The rate of college enrollment is higher than ever before: nearly seven in ten high school graduates enroll in an institution of higher learning after graduating, according to the US Department of Education. This correlates very tightly with the ever-increasing debt load students assume to get their degree. The average debt burden of newly-minted graduates now stands at over 37,000 dollars a head. With so many students spending so much of their life trying to pay off this debt, people are increasingly swearing off from college altogether.
These are sobering statistics to be sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that the average college graduate earns considerably more money than those who did not advance beyond high school. On average, they enjoy lower unemployment rates and a better overall quality of life than the average person without a college education. Now there are plenty of exceptions to this general rule – having a degree does not guarantee that you’ll live well, just as the lack of degree does not guarantee poverty by any means. But the statistics speak for themselves: the more you learn, the more you earn.
In life, I will be paid to work from either the neck up or the neck down. Neck up pays better, so the more I learn, the more I earn.
However, I feel it is important to clarify something about that saying. “Learning” frequently implies college, but that is far from the only kind of learning you can partake in to increase your worth in the business world. Learning trades is an incredibly viable (not to mention well-paying) option, and mastering the myriad of skills and intricacies required to run a successful business will guarantee that you will never go hungry. The only constant between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people earn more because they have chosen to learn more.
The more you have to learn to do your job well, the more you are going to earn. This is why trades pay much more than basic construction work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has some great info on this: construction workers average 33,430 dollars a year in pay, but this jumps to 51,450 a year for plumbers – a 54% difference! This is equally true for people who hold degrees in high-demand, highly specialized fields; they enjoy a greater degree of job security and pay than those who are merely generalists. Aerospace engineers average about 30% more in yearly pay than mechanical engineers.
The Wealth Coach sums up this principle quite nicely: In life, I will be paid to work from either the neck up or the neck down. Neck up pays better, so the more I learn, the more I earn. Regardless of how physically demanding your job is, you will always have the potential to obtain more knowledge that is relevant to your career. People with strong backs are plentiful. People with strong backs and strong minds, not as much. By learning more, you make yourself less replaceable, thus increasing the value you add to everything you do. This gives you a much greater degree of leverage when looking for jobs and negotiating pay.
The principle of the more you learn, the more you earn is also designed to be taken into consideration with what other people are learning as well. The more people choose a certain career path, the less the relative value of that degree or skill will be. Last year, over 114,000 psychology degrees were awarded. Only about 3,800 aerospace engineering degrees were awarded in the same time period. Which field do you think is going to experience more competition? If what you’re learning is the same thing as what everybody else is learning, learn something else that is needed! Knowing which things to learn is as important as learning the skill itself, and making an informed decision can mean the difference between earning a little bit more and earning a LOT more.
I will leave off with this: the future of the workforce lies in brains, not brawn. Being able to contribute from the head up will ensure that you cannot be replaced so easily. The automation of certain jobs presages what will eventually happen to many other fields, but it’s important to understand that this is happening in fields populated by workers who work from the neck down, not the head neck up. A person working as a cashier might see their job disappear soon, but the person who develops the software to run those robots won’t.