How to Calculate the Value of Investing in Your Education

Robert Furtado
by Robert Furtado February 1, 2019 / No Comments

Buying a house, a car, or other big-ticket item means thinking a lot about how you’ll afford to pay it off over time, but most of us wouldn’t take the plunge if we didn’t also spend time adding up all the moments we’ll enjoy afterwards that make it worth it.

Even as you get a mortgage for a home, for example, you’re probably dreaming about how you’ll spend time in it or make it your own. A monthly car payment will seem less painful, meanwhile, if you think about the convenience it will bring, or the trips you might take with it.

When you invest in your education, it’s easy to look at it primarily in terms of the short-term “pain” of attending a class, paying for tuition, or even putting a pay cheque on hold. But far more than that fast-depreciating car parked in your driveway, the right kind of education can offer a real and measurable return on investment throughout your lifetime.

ROI on higher education = lifetime earning potential / total cost of education

Many people, for instance, are starting to realize that success in almost any career requires building skills in digital technology. This could include courses for web developers or cyber security courses, training in user experience (UX) design or a data science course, and many other skill sets critical to an economy in which virtually every company is now building a digital game plan.

Acquiring in-demand skills, however, inevitably involves time, money, and effort. This is true whether you’re looking at traditional four-year university degree programs, professional degree and diploma programs at colleges, or accelerated training programs at coding boot camps, for instance. Depending on how busy you are already, how tapped out you are with other financial commitments and so on, the question of whether it’s really worth it is bound to raise its head.

The big difference between education and physical assets, however, is that skills don’t necessarily depreciate over time if you continue to develop them. In other words, learning to code or gaining expertise in data science can become a foundation for creating new opportunities for yourself throughout your life. Here are three of the most common:

The promotion possibility

Let’s say you’re working in a traditional marketing role. Chances are your firm, your industry (or both) are facing major changes because of technologies like social media, artificial intelligence (AI), and chat. That means marketers need to become savvier about how to use digital tools, whether that means helping to create new assets for their company or at least being fluent enough in the technology to participate meaningfully in conversations about it.

In its Digital IQ report, for instance, consulting firm PwC showed that more than half of Canadian executives, or 56 percent, said they considered digital skills either somewhat or very important. According to the Information and Communications Technology Council (ITAC), meanwhile, Canada falls short of meeting the current demand for ICT services in the marketplace and will suffer from a significant skills gap – to the tune of a 182,000-worker shortfall – this year.

When you look at these stats and many others that are readily available online, you can start to make a much more educated guess about the potential to advance your current role within a company. In a fast-changing digital economy, digital expertise can be a catalyst for wage growth that far outperforms your typical two percent annual wage increase. In fact, it can even help you shift gears into an entirely different career track.

Career change capabilities

For others, the value of investing in education isn’t about getting ahead in their current job but branching out into something else entirely. Even though many experts have tried to reassure society that we will not, in fact, be replaced en masse by robots and AI applications, there’s no question that the best job security may be within a technology-focused career. It may also be one of the best places to earn a significant salary, too.

In a recent report on software developer salaries, for example, Course Compare found that those who pursue the kind of skills that developers have can typically see a significant salary ahead of them. Our survey showed that those who studied at a coding boot camp, for example, were earning an average of more than $74,000 per year, which is $24,000 more on average than those who tried to teach themselves. Not surprisingly, wages in this field were strongly correlated with a coder’s overall level of education. Moreover, the average tenure for a developer is around three years, which means those who possess the right skills also enjoy more autonomy than those who don’t.

Empowered for entrepreneurship

New skills can not only lead to new jobs or new careers but serve as the launching pad for an entirely new company in some cases. Canada is already home to a slew of incubators, accelerators, and other resources to help those with a strong idea and a solid business plan to go into business for themselves. This can include everything from a new mobile app to an e-commerce firm and everything in between.

Need proof? Just look at the data from StartupBlink, which ranked Toronto No. 11 on its list of the best places in the world to found a startup. From a national startup perspective, Canada was only behind the U.S. and the United Kingdom. If you educate yourself in the right areas, how much more likely will you be able to pursue an entrepreneurial dream that would otherwise be impossible? It’s simply never been easier for someone with digital savvy and a healthy dose of determination to start an online business. A recent study pegs the cost of starting an online business in Toronto at $26,259, and that’s as support and infrastructure for new ventures rises in cities across the country.

If you’ve ever wondered where to find tomorrow’s great job opportunities and how to calculate the ROI on gaining the skills needed to seize them, there is plenty of rich data out there for you. Perhaps 2019 will be the year you don’t only make that car payment, but invest in knowledge and skills that pay off, instead of costing you, down the road.  

Does education pay?

High-demand College & University Degrees for the Digital Economy

Subject         Duration of Degree Program Average Tuition Average Salary
Data Science  4 years   $31,000 $70,318
Computer Science 4 years $64,000 $77,000
IT Project Management 1 – 2 years after an undergraduate program $14,000 $82,837
Cyber Security 3 – 4 years $30,000 $68,458
Business administration 4 years $44,000 $61,000
Web & Product Design 3 – 4 years $28,000 $52,000
Digital Marketing 3 – 4 years $29,000 $60,475

 *This table excludes tuition for non-degree programs. For more information about part-time diploma and certificate programs at schools of continuing education, visit CourseCompare.ca.

Robert Furtado is the founder & CEO of Canadian education marketplace CourseCompare.ca. Course Compare helps prepare people for the future of work by connecting them to top-rated courses and training programs in business, technology and design across the country. To learn more, visit CourseCompare.ca.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash