The Many Benefits of Higher Education

The decision to pursue post-secondary education is not one that is made lightly. Many factors must be considered – your interests and skills, the length of the program, the institution you’d like to attend – but one thing is certain: higher education invariably leads to better career prospects and a better quality of life overall.

Completing post-secondary education is an experience – it takes commitment and dedication, but it will broaden your horizons even beyond what you learn in the classroom. Essential life skills such as time management, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking are all learned and used in post-secondary education. They are also used extensively in every workplace. In fact, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has identified nine skills that are used in every job, and at every level of complexity. These skills, which include writing, reading, working with others and continuous learning, only improve with higher education.

Although it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, attending a post-secondary institution also has numerous personal and social benefits. It provides a great opportunity to meet a wide variety of people, and build a network of friends and contacts. People who have completed post-secondary education are also more likely to engage with, and contribute to their community through activities such as volunteering and voting. Furthermore, there is a clear relationship between educational level and tolerance for diversity – both of people and opinions. Higher education is not only important for career development; it clearly plays a role in personal development as well.

What other benefits does higher education offer? Numerous studies have confirmed that individuals with post-secondary education enjoy better job prospects. According to Statistics Canada, in 2010 individuals 15 years of age and over who had completed post-secondary education had an employment rate of 72.6%. Meanwhile, those with only high school had an employment rate of 61.4%%, and those without even a high school diploma came in at only 33.6%. Even better, 88% of post-secondary graduates had full-time employment.

Higher education is also associated with greater job stability. This is reflected in unemployment rates: in 2010, unemployment rates for those without a high school diploma were 15.9%, nearly double the average of 8%. Unemployment rates for individuals with a high school diploma were slightly higher than the average at 9%, while individuals who had completed post-secondary education had the lowest unemployment rates at 6%.

One of the most tangible benefits of higher education is, of course, increased earning potential. According to Statistics Canada those who complete their education with a high school diploma earn 17% more, on average, than those without a high school diploma. Completing post secondary education offers even greater earning potential: on average, individuals who have completed post-secondary education earn 28% more than a high school graduate.

Furthermore, individuals with higher education will also see higher growth in earnings over the course of their lifetime. Earnings tend to increase with time, peaking around the ages of 50 to 54. In 2000, growth in average earnings between the ages of 25 and 54 was 49% for individuals with a high school diploma, and 75% for individuals who had completed post-secondary education.

Not surprisingly, higher earnings usually mean greater savings and assets as well. In 2005, the median value of net assets among those who completed their education with a high school diploma was $120,000, some $27,000 more than for those without a diploma. Canadians with post-secondary education enjoyed even higher levels of net assets from their higher earnings: the median net assets among individuals with a post-secondary education were approximately $200,000.

Higher earnings prove beneficial in retirement too. Individuals who have completed post-secondary education have a higher median income during retirement, and are less dependent on Old Age Security Benefits as a source of income. This is partly owing to greater savings and assets; but another factor is that with every level of education completed, the availability of employer sponsored pension plans increases.

Looking at the many advantages that accrue with post-secondary education, a clear pattern emerges. Individuals who pursue higher education will experience greater financial and employment security, and more opportunities to connect with, and contribute to their community, culminating in greater satisfaction with life.

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