Will a College Degree Help You Get a Raise?

When you go to college and spend tens of thousands of dollars on a Bachelor’s degree, they expect to come out with a job, established in the career of their choice. But because many of them lack experience, they must settle for an entry-level job, making far below the statistical average of about $45,000 a year. But you should at least be able to get a raise, right? Even if you’re only being paid, say, $30,000 a year (only five grand above someone with an Associate’s), you should still be able to reach that magic number if you work there long enough, right?

According to some statistics, such a thing happening seems very unlikely as with most jobs, pay hasn’t risen much past starting salaries for many college graduates. From 2000 to 2007, many have seen their wages rise 2.4 percent, fall 1.3 percent between then and 2012, and risen again since then by only 1 percent. In other words, if you’re working the same desk job they rest of your life, your income probably isn’t going anywhere.

Does this mean that your degree is worthless then? Not really, no. It is worthless if you wave around that expensive piece of paper as though you’re entitled to a higher pay grade, but if you have the experience to back it up, then it’s very likely you’ll start off with a higher pay than someone who has none. For instance, Publix, right now in my area, starts off their cashiers at $8.25/hour; but if you already have prior cashier experience, then you’ll be make an extra dollar an hour ($9.25, if you can’t do the math).

For those of you stuck in an entry-level job, making hardly enough money to pay off your student loans, this should give you hope. Because once you acquire the necessary work skills, you can apply for another company that would be will to pay you more than your current job. And a few more years down the road, once you become more proficient at your trade, you can do it again. And again. And again.

Okay, so it doesn’t sound that appealing, but in the current job economy, that’s how it needs to be done. Employers look for people with experience, and to do that, it may mean starting below the average pay scale and slowly working your way up to where you want to be — by picking up specific skills that the next job up requires and mastering them.  You’re severly limiting yourself by staying at your current job and expecting a raise. The best thing you can do for yourself is to continue to build on your portfolio and then look for other employers that will find more value in your skill set.