who will, later on, become part of your valuable career network

Earning a degree is empowering; it boosts confidence and provides a sense of achievement. The pursuit of higher education also equips you to master complex challenges and overcome adversity, contributing to increased happiness and reduced stress. This may be why bachelor’s degree holders report higher levels of self-esteem than high school graduates.

College graduates are also more likely to be involved in their communities. Compared to non-degree holders, they are more likely to vote, volunteer, donate to charities, join community organizations, and participate in educational activities with their children. As more active citizens, bachelor’s degree holders contribute to a stronger, more engaged community to provide opportunities for future generations.

9. Higher Job Satisfaction

Research shows that having a bachelor’s degree leads to greater long-term job satisfaction. The differences between degree and non-degree holders are stark:

  • Eighty-six percent of college graduates consider their job a career or a stepping stone to their career, while only 57 percent of high school graduates say the same.
  • The majority of bachelor’s degree holders—60 percent—say they are highly satisfied and their job is more than just a paycheck. Only 38 percent of degree holders report the same level of satisfaction.
  • Forty-two percent of high school graduates say their job is “just to get them by,” compared to 14 percent of bachelor’s degree holders.

Bachelor’s degree holders also enjoy more on-the-job perks that contribute to a sense of career satisfaction. In 2015, 52 percent of full-time workers with a degree were offered retirement benefits, compared to only 43 percent of individuals without a degree.

10. Positive Return on Investment

The cost of a degree may be daunting, especially with many students on the news sharing student loan woes and not feeling like the job market is friendly to their specific degree. While no one can argue that some degrees aren’t that easy to employ, many college grads are finding the ROI of a bachelor’s degree to be positive. 

Young adults express that their degrees are a good value, with 72 percent believing that their degree has paid off, and an additional 17 percent believing that it will very soon. This trend stays steady among those who borrowed for school, as well. Plus, there are many programs available to help pay for higher education; scholarshipsgrants and tuition reimbursement programs are all designed to help students avoid debt.


Does a degree automatically make you happy? Grads who are struggling to find work might not agree, but research shows that in the long term, a college degree offers the potential for lifelong bliss, and a growing economic recovery is poised to support that. Health, happiness, and a positive economic outlook mean that the future is bright for today’s college students.

Life’s Better With a College Degree



Is it a coincidence? Bryan Cohen, author of The Post-College Guide to Happiness, thinks there’s a connection. Higher education gives people the opportunity to explore their passions, be they writing, engineering, or even magic, Cohen explains. Graduates can use their educational experience to pursue what they love to do. That’s why, Cohen says, “educational attainment can lead to some serious happiness.”

It’s true: college graduates will experience better job conditions, career fulfillment, and pay than their less-educated peers. Unemployment is lower for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and grads enjoy higher pay. Individuals with enough money to make ends meet, like college grads with gainful employment, will be happier than people who are poor. That’s not a surprise to anyone. But the positive connection for college grads isn’t all about career and money, at least not directly.

From stronger marriages to longer lives, college graduates enjoy an overall higher quality of life. There are countless pieces of research that all point to the same conclusion: life as a college grad is just better.

Graduates Live Healthier, Longer Lives

You may not tune in to Dr. Oz this week to find out that college textbooks are the next great superfood, but research shows a college degree would be worthy of such hype, offering graduates the opportunity to experience a longer, healthier life.

A report from the Commission on Health indicates that those with more education are likely to live longer, experience better health outcomes, and practice healthy behaviors like exercise, avoiding smoking, and getting regular checkups.

According to data from the commission’s report, college graduates can expect to live at least five years longer than those who haven’t finished high school, especially men, who see a difference of 6.8 years between college grads and high school dropouts.

Graduates aren’t just living longer, either; health quality in those longer years is better, as well. Among all racial groups, college graduates are more likely to report their health as “very good” or “excellent” than any other level of education. This difference is most pronounced among Hispanic and white college graduates, who are, respectively, 43.1% and 42.7% more likely to report “very good” or better health than those with less than a high school diploma. There’s even a significant difference between whites with “some college” and an actual degree: 14.7%.

The commission’s report spells out the connection between education and health through three major pathways: health knowledge and behaviors, employment and income, and social and psychological factors. Degreed individuals have better health knowledge, literacy, and behaviors, so they are more likely to understand how nutrition, exercise, drugs, alcohol, and health and disease management can impact their lives. They also have better working conditions, resources, and income that allow them to experience better health, including less exposure to hazards, availability of insurance and sick leave, and better housing, nutrition, and stress outlets. Finally, those with a college degree have a higher sense of control, social standing, and support that can positively influence stress, health resources, and health related behaviors.

Women With Degrees Are Less Likely to Divorce

Economists from the Council on Contemporary Families crunched data from 1950 to 2008, and found that for women, a college education correlates with a higher likelihood of marriage and a falling rate of divorce. The report shows that at 40, college-educated white women are more likely to be married than any other group because of dropping divorce rates for college educated women. A Pew report also indicates that married adults with a college diploma are less likely to divorce than those without a degree.

According to the Council on Contemporary Families report, college-educated women are not only more likely to marry and stay married, they’re also more likely to report happiness in their marriage than any other group of women. And before you think it’s all about the financial security offered by a college degree, get this: college educated women reported happiness whatever the level of their family income, and they were also less likely to identify financial security as the main benefit of marriage.

Not everyone needs marriage to be happy, of course. Many never-marrieds enjoy their independence. Others are in happy, stable lifelong relationships. Marriage has not been proven to make individuals happier, but it does contribute to stability, offering a long-lasting “protection” against unhappiness.

Stronger Community Connections

College graduates benefit from and contribute to their communities. In addition to stronger marriages and better health, college graduates are more connected to their communities, with higher weekly church attendance and an increased likelihood of civic engagement. These activities are also linked to higher levels of educational attainment, creating a circular pattern in education and community involvement.

A survey from the Association of Religious Data Archives shows that college grads are the educational group that’s most likely to regularly attend weekly worship services: 46.3% of graduates attend, well over the average of 41.9%. But even some college or a technical degree correlates with religious attendance: 46.1% of individuals with this level of education attend on a regular basis. And frequent religious attendance is associated with higher GPAs, as adolescents who attend weekly have an average 2.9 GPA, over 2.6 for students who never attend.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement asserts that not only do higher levels of education translate into more civic engagement, civic engagement also promotes educational attainment.

Research profiled on PBS’s This Emotional Life indicates that community involvement contributes to more satisfaction in life. And people who attend worship services regularly are happier than those who don’t.

A Strong Future for Graduates


Better pay, better marriages, better health and communities. College graduates have good reason to be happy. And there’s more: economic conditions are poised to offer grads yet another reason to have a positive outlook on life.

Recent grads have had a bum deal. Promised years of higher earnings and yes, happiness, many aren’t finding that reality. Reports indicate that young college graduates are struggling to fulfill their dreams, find jobs, and achieve financial independence. They’re certainly not the picture of post-college happiness, but economic predictions suggest that future college grads won’t have the same problems.

Economic Recovery, Just in the Nick of Time

The American economy is in recovery, but with an unemployment rate still in the neighborhood of 8%, we’re far from out of the woods. And that’s exactly why today’s students should be excited about what the future has to offer. Yes, really.

Post-College Success and Happiness

Cohen says that the economy isn’t really the biggest concern for today’s college graduates, though. He explains that the economy will always have its ups and downs, citing rapidly changing technology as the major area of concern for students. The first to adopt innovations, like self-publishers, app developers, and crowdfunding gurus, have “made a killing,” and Cohen recommends that students keep their eyes peeled for new opportunities like these.

Whatever the economic conditions, Cohen urges students to understand that “happiness is like a muscle that must be exercised and strengthened,” cautioning them not to focus too much on money or moving up the corporate ladder, especially at the expense of relationships or exploring creativity.

Eric Chen, associate professor of business administration at the University of Saint Joseph, recommends that students position themselves correctly to take advantage of the developing economic recovery. Chen says that students should pursue credentials in fields that will be in demand, like accounting and energy. They should also become fluent in more than one language, particularly Chinese. “Students need to study things that will get them a job after they graduate,” says Chen.

Is a college degree the ticket to health, wealth, and happiness? Not for all. But if research and predictions for the future are any indication, college graduates are equipped with the potential to be among the happiest people in the world, and they can expect to remain so for the foreseeable future. What has your diploma done for you lately? As it turns out, quite a bit.

Sources/Image Credit(s):

Image #2: – Title: “Accepting a graduate degree from President Braveman.” by Nazareth College is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Image #3: – Title: “Look up” by Mateus Lunardi Dutra is licensed under CC BY 2.0


College Happiness Statistics