Students are often told of the importance of higher education. Higher pay, more job opportunities and better chances of moving up within a company are all examples of how a college degree trumps a high school diploma. The journey of earning a college degree is often considered nearly as valuable as the degree itself. It can be argued, though, that high school graduates may also have the same intelligence and aptitude as college grads.

Functions

A high school diploma certifies that an individual has completed the basic education guidelines as mandated by local, state or federal governments. High school diplomas have little variance in regards to the curriculum; most American high schools have similar program requirements. College degrees signify a higher understanding or educational programs. Degrees are available in a wide variety of fields and offer better individual career specialization. High school diplomas, on the other hand, are typically awarded to high school students who have completed a generalized curriculum in basic areas of study such as math, science, history and language arts.

Benefits

According to the College Board, a college graduate is likely to earn more money than a high school graduate with a lack of college experience. Using United States census data from 2007, the College Board noted that those who have a high school diploma earn roughly $32,000 per year. The amount earned increases with the level of the degree attained. A typical bachelor’s degree holder makes about $20,000 more on average. An individual who wishes to continue his education into a masters or higher professional degree can expect his pay to increase even more.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Between 2004 and 2014, job openings for workers who are entering their occupation for the first time and who don’t have a bachelor’s degree are expected to total roughly 40 million.” BLS goes on to note that the number of job openings for those who only have a high school diploma more than doubles the prospected job outlook for those with a four-year degree.

Time Frame

Pursuing a college degree will take longer than the average high school diploma. Most students finish high school around the age of 18, after an approximate four-year program of study. Those who decide to enroll in a college or university can typically expect to earn a college degree in a four-year time frame. The length of time may be shorter or longer, however, depending on each student’s area of study, workload and overall success in classes.

Considerations

Some people who seek higher education may find that college degrees may not pay off for them. Those with degrees may earn a higher salary, but the amount of student loan debt lessens their overall income. Some people, such as Kim Clark of ABC News, argue that “it's the person, and not the degree, that determines success.” Such philosophies have been proven true by the likes of Microsoft chairman and co-founder Bill Gates, a college dropout.

Similarities

As the number of people enrolling in college has increased, so has the saturation and inflation of the process. With more and more degree holders among the general population, a typical four-year degree is considered by some in “the same esteem a high school diploma once had,” according to the Montreal Gazette. Although a bachelor’s degree is still considered a benefit in the workplace, it does not guarantee a career upon graduation.