A college degree was never a guarantee of getting a good job or security in a career. But in today’s economy, and given the high rate of unemployed graduates, is it even less likely that a degree will put you at the top of the list among job candidates? The answer: the job market is more competitive now than it has ever been.

A recent blog post by an investment expert (MyBudget360)  stated the following:

“With college costs going through the roof and in many cases, costing nearly $50,000 a year at private schools many are asking whether some college degrees are even worth pursuing.  Or more importantly, potential students are seeking answers regarding value.  Let us look at this trend more closely:

You’ll find a curious trend here.  Without a doubt, those with a college degree do better in the marketplace.  Take a look at the recession in the early 1990s.  A college degree seemed to be a better buffer at that time than our current recession.  For the first time in record keeping history, the unemployment rate for those with 4-year degrees or higher has passed the 4 percent mark.  Keep in mind that in the United States, only one in four has a bachelor’s degree or higher.  We tend to think of this group as largely immune but in deep recessions like this one, a college degree no longer protects you from the fluctuations of the market.”

These trends might be disturbing on the surface. But there is always a silver lining if you look at the bigger picture: college degrees and continuing education can improve your knowledge and your skill level, making it much easier to find a job and leverage that toward a profitable career. Even though it is less of a buffer than it used to be, a college degree will give you an edge in the job hunt if you do some added preparation (In College? It’s time to start the job hunt!).

The key here is to make wise decisions related to the cost and type of education you choose; and take advantage of the opportunities available to make those important connections while you are in college.

Making the right college choices

Before you plunk down thousands of dollars for a college degree, think about the cost vs. return factor. Is the cost of your degree going to pay off over time? Are you going to earn enough money in your chosen field to rationalize spending a fortune on that education? If your chosen path is a traditionally low-paying field (i.e. social work, teaching, etc.), spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a private college education is not a wise financial choice. Consider other options: community college, state schools, and technical colleges are viable choices. Payscale.com provides numerous calculators that will help you determine the financial future of your chosen career, thus helping you evaluate the cost of that expensive college education. CollegeStats.org has also compiled a list of articles to read related to the cost of college: What’s a College Degree Actually Worth: 20 Good Answers.

Making the right professional connections

Job hunting is just as much about whom you know as it is about your qualifications. There can be thousands of applicants for a job, but the one who has a connection with the company and is qualified will always get the job. AllBusiness.com makes this observation:

“Here is an interesting mental exercise…. Take a moment to reflect on a few of the better things that have happened over the course of a person’s business or personal life. Chances are some of the biggest successes happened as a result of relationships that started simply because of chance encounters with new people who were met unexpectedly along the way. Regardless of the situation, rubbing elbows at an industry event, or worse, waiting for hours for a delayed flight, these unexpected meetings can sometimes turn into the most fruitful relationships.”

At the very least, paying attention to those relationships could and probably will make your job hunt more effective and productive. Taking the time to cultivate those relationships and add them to your professional network will add another layer to your job search.

If you are heading off to college in the future, considering the addition of continuing education to your career path, or in college at the moment, it’s my hope that this information will help you make an informed decision about your future.

Did your degree land you that dream job? Or did you have to work hard to make the right connections before it happened? Leave a comment and share your experiences!

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