No time like now to go back to college

Why would someone consider returning to college as a non-traditional student? There are as many reasons as there were for leaving school in the first place. You may be one of those people who got tired of classes and convinced yourself that high school could provide all the education needed for your career. Perhaps you started college and discovered that going to parties could be more fun than studying, and your time in school came to an abrupt end. You might have wanted to continue your education but economic factors or a family seemed to make it impossible. There are many justifications that young people use for halting their educations, but now that you are a little older and hopefully wiser–there are some very valid reasons for returning to school.

Returning to college may lead to career opportunities
It is no secret that the nation’s economy has been struggling for a few years and unemployment continues to be very high. Perhaps the information that has not been publicized as much is the effect education level can have on your career opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducts surveys to ascertain unemployment rates at various levels of educational attainment. Their findings would seem to support the theory that the more education you have–the better your chances of finding a job in a tough market. Their reported national unemployment rates for people 25 years of age and older in January 2011 are as follows:

1. Less than a high school diploma–14.2 percent
2. High school diploma or GED–9.4 percent
3. Some college or an associate degree–8 percent
4. Bachelor’s degree or higher–4.2 percent

As you can see from the numbers, you have a much better chance of finding employment with a bachelor’s degree or higher than with a high school diploma or even a few years of college. The BLS findings would also seem to indicate that in an era of massive lay-offs, you may be able to increase your job security with a higher level of education.

Returning to school can increase your lifetime earnings
In a perfect world the percentage of your income that is needed for living expenses would always remain the same or perhaps even get smaller. Unfortunately, the cost of living continues to rise, and if your wages stagnate or top out, it can affect the quality of life you and your family enjoy. Instead of waiting for your employer to voluntarily give you a raise, increase your earning potential by returning to college. The College Board, a not-for-profit organization committed to excellence in education, reports that the level of your education can have a direct affect on your lifetime earnings. Their 2010 survey findings for a typical working career of 40 years show the following average totals:

1. Less than a high school diploma–$710,000
2. High school diploma–$1,000,000
3. Some college–$1,130,000
4. Bachelor’s degree–$1,660,000
5. Master’s degree–$1,970,000

You may be able to earn 66 percent more over a 40-year career by returning to college and upgrading your high school diploma to a college degree. These are just two of the reasons why many people return to school as non-traditional students, but they may be the most important when considering the improvements they can lead to in your life and career.

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics–Economic News Release
College Board–Education Trends

This article was originally published in our free, 27 page ebook titled The Essential Guide to College for Non-Traditional Students.