High School Diplomas: Achievement or Stepping Stone?

Don't get us wrong, graduating high school is a very significant achievement. It can open up doors to careers, and is a basic necessity if you want to have any chance of success in your career. So whether you receive a diploma in the mail or get to put on a cap and gown, it really should come with a celebration.

There's a reason to consider it a stepping stone, though. In fact, it's a million dollar bet that you're making, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's the part of the federal government responsible for tracking employment, sector growth and wages and salaries.

They give a compelling reason to going on to college: the difference in lifetime income for a college graduate and a high school graduate is about $1 million on average. That's a significant gap, about $22,000 a year over the course of a 40-year career. So financially, you want to consider the option of a college degree.

Another is that if you are already attending or recently graduated an online high school, you don't have to go to a brick-and-mortar college. As seen with all the ads on television today, there are countless options. So now that you've figured out your studying style, you can translate that to the next level.

And in spite of recent reports about the costs of some for-profit universities, they are not your only option. Many public schools and private colleges and universities are now offering partial and fully online degree programs. You could also consider community colleges, which can save thousands, if not tens of thousands, of tuition each year.

It's not just money or learning style, though those are definitely significant. It's also about having options. Many people with high school degrees are not likely to get into senior management, which has appeal for those who enjoy strategy, more than just the income. A degree in a field like history, for example, also opens up a multitude of options:

  1. Teaching
  2. Writing
  3. Journalism

Liberal arts degrees can offer a number of career paths, but even options in the hard sciences could lead to a number of different job opportunities. So there's plenty of opportunity for variety, which is critical given that people change careers multiple times over their lifetime.

So you get paid more, have more opportunities, and it isn't that expensive. Outside of taking a breather to celebrate graduation, you don't have much to lose by taking a look at higher education.

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Data on U.S. Public High Schools & Private High Schools

Data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. The data displayed is compiled from the most recent sources available. For public schools this is the 2012-2013 school year. For private schools this is the 2011-2012 school year.

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