Is post-secondary education a good investment? There is significant research on this matter and the answer that consistently comes back is, yes. Research has shown that an adult’s lifetime earnings with a bachelor’s degree are over $1 million higher than those with only a high school diploma, while associates degrees yield lifetime earnings somewhere between the two. There are also programs which do not offer a degree, such as trade schools, which still allow people to move in to challenging, rewarding, and good paying careers.
I think the most important thing is to find a program which matches up well with your or your child’s interests. Speaking from my own experience, I was set on attending a four-year college from a young age. My parents were both college graduates and that was always my pathway. After college I worked for 2 years and then returned to school, earning a Masters in Business Administration. What I learned in college and graduate school has helped greatly in my banking career. In contrast, my younger brother was mechanically inclined from a young age and attended an 18-month certificate program to become a diesel mechanic. He has built a fine career working on heavy equipment which has enabled him to raise his family and educate his children. Although we chose different paths that best suited our interests, we each chose the right path for ourselves.
The take away for me is that education does not end with a high school diploma, but a four year degree may not be the answer for you or your child, either. I encourage you to work with school counselors to determine what path is best for you or your child, and keep an open mind as to what that best path is. Earning that certificate or diploma will not be the end of your educational process. I spend a great deal of time reading and learning, and I know my brother does the same.