Is a degree worth it?

A university degree is well worth it, and here's why.

The tertiary education environment is dynamic. Universities respond and adapt to changes in industry and research requirements. They navigate a path through changes in government and funding. And increased global communication means education is available around the world like never before.

Professor Toni Downes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) of Charles Sturt University (CSU), is fully aware of the situation: “The pace of change in society and professions means universities have to be agile, responding to social, political, economic and technological currents, and offer students the means to make their career goals a reality in a dynamic workplace. Of course, this presents challenges, but meeting challenges is a key part of what university is all about.”

However, as universities face these challenges, you might be forgiven for wondering whether getting a university degree is really worth it.

Here are four reasons why it definitely is.

Earning potential

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk money. After all, while money might not literally make the world go round, it is essential to attaining a good quality of life. And getting a university education vastly increases an individual’s earning potential over their lifetime.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that university graduates earn on average 56 per cent more than those with only secondary school qualifications.

And the Sydney Morning Herald projected that a university degree is worth $1,180,112 more in earnings over the course of a lifetime compared to non-graduates.

You can’t really argue with figures like that.

You can’t really argue with CSU’s figures either. For instance, the average starting annual salary for our graduates is $60,000, among the highest in the country.

Career prospects

Earning potential links to the career prospects that a university degree opens up for people.

The advanced knowledge and skills that a degree gives students mean that they are capable – and, crucially, generally seen by employers to be capable – of taking on professional roles straight after graduation. While they may not yet have experience in the field, the level of learning attained during a degree means that graduates are considered to have the aptitude to meet the challenges of a role, and to be able to learn quickly and adapt to the workplace environment.

These skills also mean that graduates have lots of opportunities for career advancement. Not only do graduates have extensive knowledge in their area of expertise, they also have skills and confidence when it comes to leading and adapting to changing working environments. These changes will happen at an increasing pace in the future, as technology and globalisation shift the working world as much as they influence education.

A university degree ensures you gain all the skills and knowledge you need to step into the workplace with confidence. A 2017 Department of Education report found that nine out of 10 employers say university graduates are well-prepared by their university education for their current job, and that 88 per cent of graduates said their qualification prepared them well for their current job. Universities Australia’s Acting Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the report showed that “university education and research is fundamentally important to ensuring a robust skills and knowledge base to withstand seismic changes in our society and economy”.

At CSU we make sure our students start working towards their dream career from day one. So it’s no surprise that we have the highest graduate employment rate in Australia, with 83.9 per cent of students finding full-time work within four months of graduating.

Being part of a community

Going to university offers the chance to become part of a unique community, which has three primary benefits.

  1. It exposes students to cultures, ideas, personalities and values from all over the world.
  2. Learning with a group of people with the same passion for a subject, and with academics that are leaders in that field, creates a professional network that starts at university.
  3. It leads to lifelong friendships.

Life-changing skills

Securing a rewarding, engaging career as well as a decent income are important reasons to consider going to university. But there are other, perhaps less tangible, reasons too – reasons that can affect a person’s life in profound ways.

Albert Einstein once said that “The value of a [university] education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” On a similar theme, poet W.B. Yeats wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

What they were both alluding to is that education, particularly at the higher level of university, develops skills that have an impact on a person’s life far beyond their earning potential and career progression. The challenging, investigative, creative environment that university fosters leads people to develop crucial skills that will last a lifetime, including:

  • critical thinking
  • independence
  • collaboration
  • problem-solving
  • confidence in one’s ideas and abilities.

Of course, such personal skills are incredibly useful in the workplace, but they can also help individuals achieve more across all spheres of life.

A key thing to remember

While the reasons above make a strong case that a university education is definitely a worthwhile venture, they do come with a caveat: getting the right degree is important to securing all these benefits.

Just pursuing a degree for the sake of it, studying something that you are not interested in, or choosing the wrong university can limit the benefits of a university education.

A degree is challenging, but in all the right ways – pushing students to better themselves and to pursue their ideas with a combination of tenacity and critical reflection. So students need to choose to study something they are passionate about, that fires their imagination, and to do so at a university that offers the academic expertise, support and experience that will enhance their learning – and the lifelong positive outcomes it brings.

For Toni Downes, the benefits are far-reaching: “At CSU, we believe that education can transform the world, because it transforms people. The unique experience of studying at university – across the intellectual, practical and social spheres – means that graduates are the best placed to thrive in the current and future workforce and – as CSU’s ethos Yindyamarra Winhanganha states – to generate ‘the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in’.”

Invest in a better tomorrow, today

A degree is an investment in your future. If you want improved earning potential, wider career opportunities and to make a real difference in the world, apply to start uni now.