A few years ago, our wallets bled as the U.S. economy spiraled into one of the greatest recessions in history. Now that the economy is slowly bouncing back, people are debating whether or not a college education is worth the financial strain or investment.
It’s a common question — should you enter the job market right away or take a leap of faith and enroll at a university, community college or technical school?
The answer depends on several factors, including the amount of student loan debt accumulated, declared major and ability to gain employment, and the future of job industries.
1. Student loan debt
These three words are a potential burden for the next 10 to 20 years. The cost of higher education is nothing short of expensive; in fact, the rates have doubled.
On top of higher living expenses and a fluctuating job market,student loan debt reached the $1 trillion mark in 2012. Market Probe, Inc. and Wells Fargo conducted a study that showed many young professionals — 31 percent — believe working would have been a better choice than college.
The study fails to mention several important factors: what did the 31 percent major in, and what were their employment statuses and salaries?
Sure, it’s hard to pay off an average of $28,000 in student loans, yet if that’s the path to take, there are ways to minimize the pain.
The real question becomes: what’s the prospective return of this expensive investment? (Click here to Tweet this thought.)
2. Declared major and gaining employment in the job market
Before making your mind up as to whether or not to apply to colleges or tech schools, research your intended major. Some majors are more lucrative and employable than others.
Know the product before you buy it. That $28,000 is a big price tag, so find the median salaries and unemployment rates for your prospective study area.
Depending on the industry, that $28,000 or so in student loans could be worth it.
3. Up-and-coming job industries
If education is an investment for the future, it makes sense to see where the future is headed.
Certain positions are becoming outdated thanks to growing technology and other advancements. Don’t get caught up in a dying industry; seek careers with future job growth.
Check out resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list that shows specific industries projected to grow or decline from now until 2020.
Before you throw in the towel — or dive into the land of academia — know what to expect career-wise. College is an investment that can offer little or much in return. It just depends on your circumstances.
Andrea Fisher is an online marketer and content specialist for ADT business security. She is a published journalist and blogger with an English degree and Political Science minor from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.