Sitting in a classroom day after day can be a bummer if one looks at just the negatives. However, the positives of getting an undergraduate degree, graduate degree or even a certificate might be a mind changer, especially with the projected job outlook of 2020.

Thirty-five percent of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree at the very least, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. That is a 17 percent jump from Georgetown University’s 2007 job outlook. These statistics do not include master’s or doctoral degrees, which will likely see an increase in percentage rates as well.

Society’s workforce previously depended on manual labor, but with technology becoming more prominent in the workplace, the need for manual labor is shifting. Today’s workplace is further emphasizing an employee’s ability to communicate and problem solve.

Many of the Tristate area’s colleges and universities offer specific programs that are targeting those with partial degrees, those wishing to get their first degree, and those looking to advance their existing degree.

“Having a degree makes a difference,” says Jan Toennisson, director of public affairs at Miami University’s regional campuses. “It helps meet your life goals, no matter the age.”

With time being so valuable, higher education may not seem like a feasible proposition. With a family, an existing job, busy schedule or even lacking the funds to put forth into higher education, it may not seem like a possibilty.

The difference a degree makes in a professional’s overall life can be broken down into categories. These categories explain the worth of earning a degree as an adult learner or non-traditional student.

First, higher education increases the liklihood of a higher salary. Second, a correlation is shown to exist between higher education and better overall health. Third, with higher education, an individual is more likely to receive benefits, including vacation time and employer-provided insurance.

It might be time to return or step into the classroom.

Non-Credit Programs

Miami Universityoffers a non-credit certificate online program called ed2go, which has hundreds of online courses that last six weeks with 12 lessons and are priced affordably.

“There is ease in which students can participate,” says Donna Gouvan, Miami operations manager for global initiatives. “It gives them an edge in the workforce.”

The program is designed to fit the schedule of the individual and includes a variety of courses designed for personal enjoyment and professional enrichment.

Certificates

Universities and colleges all over the Tristate area offer numerous certificate programs that take less than a year to earn and are designed for a specific work field. These programs focus on helping students improve effectiveness, learning capabilities, networking and developing one’s knowledge. Certificates can narrow in on a specific area or provide an educational update.

Some institutions offering certificate programs are Sinclair Community College, Beckfield College and Cincinnati State.

Undergraduate Degrees

A jump in salary is usually expected when one receives a college degree. Nearly 23 percent of Ohioans have a completed undergraduate degree. The median earnings for a full-time worker with a bachelor’s degree were about $21,000 higher compared to an individual with just a high school diploma, according to Education Pays 2013.

Tristate colleges and universities are taking notice of the increase in jobs requiring a higher education.

Miami’s regional campuses offer undergraduate degrees at convenient locations in Middletown, Hamilton and the Voice of America campus in West Chester. These campuses offer everything from certificates to more advanced degrees.

One of the newer opportunities at these campuses is getting a four-year degree. New programs are beind added every year.

“Community colleges can’t offer bachelor degrees,” says Toennisson. “We can.”

With a well-known reputation, Toennisson states that the average age of students at Miami University regional campuses is 24-25 years old.

The trend for regional campuses has been a push toward offering more bachelor’s degrees rather than just a two-year start before sending students off to finish at another institution.

With the convenience of the regional campuses, a short drive could push an individual’s job to the next level.

“We are in your backyard,” says Toennisson. “We saw a need and there was for this type of program.”

The program Toennisson refers to is the Bachelor of Integrative Studies, which started in 2008. The program is designed for students who have an associate’s degree or other college-level certifications from other colleges and universities, but want to pursue a four-year degree.

“With 40 percent of our students working, some students might not have had the chance to finish their prior degree,” says Toennisson.

Graduate Degrees

The rewards for getting an undergraduate degree can be life changing, but the next level up, a graduate degree, also has major benefits.

Only 8.4 percent of Ohioans have a completed advanced degree, according to Education Pays 2013. There is a competitive workforce at the graduate level, an increase in options and prospects, and even the possibility for a greater salary.

One university understands that pursuing a graduate degree requires a level of motivation and desire.

Northern Kentucky University offers 20 master, five post-master and two doctoral degrees with nearly 1,661 students enrolled, including online courses. Many are non-traditional students with professional experience because some graduate degrees require time in the workforce. For instance, Kentucky teachers must earn a master’s degree within five years in order to be able to continue teaching.

“For some [graduate students], it’s personal achievement, for others it’s knowledge acquisition,” says Dr. Christian Gamm, director of graduate studies at NKU. “Many are shooting for the higher role in their career.”

Gamm says that many of the students in their graduate programs are non-traditional. Some students in the programs are on their second career.

So whether it is for job advancement or for that jump in salary, having a degree makes a difference now and is going to make a bigger difference by 2020.