Heading to college to get a degree can have a large number of benefits. Students are able to make new friends, have unique experiences, explore their interests, learn more about subjects that interest them and expose themselves to new cultures and walks of life. Of course, the benefits of college aren’t just social and academic– there are some pretty serious financial boons to be had from a college degree as well. Those with a college degree will be able to pursue a number of different professions and will find themselves qualified for higher salaries and promotions, doors that might otherwise be closed to them, and will make significantly more over their lifetime as a result. While college can be a significant investment, especially if you’re attending a private school or don’t have scholarships, it is one of the best ones you can make and one of the smartest uses of money out there. There are few better ways of illustrating this than simply looking at the numbers.

  • College grads will make more on average. While students graduating from high school who enters into full-time work right away and don’t head to college might have a few years of earning on their college-bound peers and less initial debt, the benefits are negligible when compared to the average salaries earned by high school grads versus college grads, even in entry-level jobs. The average annual income for high school grads is $30,400. Those with a bachelors degree can expect to earn an average of $52,200 a year over their career, a difference of $21,800 a year. The gap grows when higher education is pursued, with those at the master’s and doctoral levels earning an average $62,000 and $89,000 respectively.
  • College grads have more lucrative career options. Most careers that offer individuals the chance to make big bucks, outside of starting their own businesses, require a college degree. While it’s not impossible to climb the business ladder without a college degree, it’s certainly the exception rather than the rule. Most CEOs, business owners, and top executives have college degrees, with only 15% not being college educated. Even if you don’t have aspirations that high, getting into any kind of management or leadership position can be more difficult without a college degree.
  • Over their lifetime, college grads will earn significantly more. While one might naturally assume that college grads will earn more, the reality of just how much more can be shocking. Over their lifetime, high school grads can expect to earn about $1.2 million. That sounds pretty good until you compare it to the earnings of college grads, expected to make about $2.1 million on average. That’s nearly one million dollars of difference over a career, making the tens of thousands of college grads invested in their education more than worth it.
  • College grads will have an easier time finding a job. Part of the reason for having a college degree is such a great asset is that it makes you more desirable to employers and thus makes it easier to find a job. Unemployment rates for those who have only high school education versus those will college degrees demonstrate this. High school grads have an unemployment rate of a little over 9% while college grads only face about 5.75% unemployment. Whether in a good job market or bad, that difference is significant.

Of course, while getting a college degree comes with some big financial pros, it has its downside as well, with many students graduating with substantial debt. For most, this debt will be worth the cost as the potential for future earnings far outweighs their initial investment. Students do need to be careful, however, not to take on too much debt especially if they are entering into careers where they will not be able to manage high loan repayments as school loan debt cannot be erased– even through bankruptcy.

Even with its downsides, education is largely an asset to those who choose to pursue it and learning shouldn’t stop with the attainment of a college degree. Those who keep learning, get additional training and even head back to school for higher degrees and qualifications will find even more financial benefits waiting for them and can help secure themselves long, happy and financially stable careers in whatever field they choose. Not to mention getting the privilege of filling their minds with knowledge and experiencing all that the world has to offer– and what could be better than that?