Why Doing Your Career Homework Is So Important

Headline: Community college grads out-earn bachelor’s degree holders.

This is a rather powerful statement designed to get attention. The reason it is so powerful is because it reinforces a common journalist theme today that the cost and debt required to earn a bachelor degree are not worth it.

Source: CNN Money “I have a buddy who got a four-year bachelor’s degree in accounting who’s making $10 an hour,” Berevan Omer (a recent community college graduate) says. “I’m making two and a-half times more than he is.” Omer, who is 24, is one of many newly minted graduates of community colleges defying history and stereotypes by proving that a bachelor’s degree is not, as widely believed, the only ticket to a middle-class income.

The use of sweeping generalizations often used around this issue of earning a degree of any kind does not contribute to better decision making. Here we are talking about decision making that directly impacts your future.

Let’s look at the BUZZ item more closely. First of all it is true that some associate degree holders make more money than some bachelor degree holders. This is true for lots of situations. Bill Gates does not have a degree of any kind and I have a Ph.D.  Bill Gates makes a heck of a lot more money than I do. Does this mean that you are more likely to earn more money by not getting a degree? Absolutely not.

The tricky part of the BUZZ article are the words slipped in to reinforce the popular theme that getting a degree is “not worth it”. The high impact words are: defying history, stereotypes, proving, only and widely believed. These are words meant to prove sweeping generalizations in support of the conclusion being defended. Especially suspect is the combination widely believed.

Belief is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. There is no evidence provided in the BUZZ to support the claim that such beliefs are indeed widely held. These beliefs are indeed being widely reported but this does not mean that they are widely held beyond the reporters doing the reporting. The facts (in contrast to beliefs) are that since 1988, the number of jobs requiring bachelor degrees have grown 82% while the number of jobs requiring associate degrees have grown by 42%. Jobs for those with only a high school education have actually declined 14%. The data also shows that over a lifetime, the average bachelor degree holder earns far more than the average associate degree holder.

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