What is the Relationship Between Education and Wealth?

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Earlier this week GoBankingRates.com started a group writing project to examine the relationship between wealth and education. You can see the entries at the Education and Wealth group writing project page. The idea of the group writing project is to take a look at this topic from many angles, and the results have been both…

Earlier this week GoBankingRates.com started a group writing project to examine the relationship between wealth and education.

You can see the entries at the Education and Wealth group writing project page.

The idea of the group writing project is to take a look at this topic from many angles, and the results have been both enlightening and fun!

What is the Relationship Between Education and Wealth?

In my opinion, there is no way to determine the absolute value of a college education – it depends on the degree you get, how you use it, how productive you are, the career field you choose, and many other factors.

I wanted to participate in the writing project and I chose to take a controversial approach by stating You Don’t Need a College Degree, But You Need an Education, where I challenged the value of a college degree.

I am a college graduate and recognize the value of a college degree, but I also know that is not the only way to be successful.

There are dozens of jobs and career fields which do not require a college degree.

The key is being able to provide value and results.

As a follow-up, I wrote the following article which examined: How Much a College Degree is Worth.

This article includes an infographic which shows the average value of various levels of education, starting at a high school diploma and ending at a professional degree.

The difference between the lifetime earnings of someone with a high school education and a Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree is substantial.

But keep in mind these are average lifetime earnings and there will always be situations outside the mean.

Did you know that 23 billionaires on the Forbes 400 didn’t attend college?

That’s right.

According to Forbes, over 6% of the world’s wealthiest never achieved more than a high school degree.

While that percentage might seem small, it shows that obtaining wealth, extreme wealth in this case, is possible without a degree.

If you’d like to consider some more relatable data on wealth and education, comparing degrees and their average salaries is a great place to start.

Just look at the difference between the starting salaries of the low college paying degrees and the highest paying college degrees as an example of the salary ranges people experience.

You can work incredibly hard to earn a 4-year degree and start making just $30,000 a year after graduation, or on the other end of the spectrum, obtain a different 4-year degree and have a starting salary of over $80,000.

It all depends on the professional field you enter and how you perform in it.

In other words, don’t equate a college degree with wealth and success.

The key, in my opinion, is to be able to produce results.

The more value you provide to your employer, the more likely you will be to keep your job and earn more money.

While education can be very important for some fields and could hinder your potential for growth, with other fields education will not be as important.

For example, you must have a degree to be a doctor or nurse, but not necessarily to become an author or web developer.

It’s almost impossible to say whether there is, or isn’t, a connection between education and wealth.

With some industries, there is a direct link between the amount of education and how much you’ll be paid.

With others, the value you bring is going to be much more important than the amount of education you have.

How to Thrive, Degree or No Degree

If you don’t have a college degree, don’t assume you can’t earn an average or above-average income.

Here are some tips to help you advance professionally with or without a college degree:

  • Identify your skills. Knowing what you do well is one of the first keys to success. If you know what skills you possess and what ones need improvement, you’ll see what steps you need to take to fill in the gaps.
  • Pursue your passion. If you have a dream career, research it. You may find that there’s room to grow in the field without a college degree.
  • Be an entrepreneur.  If your skills and passions fit into an area of need, start your own business. If you can become an expert and offer the services people need, you can build a lucrative business.
  • Further your education. Thanks to all of the information and resources on the Internet, you can take free classes which continue your education and help you in your workplace.
  • Become an expert. If you want to make more money, you should take the time to learn some more skills or continue your education in your specific field.
  • Learn a skill. For example, if you’re an office manager, you can learn a new computer program or take a business class at your local college.
  • Do your research. If you don’t know how to make yourself more valuable to your company, simply ask your boss or ask your coworkers what sort of skills or abilities could help the company.

Bottom Line

A college degree can be an incredibly valuable asset, especially in a specialized field.

Once you know what direction you want to take professionally, you can research what degrees are actually worth on average and decide whether or not to pursue one.

Overall, there is more to a successful career than having a degree as its basis.

Part of the problem is considering education as being limited to a two-year or four-year degree, when in reality, it constitutes so much more.

Education encompasses elements like the classes I mentioned above (ones which strengthen your skills as a professional), or seeking field knowledge from your boss or coworkers.

Try taking a few classes with the end goal of learning, rather than obtaining a degree.

To reiterate, it all comes down to value and results.

Put in the work to become the best you can be (whether you have a degree or not), and employers and clients will take notice.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Shaun says

    Great articles. I’m actually pretty sure that I’ll be taking a handful of classes this spring that are related to finance/economics — while I don’t necessarily plan on getting a degree, I think the education in the short run will be worth it.

    I like that people are starting to realize that education really isn’t a one-size-fits all arena — different styles of education are needed for different people and their lifestyles they want. For some, that means college; for others, not so much.


    • Ryan says

      Shaun, I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing, but taking classes for basic computer programming or something similar to help me run my websites. At this point I’m not concerned with a degree – just the information! 🙂

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