Further Education or First Job? How to Decide What’s Right For You


Further Education or First Job? How to Decide What’s Right For You

Even though you may still be in high school, it’s never too early to start planning your career and get thinking about your professional future. As you’ll already know, come your high school graduation, you’ll have two paths that lie ahead of you: you can choose further education, or you could jump straight into a job.

So, further education or first job? What do most people do?

There’s not really a clear answer. The latest statistics show that further education just takes the lead, with around 66% of high school graduates choosing to enroll in colleges or universities. However, the number of students enrolled in public universities in the United States dropped from 15.14 million in 2010 to 14.61 million in 2020, suggesting that an increasing number are heading straight to work. 

So what pathway should you choose? Well, no matter what your teachers say, what your parents say, or what your friends say, there’s really no right or wrong choice. Some people will choose to get a degree or higher qualification, and others will decide to start applying for jobs, but remember that both options are OK! 

The most important thing is to do what’s right for you. Do that which can help you achieve the professional future you’ve been dreaming of. Here are some things to think about when deciding what’s best for you:

Your current experience

Despite what you may have heard, qualifications still matter. In fact, one-third of all businesses require some sort of degree for even the most basic entry-level position. Education software firm Ellucian’s recent study shows that employers believe a degree is more important than credentials in a huge number of areas, including technical skills, specialized knowledge, networking skills, and soft skills. 

So does that mean you should choose further education? It really depends on your current experience. For example, if you’ve already completed a Bachelor’s program, then you may feel you’re at a point where you could put your skills to good use in the workforce. The flip side to this, however, is that gaining a higher qualification—like a Master’s or a DBA—could help you to stand out from the crowd. 

Your career choice

It’s clear that not all jobs require a degree. Data from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there is a wide variety of high paying jobs, such as phlebotomist, insurance salesperson, and plumber, that welcome applications from those without a college education. It is natural that there will be a selection of careers where practical on-the-job training is more beneficial than theoretical practice. 

So, whether you should choose further education or your first job really depends on what you want to do. There are some jobs that you simply won’t even be considered for if you don’t have the right training under your belt. You should have completed an undergraduate nursing program to apply for nursing positions, for example. Further education gives you lots of core skills you can build upon later. 

Your financial status

Perhaps one of the biggest things swaying high school graduates towards getting a job is the cost of further education. It’s no secret that you’ll need to have done some financial prep for college. The good news is that there are ways to reduce costs. Some schools offer scholarships, while others provide remote learning courses that can be a more affordable way to earn a degree without the associated costs. 

On the other side of the coin, while further education may cost more than getting a job, Deloitte reports that the average four-year college course will pay for itself by the time the student turns 40. So the outgoings associated with further education aren’t really outgoings at all; they’re an investment. However, if you are struggling financially, getting a job can help you to save for college in the future. 

Your salary expectations

Does further education guarantee that you’ll be drawing in a higher salary than if you’d skipped college? Not at all. Just look at Bill Gates. He’s one of the richest men in the world. He’s also a Harvard dropout! But even so, the fact of the matter is that, on average, graduates earn more. So, if you’ve got your sights set on earning a substantial annual salary, you may want to consider getting a college degree. 

Recent reports suggest that the pay gap between what graduates earn and what non-graduates earn can be quite sizable in some states. In fact, in New York, Virginia, Texas, and California, there’s more than a 95% difference between graduate and non-graduate salaries. There are many possible reasons for this, but some of it may come down to further education building a solid foundation on which to develop. 

Your confidence

Let’s get real for a moment. The truth is that not all high school graduates are ready to enter the workforce. It can be a massive shock to the system to move from being a senior—finishing at 3pm and enjoying an afternoon relaxing—to being a full-time employee working from 9 am to 5:30 pm… plus overtime. Working full time also brings responsibilities you may have not faced before. If you’re unsure about making such a huge leap, further education can act as an excellent transitional tool. 

Perhaps you do feel ready to enter the “real world.” Maybe you’re at a point where you’re ready to close the textbooks and start driving your skills and your passion into something more tangible. That’s great! There really is no right or wrong here. It’s all to do with how confident you are in moving forward and embracing change. Don’t feel forced into doing something that you don’t yet feel ready to experience. 

Education or Job… What’s Best?

As discussed above there’s no definitive winner. There are lots of different things to consider, and what’s right for one student may not be right for the next. The message that can be pulled from all this, however, is that the advantages of supporting your professional future with further education can’t be disputed. While you may not need a degree, it definitely doesn’t hurt to have one!


About the Author:

Anita Sambol

With years of experience as a content strategist and creator, Anita has a 'super-power' of being a clear human voice for brands when talking to their audience. One of the projects she currently enjoys the most is being a content associate to EU Business School, where she's writing about business education, student life and online learning.


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