Education pays


Graduates 2013

The new university year has not even begun for millions of students worldwide and already many are worrying about how they will pay their tuition fees. But for those asking themselves if it is all worth it, the answer is reassuring.

People with university-level degrees earn one and a half times as much as those without in OECD countries, as Education at a Glance 2013 tells us. These graduates are also more likely to have a job, with 75% of them in full-time employment, compared with 64% of those who did not complete secondary education (high-school).


But going to university is not an automatic guarantee of employment, and at a time of economic uncertainty and rising tuition fees, the prospect of starting one’s adult life already in debt through student loans may deter some. So how to acquire the skills to make you a hot property on the 21st century labour market? One option is apprenticeships, which can involve learning on the job or a combination of classes and work experience.


Countries with well-established vocational and apprenticeship programmes have been more effective in holding the line on youth unemployment, and oftentimes apprenticeships come with a guaranteed job at the end. At the same time, however, some consider vocational education a less attractive option than more academic education; and some research suggests that participation in vocational education increases the risk of unemployment at later ages.


Whatever choice you make, it is unlikely that once you graduate from school, college, or apprenticeship that you will be saying goodbye to education for the rest of your adult life. New technologies mean new jobs, and new skills to perform them in every walk of life. So whatever else you bring away from your education, make sure you do not forget how to learn.


Read more


  • How much does education cost, who pays, and what kind of education do you need to succeed? Find out all this and more. – Education at a Glance 2013
  • People who have completed university can generally expect to earn more than those who don’t. But governments and societies benefit from these people’s investments as well. – Public returns on higher education
  • Young people from poorer families are badly underrepresented in higher education. What can be done? – Education for all
  • More policymakers are looking to apprenticeships as a possible way of strengthening the labour market and improving job prospects for the young. But not any apprenticeship will do. – Quality apprenticeships : The new degree?
  • Is increased youth entrepreneurship another possible way of reducing youth unemployment? What, if anything, can policymakers do to give young people a start in business? – Can youth entrepreneurship work?
  • Skills have become the global currency of the 21st century. What are the hot issues facing countries, companies and individuals today? – OECD Skills Platform


Back to School Promotion: 50% off all OECD book purchases until 18 September 2013


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