Today’s students have a dizzying array of career avenues not available to earlier generations. On the one hand, it is exciting to have so many possibilities. But it can also feel stressful and overwhelming, especially with people unrelentingly asking, “What are you planning on doing with your life?” If you have no sense of purpose or direction, you could waste precious time in low-paying, dead-end jobs. Choosing a career path early can give you a jump-start on a bright future.
Salary and Earning Potential
Following a career path paves the way for economic security throughout your lifespan. Most people do not fall into their dream job by sheer luck. Completing a 2-or-4-year degree opens the door to your membership in the middle-or-upper class. Only a sliver of the population achieves fame and fortune through extraordinary talent alone. A high school education is required for most jobs that pay above minimum wage. In 2016, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that high school graduates make an average of $1.4 million total earnings during their workforce years. College graduates have a lifetime earnings potential of $2.5 million and those with a master’s degree can make $2.9 million. The path to a gratifying job with a good salary starts with matching your talents to college majors and technical programs of interest to you.
Getting out of bed on a cold, cloudy Monday morning is easier when you don’t hate your job. Workers are most content when given an opportunity to use their skills and talents in a meaningful way. More than any other generation, 88 percent of millennials find it especially important to work at a job that supports their career development, according to job satisfaction surveys reported by the Society for Human Resource Management. Other key contributors to job happiness include feeling respected by everyone at work and receiving good wages and benefits. Choosing a career path will likely involve postsecondary training with internships or apprenticeships, which can offer assurance that you are on the right track to finding a job you will enjoy for many years.
High-paying, appealing careers are within your reach if you develop a career path and follow it. A good job can buffer anxiety over the high cost of living, especially skyrocketing rent or mortgage payments. Also, college graduates have the highest rate of employment. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 88 percent of college-educated adults were employed in 2016. Having a job that won’t go away during a recession is critical. The risk of being unemployed is greatest for high school dropouts who have a dismal employment rate of 48 percent because so many jobs require some type of post-secondary training. Meandering about in various unskilled jobs may suit your present lifestyle but cost you later in terms of job security.
Freedom to Retire One Day Goal-oriented students who know where they are heading in life can settle into an interesting, lucrative career after successfully completing an associate or bachelor’s degree. Professional and highly skilled jobs typically come with attractive benefits that include retirement plans. Retirement may be the last thing on your mind, but more and more people are indefinitely delaying retirement because of cuts to social security and pensions. The day may come when you want the option of retiring. The Economic Policy Institute reports that increasing segments of the population will struggle to make ends meet in their retirement years. Single retired women earn less than men but tend to live longer, so they may run out of retirement savings, which forces many elderly women back into the workforce.