Career and Graduation – Less About the College You Pick

College, major – major – major, degree, job. This is the usual sequence college graduates have taken to get an education. It’s backwards. Here’s why.Buzz TodayTHE PAYOEF TO ATTENDING A MORE SELECTIVE COLLEGE: Students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges. College Selectivity and Degree Completion. We find that selectivity does not have an independent effect on graduation. We also find no evidence that students not attending highly selective colleges suffer reduced chances of graduation, all else being equal.

The Buzz Today research shows that the selectivity of the college does little to assure higher graduation rate or higher salary. This may seem counter intuitive.

Harvard University has a graduation rate of 97% while some other universities have graduation rates in the single digits.   So, you might be saying: “how can you tell me that the university I (or my kids) attend does not impact the chances of graduation?”

What the research in Buzz Today shows is that it is not the university that impacts graduation and salary. It is the person. It is you.

This is important to know because many (especially parents) who bet the future on getting into the most selective university possible. The false assumption is that attendance at a highly selective university increases the likelihood of graduation and high income. Not true. It’s not the college. It’s you.

What this means for you as a student or, a parent of a student is what is important. Two priorities follow from this information. The first is to stop obsessing over the admissions decision. If you don’t get into the college of your first choice it does not mean that your chances of graduation are reduced or you are destined to a low income existence. Go to a selective school if you desire but do not make it the key to your future. You define the key to your future, not the college you attend.

The second implication of this is to allow yourself to consider the cost of your education as a valid thing to consider. Generally highly selective universities have higher cost. As a result, some get trapped into high student debt based on the belief that graduation and future income depended on going to a highly selective college.

It is OK to consider going to a lower cost, less selective college as a career path choice. Making a college choice based on lower tuition cost does not condemn you to a lower chance of graduation and a lower salary.

The most important decisions you need to make about your education are about you. They are not so much about the university you select. My book Your Future is Calling can help you with decisions about “who you are” and career choices that match you. Use it.

What Employers Are Looking for in Degrees and Credentials

Some are arguing that it is possible to get a good job without a college degree.  It’s true.  It is possible.  But the fact is, having the right credentials vastly increases your chances to have the future you desire.  This blog post gives you  facts about why this is the case and what you need to do about it.  Buzz TodaySource:     Higher education is one of the most important investments that people make. And most students make this investment because they want a better chance to land a good career and higher earnings. Because college credentials are usually associated with higher earnings, taking on reasonable debt or paying high tuition are not necessarily bad choices. But as they enter the labor market, some graduates earn far more than others. Graduates with the same major but from different schools can take home substantially different amounts of money. And earnings vary widely among graduates from the same school who have chosen different majors.

In BUZZ Today we see what researchers show us about careers, majors and schools.  The site is full of valuable salary information from thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of college graduates in five different states.  The data is well worth the effort to understand it.

But looks at actual market data for degrees and careers.  What we want to do here is look at the issues from the employer’s perspective.

For better or worse, this is a JOB market.  Markets are the connection of buyers and sellers.  Employers are hard nosed decision makers and you are a seller and employers are buyers.  To get a sense of the employer perspective as a buyer think about the situations where you are the buyer and someone else is the seller.  An example might be when you are buying a house or a car. What you want as a buyer is a quality product that fits your needs, a competitive price and some assurance that what you are buying has some staying power.  Employers want the same things you do as a buyer.

So what do employers want when they hire you?  They want to have some assurance that you can actually do what they are hiring you to do.  That is what your major is all about.  It is extremely unlikely that they will hire a biology major for a $125,000 a year petroleum engineering position.  Because our world of work is becoming ever more specialized and complex, what you are qualified to do becomes more important every year.  The difference in pay reflects the growing need for skills and knowledge.  The market salaries on CollegeMeasures document the demand for such skills and knowledge in the job market.

A degree communicates more than merely skills.  To an employer, someone with a degree is a person who has demonstrated behaviors that employers value.  Earning a degree is a long term commitment and someone with that degree has proven to be up to the challenge of such a long term commitment. Employers value that.

So, for better or worse, the resume software that will screen your resume with your job application will be screening for the credentials valued by the employer.  A large number of those job postings will have something like:  “Bachelor’s degree required and 3-5 years experience”.   It may not be fair but it is a reality.  In a world where each job opening can get thousands of applications resume screening software is a reality of today’s job market.  Without the credentials job applicants never even get the interview needed to prove themselves.

In the end, degrees and credentials are the price of entry to  many attractive job opportunities.  Winning the lottery is a possibility but having the credentials employers are looking for produces a much higher probability of success.

What You Need to Know Before You Pick a Major or a University

“Is College Worth It?” The answer is yes only if you chose wisely. College graduates had, on average, over $32,000 of debt upon graduation in the spring of 2013. The major on their degree had a lot to do with their ability to earn an attractive living and manage that debt.

Buzz TodaySource: American Institutes for Research. An analysis of the earnings of recent college graduates in five states finds that those who went to elite institutions do not necessarily earn higher salaries than their peers, that some certificates and associate degrees are far more lucrative than four year degrees, and that when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), students who study biology or chemistry will earn far less than those in the other three fields.

The traditional sequence for individuals going to a college or university has been University – Major – Degree – Career. The reality is that for over half of those receiving a bachelor degree in America the sequence is actually more like: College – Major 1 – Major 2 – Major 3 – College 2 – Major 4 – Degree (finally) and then look for a job.

Has this been your experience? There a couple of things to observe about this typical sequence. The first thing is how much emphasis is placed on the reputation of the college or university. It is as though getting into a prestigious university is all one needs to do to have the golden ticket to a successful life. What we see in the BUZZ Today here is that this is not true.  The research shows that the major/career you select is far more important to your earnings future.

So if being accepted by an elite (highly selective university) does not assure you of economic success, what does it tell you?  Being accepted by a highly selective university tells you that you are among the smartest people in the country. That is nice to know this and does tend to make one feel good about ones self. But in the end, you are smart whether you go to university A or a less prestigious school B. Your smartness goes with you, it doesn’t stay with the university you decide to attend. The bottom line is that you do not have to pay the high tuition costs of the elite university when it comes to having the best chances of making a decent living. Conversely, you are not destined to a substandard living standard if you do not get to go to Harvard or Yale. What is far more important than where you go is what you study – your major.

The major you select is closely tied to the career you are targeting for yourself. To pick the right career you first must know “who you are” – something I discuss in detail in my book “Your Future is Calling.” I will defer a more detailed discussion of the “who you are” challenge for a later post. For now lets return to the career/major discussion.

The amount of earning power related to specific majors/degrees is truly amazing. Data from the very valuable web site CollegeMeasures is loaded with very important information about what specific majors and careers are actually worth in the real world. For now let me leave you with one direct comparison for bachelor graduates in the state of Virginia. On average, such graduates with a psychology degree (one of the most popular majors in American universities) had first year earnings of $29,040 compared to first year average earnings of $51,378 with an engineering degree.

In conclusion for this post:

1. You need to learn to prosper

2. What you study is far more important to your income than where you study.

3. You can save a lot of your education expenses by avoiding Major – Major – Major in combination with selecting your career/major before enrolling in any specific program or any university.