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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

March 12, 2019

Student Success

Do I need a degree in 2019? (5 reasons why you do).

college student with laptop

As a millennial, you know there are a lot of misconceptions out there about your generation. Man-buns, Instagram, and memes are sometimes the only things people assume  about your generational group. But you know that there are hundreds of positive ways you are impacting culture and the economy.

As a group, millennials like you are going to make up 75% of the workforce by 2020. Your skills, qualifications, and training are having a direct impact on the economy. But frequently the question is asked "Do I need a degree to reach my goals?"

Now more than ever before, millennials are answering that question, “do I need a degree?” with a resounding YES. They are continually proving that degrees are a crucial part of success.

Whether you want to change your career or progress in your current path, a degree can help you get there. Higher education today will impact every aspect of life, and social and cultural changes are creating new standards.

Pew Research has an entire article and research set about how the lives of millennials differ economically and socially from that of Generation X and Baby Boomer individuals. It details how relevant a degree is in increasing career, social, and family success.

What is especially fascinating is how higher education standards have shifted, and how you as a millennial have to view college differently than any prior generation.

These are the five ways that millennials are proving that higher education and degrees are still relevant—and are only growing more relevant with time.


1. There are large income gaps between millennials who went to college and those who didn't.

Income gap

While this has been the case with most generations, the income gap has grown significantly wider between the college-educated and not in recent years.

Millennials with at least a bachelor’s degree and a full-time job had an average annual salary of $56,000 in 2018, according to the Pew Research study. By comparison, millennial workers with only some college education or those who never attended college reported making $36,000 annually.

While degree-holding older generations like Generation X reported making roughly the same amount at the same age, non-educated workers make less and less each year.

The Pew study continues, “For households headed by Millennials ages 25 to 37 in 2018, the median adjusted household income was about $105,300 for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, roughly $56,000 greater than that of households headed by high school graduates.”

The same is true for WGU graduates, and often they end up making more post-graduation than the national average. They reported an average yearly income increase of $10,000 within two years of their graduation. For most grads, their ROI for their degree comes after just two years. And four years post-graduation, the average income increase was over $21,000—much higher than the national average of $12,000.

The reality is that in today’s day and age, a degree is more valuable than ever before. The income gap between those with a degree and those without is getting wider and will likely continue to widen with time.

A degree is a key way for millennials to increase income and overall wealth, and the sooner they have that degree, the more they will be able to make overall.


2. Having or not having an education impacts your living situation.

Homeowner getting key

Research shows that many millennials have been slower to form households than the previous generations. Hit by the Great Recession, nearly 15% of millennials reported living in their parents home in 2018, nearly double compared to the previous generations.

This is especially true for millennials without a college education. Millennials who never attended college were twice as likely to be living with their parents. In previous generations, this gap was non-existent.

While it may not seem like a college education can so directly impact your living situation, the facts say that obtaining your degree can decrease your likelihood of living with your parents.

A college education also adds options for higher paying jobs, which can then translate into buying homes or finding the perfect place to rent sooner.


3. More millennials are getting degrees than previous generations.

Millennials are widely known as the most educated generation. Over 39% of millennials have bachelor’s degrees, compared to just 29% or fewer of the previous generations.

As bachelor’s degrees become more commonplace, and necessary to qualify for jobs, more millennials are going into debt to obtain their education.

Almost 39% of millennials (yes, the same percentage of millennials who have a bachelor’s degree) have student debt. They are the largest group with debt and are the generational group with the highest debt.

But debt and obtaining a college education don’t have to go hand-in-hand. At universities like WGU, we work hard to help keep your tuition affordable. We offer a low, flat rate so there’s no surprises, and you can take on as many courses as you’re able without worrying about additional charges.

WGU students have less than half the student debt compared to the national average. And with higher income increases post-graduation, WGU grads are able to pay off their student loans more quickly.

There are also options for financial aid available to all students, from federal student aid to scholarships. Many WGU students find they are able to get additional help with their tuition costs to make getting their education even more possible.

With more people in today’s day and age receiving bachelor’s degrees, even more education may be needed to help you stand out. Master’s degrees can help you gain more education and training, making you more marketable and impressive compared to other candidates.

Again, master’s degrees don’t have to be connected with fears about debt and affordability. WGU offers affordable tuition and many options for tuition help for master’s degree students as well.

Competency-based education also allows students to move quickly through coursework, so they don’t have to spend four years obtaining a degree. They can move through coursework at a quicker pace if they’re able and pay less overall.

Men and women walking to college

4. More millennial women are obtaining degrees than previous generations.

Millennial women are also making huge strides in education attainment. While only 24% of Baby Boomer and 31% of Generation X women obtained bachelor’s degrees, today 43% of millennial women have their diploma.

Millennial women are also outpacing millennial men in obtaining their bachelor’s degree: 36% of millennial men have obtained an education, which is 7% less than millennial women. This is a huge reversal from the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers, where men always had a higher rate of education attainment.

This surge in female education is also transforming the workforce, with 72% of millennial women being employed. This is the highest percentage of women in the workforce in history.

These huge strides in education offer hope and choices for women in ways never before seen. Women have increasing opportunities to decide what they want to do with their time, and employers and schools alike are becoming more accommodating to women in all walks of life.


5. Marriage is more likely for millennials with higher education.

Marriage and millennials

If you’re looking for that special someone to spend the rest of your life with, it may be time to get your bachelor’s degree! No, we’re not kidding. 40% of millennials without college education are married, while 53% of millennials who do have their diploma are married.

In previous generations, those with just a high school diploma were more likely to be married. But now, the statistics have completely reversed, and the gap is widening.

Overall, millennials are delaying marriage, or are simply not getting married, much more often than any previous generation. Only 43% of millennials are married at age 25–37, compared to 57% of Generation X and 67% of Baby Boomers at that age.

The age of marriage has climbed from 21 for women and 23 for men of the Silent Generation to 28 for women and 30 for men who are millennials.

There are many reasons why millennials may be delaying marriage, but it is important to recognize that education is often something younger generations want to accomplish before settling down. So maybe getting your diploma is the next step to finding Mr. or Mrs. Right.


Overall, cultural and social changes are directly impacting younger generations—especially their educational options and goals. Millennials and the incoming Generation Z are facing new challenges as well as possibilities never before seen.

One thing is certain: as education becomes more prevalent, you need to understand your options to keep up and stand out for jobs that can help you increase your wealth and stability.

Consider getting started on your education with WGU. We’re dedicated to helping members of any generation get on the path to a bright future.


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