With the rising costs of higher education, many wonder if a college degree is truly necessary in today’s job market. The question often arises – is college just an extension of high school, or does it provide unique value beyond secondary schooling?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: College is not considered secondary school. College, also known as higher education or tertiary education, comes after secondary school and provides more advanced education and credentials.

Differences Between Secondary and Postsecondary Education

Grade Levels

One of the main differences between secondary and postsecondary education is the grade levels they cater to. Secondary education typically refers to high school education, which includes grades 9 to 12.

On the other hand, postsecondary education refers to any education beyond high school, such as college or university.


The cost of secondary education is generally covered by public funding, with little to no cost for students and their families. However, postsecondary education often comes with a hefty price tag. Tuition fees, textbooks, accommodation, and other associated costs can add up, making it necessary for students and their families to plan and budget accordingly.

Academic Focus

The academic focus in secondary education is typically more broad-based, covering a wide range of subjects required for a high school diploma. In postsecondary education, students have the opportunity to choose a specific field of study, allowing for a more specialized and focused academic experience.


In secondary education, students are taught by a variety of teachers specializing in different subjects. In postsecondary education, instructors are often professors or experts in their field, providing students with a higher level of expertise and knowledge.

Class Sizes

Secondary education generally has larger class sizes, with a higher student-to-teacher ratio. In postsecondary education, class sizes tend to be smaller, allowing for more personalized attention and interaction between students and instructors.

Campus Life

Secondary education is typically confined to a single school campus, where students attend classes, participate in extracurricular activities, and socialize with their peers. In postsecondary education, students often have the option to live on campus or commute, and they may have access to a wider range of facilities, clubs, and organizations.


Secondary education places a strong emphasis on interscholastic sports, with students participating in various athletic activities as part of their school experience. While some colleges and universities also have competitive sports programs, athletics generally play a smaller role in the overall postsecondary education experience.

Degree/Credentials Earned

Upon completion of secondary education, students receive a high school diploma. In postsecondary education, students have the opportunity to earn a variety of degrees and credentials, such as associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and even doctoral degrees, depending on their chosen field of study.

Understanding the differences between secondary and postsecondary education is crucial for students and their families as they navigate their educational journey. It helps them make informed decisions about their future and choose the path that aligns with their goals and aspirations.

Benefits of a College Education

Higher Lifetime Earnings

One of the key benefits of obtaining a college education is the potential for higher lifetime earnings. Studies have consistently shown that individuals with a college degree tend to earn more money over their lifetime compared to those with only a high school diploma.

According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, the median weekly earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree were $1,305, while those with only a high school diploma earned $746.

This significant difference in earnings can have a profound impact on an individual’s financial well-being and future opportunities.

Lower Unemployment Rates

Another advantage of a college education is the lower unemployment rates among college graduates. While the job market can be competitive for individuals of all educational backgrounds, statistics consistently show that individuals with a college degree have a lower risk of unemployment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals with a bachelor’s degree was 2.8% in 2020, compared to 6.5% for those with only a high school diploma. This lower unemployment rate can provide a sense of security and stability in one’s career.

More Job Opportunities

Having a college degree opens up a wider range of job opportunities. Many professions require a specific level of education, and a college degree can be a minimum requirement for entry into certain fields.

For example, careers in medicine, engineering, law, and education typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher. By obtaining a college education, individuals can gain access to these specialized fields and increase their chances of landing a fulfilling and well-paying job.

Higher Job Satisfaction

Individuals who have pursued a college education often report higher levels of job satisfaction. This can be attributed to several factors, including the opportunity for career growth, increased job security, and the ability to work in a field they are passionate about.

Additionally, a college education equips individuals with valuable skills and knowledge that can contribute to their success and satisfaction in the workplace. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, college graduates are more likely to say that their job is a career or a stepping stone to a career rather than just a job to get by.

Counterarguments: Is College Really Necessary?

Rising Costs and Student Debt

One of the main arguments against the necessity of college is the rising cost of tuition and the burden of student debt. With the cost of higher education skyrocketing in recent years, many individuals question whether the financial investment is worth it.

According to a report by CNBC, student loan debt in the United States has reached a staggering $1.6 trillion. This alarming statistic raises concerns about the long-term financial implications of pursuing a college degree.

Some Jobs Don’t Require a Degree

Another argument against the necessity of college is that some jobs do not require a degree. While it is true that certain professions, such as trade jobs or entrepreneurship, may not require a traditional college education, it is important to consider the potential limitations and opportunities for career growth.

While it is possible to succeed without a degree, having a college education can provide individuals with a broader range of job prospects and higher earning potential.

Possibility of Dropping Out Before Completing

One concern that individuals may have when considering college is the possibility of dropping out before completing their degree. It is estimated that around 40% of students who enter college do not graduate within six years, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

This dropout rate raises questions about the value of a college education if a significant number of students are unable to complete their studies. However, it is essential to note that dropping out is not solely due to the lack of necessity for college, but can be influenced by various factors such as financial difficulties, personal circumstances, or career changes.

Delayed Entry to Full-Time Workforce

One argument against the necessity of college is the delayed entry into the full-time workforce. While individuals who pursue a college education may spend several years studying and accumulating student debt, proponents argue that the long-term benefits outweigh the temporary setback.

Studies have shown that individuals with a college degree tend to have higher earning potential and better job security in the long run. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree are approximately 67% higher than those with only a high school diploma.

While these counterarguments against the necessity of college raise valid points, it is important to consider individual circumstances, career goals, and personal aspirations when making the decision.

Ultimately, the value of a college degree can vary depending on the individual and their specific goals and aspirations.

Alternatives to Traditional College

While college is often seen as the default path after high school, it is important to note that there are alternative options available for individuals who may not want to pursue a traditional four-year degree.

These alternatives can provide valuable skills and knowledge, and can lead to successful careers in various fields. Here are some alternatives to consider:

Community College

Community colleges offer a cost-effective option for higher education. They provide a wide range of courses and programs, allowing students to explore different fields of study before committing to a specific career path.

Community colleges often have smaller class sizes, which can provide a more personalized learning experience. Additionally, many community colleges have partnerships with universities, making it easier for students to transfer credits and continue their education if desired.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, nearly half of all undergraduate students in the United States are enrolled in a community college.

Vocational/Trade Schools

Vocational or trade schools focus on providing students with the skills and knowledge needed for specific careers. These schools offer hands-on training in fields such as healthcare, automotive technology, culinary arts, and more.

The programs are often shorter in duration compared to traditional college programs, allowing students to enter the workforce sooner. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, trade school graduates often have higher employment rates and earn competitive salaries in their chosen fields.


Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, allowing individuals to learn a trade or skill while earning a wage. Apprenticeships are available in a variety of industries, including construction, manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology.

This hands-on learning approach gives individuals the opportunity to gain practical experience and develop valuable industry connections. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, apprenticeships can lead to higher wages and increased job security.


Bootcamps are intensive, short-term training programs that focus on specific skills, such as coding, data analysis, or digital marketing. These programs are designed to quickly equip individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce in high-demand fields.

Bootcamps often have industry partnerships and provide hands-on projects and real-world experience. According to Course Report, the bootcamp industry has grown significantly in recent years, with an estimated 23,043 graduates in 2019.

Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning allows individuals to take charge of their education by pursuing knowledge and skills on their own terms. This can involve online courses, tutorials, books, or mentorship programs.

Self-directed learners have the flexibility to choose what they want to learn and when they want to learn it. With the abundance of online resources available today, self-directed learning has become more accessible than ever before.

Websites such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer a wide range of courses and tutorials in various subjects.

It is important to note that these alternatives to traditional college are not mutually exclusive. Many individuals may choose to combine multiple options to create a unique educational path that aligns with their goals and interests.

Ultimately, the key is to explore different options, consider personal strengths and career aspirations, and make an informed decision about the best path to take.

Key Takeaways

College Provides Advanced Education Beyond High School

College is considered to be the next step in education after completing high school. It offers students the opportunity to pursue more advanced knowledge and skills in their chosen field of study. While secondary school focuses on providing a broad education across various subjects, college allows students to specialize in a specific area and gain in-depth knowledge.

This advanced education can open up doors to a wide range of career paths and provide a solid foundation for future success.

College Graduates See Higher Earnings and More Opportunities

Statistics consistently show that college graduates tend to earn higher salaries and have more career opportunities compared to those with only a high school diploma. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for individuals with a bachelor’s degree were $1,248, while those with only a high school diploma earned $746.

Additionally, college graduates are more likely to have access to job benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off. The higher earning potential and increased job opportunities make college a worthwhile investment for many individuals.

College May Not Be the Only Path to a Successful Career

While college can provide numerous advantages, it is important to note that it may not be the only path to a successful career. Some individuals may choose to pursue alternative options such as vocational training, apprenticeships, or entrepreneurship.

These paths can lead to fulfilling and lucrative careers in various industries. It is crucial for individuals to carefully evaluate their interests, skills, and career goals before deciding whether or not college is the right choice for them.

Each person’s journey is unique, and what works for one individual may not work for another.

Regardless of the path chosen, lifelong learning and continuous skill development are essential in today’s rapidly changing job market.

For further information on the benefits of college education, you can visit the U.S. Department of Education website or refer to Bureau of Labor Statistics for detailed earnings and employment data.


While college comes with major investments of time and money, statistics show college graduates still fare better in the job market and earn higher wages over their lifetime. However, college is not the only path to career success.

Alternatives like vocational training, bootcamps, or self-directed learning may be more suitable depending on one’s skills, interests, and career goals. In the end, the decision of whether to pursue higher education depends on your individual needs and aspirations.

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