I would be very hesitant to conflate higher degrees with being more educated. It certainly can and should happen, but I know plenty of people who have loads of higher degrees and they aren't any more educated than they were before, but they sure look great on paper!
In a practical sense I agree with what some people have posted previously, that it can open doors and unfortunately our society currently functions on pieces of paper that may or may not have any value.
But in a philosophical sense, I think people often could learn a lot more by working in a different job or by trying to listen to people they never listened to before than they can by getting one more degree.
Although higer education is expensive, there are still many professions where you cannot get anywhere without a degree. The key is to decide what you want to do BEFORE you go to college. You can also cut down the cost of college by going to community college first, and being very careful about taking the right classes.
For those who are among the truly educated, the question is no moot point, for it is never one which must be argued. However, in efforts to convince those without higher educations of anything more than the fact that statistics show that those with higher education make more money on the average is a difficult one, indeed.
A statement made by an inmate in a federal prison seems one of the strongest arguments to be heard. After he was able to take courses online and obtain a degree, he told one of the employees in the Education Department that he felt that if he had had the opportunity to have obtained higher education when he was younger, he would probably have not ended up in prison. He explained by saying, "I realize what a difference education makes in a person. For, "it opens up new avenues of thinking for you."
Time and time again, those of us who are educated notice how others make errors in judgment which often cost them dearly either in monetary or interpersonal matters. So, beyond the financial argument, obtaining an education and opening up "new avenues" provides a person a richer, more enjoyable, and, thus, more rewarding life.
A college education is an absolute necessity for so many careers -- education, medicine, accounting, law, business, engineering to name a few. There are fewer and fewer opportunities for "on the job training" that will allow the employee to climb very far up the ladder. Another interesting point is in how in so many areas, the higher education can't end with the bachelor's degree. Continuing one's education beyond that degree is a requirement in many fields.
There is a big commitment here in NZ to the concept of 'lifelong learning'. This means that education does not stop really at any point: when young people enter the workforce there is an expectation that training and appropriate opportunities to develop further skills and qualifications are offered. As teachers we are expected to undertake annual professional development - often weekly in my school. Education doesn't have to mean attending a certain place or getting a certificate. It means learning more about yourself and what you choose as your career path. Continuing training in any job separates those who often just make ends meet and those who make progress to improve themselve sand their lives.
There are statistics that float around from time-to-time about the financial importance of education. Years ago, someone could graduate from high school and start a business or go into construction and, with careful planning, provide for him or herself and family.
Those days are gone. Small business struggle to stay afloat. Construction workers without training, who start from the ground up, push their bodies mercilessly, and end up with many physical ailments. I do not believe there are benefits in these kinds of jobs (though I'm not sure), and with the economy today, construction cannot always offer consistent employment...depending upon who you work for.
In the past, a Bachelor's degree was a guarantee of a good-paying job. The market for jobs is now so competitive, that many students leave undergraduate school and move directly into graduate school. This is not to say that a graduate degree is required, or that someone cannot get a job and return to school at night for the Master's degree. In teaching, some districts are said to hesitate to hire the certified teacher that already has a Master's because they must pay more money upfront. It's hard to know if this is truly the case, but starting grad. classes cannot hurt, even if you choose to wait to finish the degree until after getting a contract.
If one chooses not to attend college after high school, as mentioned in #6, vocational training at a technical school can provide you with great skills that are more likely to get you a decent job. Often these schools can place you when you graduate. And the organized training you receive is much more valuable in obtaining employment as opposed to competing with someone who has no training. This is an important option not to overlook, as some people just cannot sit at a desk for hours to learn: they must be up and using their hands, and are often quite gifted doing what others only wish they could do.
Technological training is another option of importance. There are technologies being developed today that will need workers, and other jobs that have not even been created yet because the technology has not yet been created.
Health care professionals will always been in high demand. It's the nature of life and growing old, and hospitals are becoming very competitive to have good people work for them, and the public choosing to use their facility.
Education of some sort is a must. High school is not enough. And whatever you choose to do, you must plan with the future ahead in mind: so you have benefits of some kind; a solid retirement plan (start early! and don't touch it); and learn to live within your means regardless of what your friends do. If you don't like what you're doing, look into alternative training programs, and try to do so before you have a family to support.
The person you are today, and the lifestyle you may satisfied with today, may not meet with revised expectations you may discover you have in the future. And above all, never tell yourself you "can't" do it. Student loans are available with low interest payback if you work through a school's financial aid office.
If it's going to take four years? do it. The four years will pass one way or another. Better to look back and say, "I'm glad I got that out of the way," than looking back with regret four years later saying to yourself, "If I had started four years ago, I would be done now."
School/training are absolutely necessary if you want to live a comfortable life.
I have been taking our students to visit an area High School Vocational program for the past 7 or 8 years when they are 9th graders and then to a Technical College as 11th graders. During that time the requirements as far as reading have increased greatly. They now tell our students that you are going to have to read on at least a 12th grade level to be successful in the Technical programs. This being said, there are fewer and fewer jobs available for those that do not extend their education in some way beyond high school.
An education further than High school should not always mean going to a 4 year college. There are so many 2 year programs, or certificate programs that many students should pursue if they are talented in certain areas. This could certainly cut down on the massive student loan debt that is getting out of control.
I have not been in High school since 1994, so I'm not exactly sure what the curriculum consists of these days. I had a wonderful educational foundation, but with so many companies requiring degrees, certification, and tests upon tests just to get to the interview, then an education beyond High school is critical, but I am a huge proponent that it does not have to be a traditional 4 year college education.
As the nation has progressed and the demands of technology have increased, high school is only sufficient for those willing to accept only those occupations which require little or no training. Many schools, mine included, offer technical training in such areas as carpentry, welding, auto body repair, etc.; yet even these have more and more technical challenges. It is not necessary that everyone receive a liberal arts college degree; however some post high school training is essential if one wishes to pursue a career in an area that requires a degree of trained expertise.
Public education seems to consider college a natural next step following high school. So much so, that I'm afraid students who have other goals and desires seem to be marginalized. However, Pohnpei expresses a beautiful reason for educating ourselves in lots of areas "I like that I don't have to answer "I don't know" very often when my kids ask me questions." Thanks Pohnpei.
From a purely practical point of view, it is important to get more education than this because you are more likely to get a secure job if you have more education. For example, in the current economic situation in the United States, the unemployment rate for people with college degrees has not gone up very much while the unemployment rates for people with a high school diploma only has jumped a great deal.
From a personal point of view, I am glad I have a lot of education. The world is, to me, much more interesting when you can understand more of what is going on. I like that I have some amount of knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. I like that I don't have to answer "I don't know" very often when my kids ask me questions. Having a college education helps make this possible and it is, therefore, very personally rewarding to me to have more education.