Finishing What You Start: Earn That College Degree


Each one of us likely has been thrown a curve ball in life that has resulted in our having to delay or even cancel something important in our lives. Often, that postponement hangs over our heads, in some extreme cases like a Sword of Damocles, but mostly like a nagging item not crossed off on a to-do list.

Perhaps due to its high cost or maybe because of the vast amount of time required, a college degree is one of those often deferred "to-dos." Life's circumstances do not always dictate that high school seniors will go to college. Money, family, interest, grades: any one of those can contribute to a deferral of a four-year, or even a two-year, college degree.

Getting that college degree pays off financially, no matter what industry you're in. According to a report this year from U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009, the median of the earnings for young adults with a bachelor's degree was $45,000, while the median was $36,000 for those with an associate's degree. Salaries were far lower with no college degree at all. One can infer that in the IT sector, the gap would be even greater since IT typically is a higher paying industry.

Sure, there are successful entrepreneurs who never stepped foot on a college campus -- or who just left, with no regrets trailing them. Like Apple's Steve Jobs. But there are others who have achieved great fortune but still have "college" as an item in their bucket lists. Like Azim Premji, CEO of Wipro.

Premji was recently profiled in Businessweek. He discussed how many years ago, his father's death forced him to leave Stanford University and run the family business -- and how the degree he left 21 credits unfinished haunted him. So, he went back to the school 15 years later, and completed the course work. He proudly displays his diploma in his office.

In my view, a college education is one of the best investments you can make in yourself, no matter if you go to a community college or an Ivy League university. But the story is not about the value of higher education -- some place a higher worth on that than do others. Rather, it's a parable for finishing what you start -- and every employer can surely recognize the value in that.