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Is a University Degree Worth It?

A university degree can prepare you for entry-level roles and a new career or help you advance in your current field. It can also help you expand your professional network and reach your personal growth goals.
A student using her laptop to earn a university degree with an icon of a school building with a clock to the left

Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

A university degree can prepare you for entry-level roles, a new career or help you advance in your current field. The potential to earn a higher salary and lower unemployment rates are just a couple of reasons why pursuing a degree is worth it, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).*

Other benefits of a college degree include:

  • A broader range of job prospects
  • Expansion of your professional network
  • Personal growth

Depending on your goals, completing a degree could mean earning an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree:

Olivia Casey, MEd, an admission lead at SNHU

Thanks to the flexibility provided by the different types of programs and degree options available, you can often balance work and personal responsibilities with your coursework.

Even if it's been years since you've learned in a classroom setting, your education can often be tailored to your schedule and needs, said Olivia Casey, MEd, admission lead at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

"I speak with adult learners coming back to school after being out of the classroom for a long time, and their biggest fear is they can't do it," she said. "But you can. Education is for everyone: there's no right or wrong time to start a degree."

Can You Earn More Money With a Degree?

No matter what degree you complete, the data shows it still pays to advance your education. A degree resulted in higher median weekly salaries for workers in 2023, BLS reports:

  • Those with associate degrees earned a median of $1,058 per week, or 17.7% more than high school graduates who earned just $899 weekly.*
  • Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earned a median weekly salary of $1,493, while those with master’s degrees earned $1,737.*
  • Holders of doctorates or professional degrees enjoyed weekly median salaries of $2,109 and $2,206, respectively.*

It's important to remember that these numbers represent an average and could vary widely depending on your job, field, employer, major, geographic location and degree type.

A University Degree Pays Off in Personal Satisfaction

Roberto King Williams, a 2023 SNHU graduate with a bachelor's in psychology with a concentration in addiction studiesRoberto King Williams '23, a veteran and a father of five from Germantown, Maryland, recently earned a bachelor's degree in psychology with a concentration in addiction studies at SNHU. He juggled his online degree program while working two jobs and launching a nonprofit organization that helps veterans struggling with homelessness, substance abuse disorders and mental health issues.

His organization aims to serve as a “resource broker” for veterans seeking assistance. He credited his university experience for giving him the tools to bring his dream to life and set an example for others in his community.

“A lot of young kids look up to me, and I try to counsel as many people as I can, encourage them to be a better person," Williams said. "Hopefully, I can get an opportunity to motivate more people through my actions and the things I've learned through the program.”

Find Your Program

Does a Degree Still Have Value to Employers?

While some companies are dropping or loosening their degree requirements in favor of skill-based hiring, a recent study from Harvard Business School and The Burning Glass Institute have found that employers haven't changed their actual hiring behavior (PDF Source).

A report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce also projects that, by 2031, 72% of jobs in the country will require a degree or some sort of post-secondary training. Of those jobs, 29% will require some college or an associate degree and 42% will require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

A university degree is worth it because it shows employers that you have the technical skills and the “soft skills” needed to be successful in your role. According to a recent LinkedIn study, some of the skills employers most often look for in candidates include problem-solving skills, the ability to learn new things, analytical skills and the ability to communicate clearly.

If you’re concerned about future employment, BLS data shows that having a degree decreased the risk of unemployment for people in 2023.*

Workers with an associate degree had a 2.7% unemployment rate, those with a bachelor’s degree had a 2.2% unemployment rate and those with a master’s degree had a 2% unemployment rate, according to BLS.* Those with only a high school diploma had a 3.9% unemployment rate, BLS reported.*

What Degrees are Employers Looking For?

Employers are looking for candidates with degrees and majors that will prepare them to apply their critical thinking and technical skills on the job. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2022, the top five most common degree fields were:

  • Business management and administration
  • Psychology
  • General business
  • Nursing
  • Accounting

While engineering, computer science and other STEM degrees didn't make the top five majors list in 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics in 2021 reported that 5% and 3% of college degrees were awarded in these majors, respectively.

Some of today’s most in-demand jobs can be found in these sectors, and earning a degree can make you attractive to employers.


A blue image with yellow and white gear iconsDemand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workers continues to surge and is expected to grow 10.8% by 2023, far faster than non-STEM positions, according to BLS.* These roles include computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering and life and physical science roles, as well as managerial, teaching and sales jobs related to these areas.

In 2023, STEM workers earned a median annual salary of $101,650, according to BLS.* Some roles, such as information security analyst, which typically require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, are expected to grow a whopping 32% within the next decade, BLS reported.* Computer and information systems managers, who also typically hold bachelor’s degrees, earned a median salary of $169,510 in 2023, according to BLS.*


A medical clipboard graphic with a yellow cross and a blue background If you’re interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, roles in this field are projected to grow much faster than the average into the next decade, with 1.8 million job openings projected to open each year, according to BLS.*

Depending upon your major and degree, you can prepare yourself for roles such as health information technologist, registered nurse or nurse practitioner. In 2023, according to BLS, health information technologists, who typically enter the field with an associate degree, earned $62,990, whereas registered nurses earned an average median salary of $86,070.*

Business and Management

A graphic with a blue background and a white briefcase iconBLS reports that employment in business and financial roles is also projected to grow faster through 2032, with about 911,400 jobs expected to open each year, on average.* Workers in these roles earned a median annual salary of $79,050 in 2023, according to BLS.*

Individuals working as bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks, who typically enter the field with an associate degree, made a median annual salary of $47,440 in 2023, BLS reports.* Administrative and facilities managers, who typically enter the field with bachelor’s degrees, earned an average median salary of $104,900, according to BLS.*

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can further position you for management roles in several areas of business, including human resources, information systems marketing and operations, to name a few. According to a 2023 report, employers that took part in a survey administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council projected 2023 starting salaries for MBAs to be a median of $125,000, compared to $75,000 for those with bachelor’s degrees (GMAC PDF source).*

Regardless of your degree or field of study, you'll acquire valuable skills that will enhance your appeal to potential employers.

It's Never Too Late to Pursue Your Degree

Nakia Woodard, a 2023 SNHU graduate with a bachelor’s in business administration with a concentration in human resource managementNakia Woodard '23, of Cincinnati, Ohio, recently completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in human resource management at SNHU while working full-time. She wanted to finish her degree to prepare her for a job in human resources.

Just a few months into the program, she secured an HR generalist job at a small manufacturing company and began working with her supervisor to grow into a future management position. Woodard credited the university's accessibility team and advisors for regularly checking in with her on her progress, which helped her reach the finish line.

"I wish I could've done it earlier, but I don't regret any steps I did or didn't take," Woodard said. "Timing is different for everyone, so if you're thinking about going back to school, do it when it's right for you."

Education Sparks Future Growth

In her admission role, Casey helps adult students from various backgrounds determine their goals, evaluate program options and plan their schedules. Many students have shared with her the impact earning a degree has had on their lives — beyond landing a new job or earning more money. Some said their degrees helped them become more confident, communicate better or solve tough problems they couldn't tackle before. Others said college changed the lives of the people around them.

"When we hear education changes lives, we often latch on to the job or income part," she said. "But education changes your life in every facet you can think of."

Determining whether a university degree is worth it depends on your career goals, personal situation and future aspirations. While completing a degree requires work, the long-term benefits are worthwhile for many.

A degree can change your life. Choose your program from 200+ SNHU degrees that can take you where you want to go.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.

Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ’11G is a writer who covers K-12 and higher education topics, including policy and the role of digital technology in education. She spent almost a decade working in various marketing roles at an educational assessment company before launching a strategic marketing company. Maddocks earned a master's degree in marketing from Southern New Hampshire University and a bachelor's degree in English/ journalism from the University of New Hampshire. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

Two students walking in front of Monadnock Hall

SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.