Yes – a College Degree Is Worth It

Worth It? Worthless? Worth Less?  All three questions need answered as you make decisions about your future. These questions are important because confusion aboundsBuzz Today Source: Chronicle of Higher Education   “As of April, 2014, the unemployment rate for college graduates ages 25 to 34 was 3 percent. The wage premium for people with bachelor’s degrees has been rising steadily since 1980 and now stands at 98%* …With regard to student debt, only 2% of students owe more than $100,000 while 43% of student borrowers owe $10,000 or less. College is not only still a good investment, it is the best investment you can make”.  *This means that bachelor’s degree holders have nearly twice the income of high school graduates.

The data in Buzz Today unambiguously answers the first question: Worth It? If you want to have a better chance to get hired and earn twice the income get a bachelor’s degree. The data show that people with bachelor’s degrees are more likely to get a job and, when employed, make almost twice as much on average as those with only a high school diploma. Does this data mean that you will be guaranteed a job making twice as much as you would  have made without the bachelor’s degree?  No. There are no guarantees in life. A college education is no exception.

This brings us to the issue of Worthless. College degrees are awarded in different disciplines. This means that merely getting a degree is not enough. What you learn while earning a degree and, to a much lesser extent where you learn it, matters a great deal.

So here are two scenarios that relate directly to the Worthless issue. First, if you start out to complete a bachelor’s degree and fail to complete your bachelor’s degree (which about 54 million Americans are doing today), your investment is not completely worthless but it is pretty close. The compensation difference in BUZZ Today is based on those who actually have their bachelor’s degree. Taking some courses may make you smarter but having the degree is a way for employers to decide whether you are a candidate for their open jobs. Completing the degree is very important in the job market place.

The other way that you can create a worthless (i.e. a significantly less valuable outcome) is to earn a degree where there are no jobs that require the knowledge gained during your studies. Here the professors passionately argue that an education is about more than money. I agree. Worth is a big concept than money. But for now the Worthless conversation is about the economics of your degree efforts.

The Worthless question is not about you, the school you attend nor how much smarter you are. The Worthless question is about whether an employer will pay you an attractive salary for the knowledge and shills you have. The fact is that it is possible for you to earn a degree where there are no open positions to fill. In this case there simply is no demand for the knowledge you have acquired with your bachelor’s degree. This may seem unfair, short sighted, cruel or any number of other negative descriptors. In the end it is still a fact. Employers are not going to pay for knowledge they do not need. Period.

The last item in this Worthless conversation is my advice to you. If you are truly interested in what your degree will be worth in the job market do your research on job opportunities before you enroll. To get that job market information go to O*NET and do your research. Your Future is Calling guides you on how to use that valuable data.

The last question is about Worth LessWorthless is about employers and jobs. Worth Less is about you. Here is how to look at this question. In an earlier Learn Prosper blog titled “Careers Begin with What You Learn” I shared that two thirds of employees under 30 are still searching for the right career and intend to switch careers within two years. This data show that for a large number of our young, the choice they made has been worth less to them. What they studied failed to get them into the “right” career for them.

But the issue about Worth Less is not merely about a career. This issue is about how well the area of study in your degree program fits “who you are”. This is about degree fit with you. For example, if you are passionate about teaching a career in that field is what you want to do in life. The fact that you will earn less is not relevant to the issue of worth less. In fact, becoming a teacher when it fits “who you are” is worth more to you than becoming an investment banker where you have the potential to earn far more. In this example, becoming an investment banker is indeed worth less to you. The point is that it is not all about money.  But to keep your bachelor’s degree from becoming worth less you have to know a great deal about “who you are”. This issue is not about jobs and salaries. This is about you. To learn about how to find out “who you are” go to the first chapters of Your Future is Calling. Some work there can help you make sure that your degree is not going to be Worth Less to you. No one else; not me, not employers, not professors, not your parents matter in this part of the Worth discussion. This is about you.

Go for it. The tools and information to answer the Worth questions are available. You just need to learn where they are and how to use them.

Who You Are – What You Do in the Future

NPR recently shared the post of a young Ivy League graduate about his own future. The specifics of the young man’s questions are shown in BUZZ Today. Of equal interest is the string of comments readers gave to help the young man answer his important questions about his future. I am adding my comments here.

Buzz TodaySource: NPR: Assume I have no such passion. Furthermore, I am a fairly well-qualified young generalist.* What paths should most appeal to me if my goal is to maximize doing “interesting” work? Doing meaningful work? Achieving social status? (Which of these goals should be primary?) Need I try to develop a passion before selecting a life path/career, and if so, how do I do it?

The young man is asking the questions about his future. Many comments shared on NPR try to help the young man what to do based on what has worked for them. The advice is well intended but it does not address the core issue he is facing. The future he is trying to create for himself is one where what he does with his life matches who he is. The rest of us can add little to that decision.

I recommend that you read the comments after the NPR post reference in BUZZ Today. They are almost all about linking “who you are” with “what you do” to create a purposeful and fulfilled life. I have a lot of suggestions on how to link these two in my book Your Future is Calling. Here are suggestions on linking who you are to what you do.

There are many instruments that provide objective information on who you are. Here are three that I recommend:

* Myers-Briggs: From Wikipedia – The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. See: MBTI

* Strengths Finder 2.0: To purchase see Gallup

* O*Net Interest Profiler: This is a free service on the government department of labor WEB site O*Net

For “what you do” part see the very informative and comprehensive information on over 950 careers listed in great detail at the O*Net home site.

Getting to an empowered and fulfilling future requires knowing where you are starting. It begins with who you are. It also requires reliable information on what your options are for the do part of your future. These are good starting points on your path to your future.

How to Make Sure College Fits Who You Are

Should Everyone Go to College?  The answer is, of course NO.   But the no answer may be for a different reason than you think.  It is about matching what you do with who you are, not how much money you will make.  If you can earn a degree that earns a healthy income and matches what you want to do with your life then do it.  If that’s not possible, pick what fits you.  Actually it is nearly as easily done as said.

There is a huge debate raging about the advice to go to college.  Like so many things in our society today, this conversation has become politicized around national political agendas and public policy.  The politics is about other people.  What we are talking about here is you and your future.

Buzz Today Source:  Inside Higher Ed. Free for All Over “College for All” “Should Everyone Go to College?” is the title of the research brief co-written by Sawhill and Stephanie Owen, a senior research assistant at Brookings. The paper — essentially a review of existing literature on the topic — is facing sharp criticism, both philosophically and methodologically, from ideological friends and foes alike.  Averages mask enormous variation that means that many individuals do not fare so well, and the authors spend the rest of the paper documenting the ways in which students’ return from their higher education may fall short based on the colleges, majors and careers they choose.

Some in the media and many on the Internet are passionate about the political implications of the policy debates.  But I want to return to what it all means to the individual prospective student like yourself.  In the end, what law makers and policy wonks think about your personal decision is not critical to your future.  What is most critical to your future is starting with “who you are”.

I want to take a few lines to talk about “who you are”.  In Your Future is Calling, I point the reader to several instruments that will help you answer this important question.  The answers are the starting point for you to lay the road-map out to your future.  These are scientific instruments that have been proven with hundreds of thousands of users.  What these instruments do is take your answers to a number of questions and provide information back to you about what it all means.

What these instruments tell you is “who you are” based on the science of the instruments and your personal inputs. They paint a picture for you that lays a foundation for the rest of the decisions you need to make. In Your Future is Calling, I help you take that information and map it to careers, majors and colleges. This approach focuses on you and not the politicians and policy makers in Washington. In the end we are talking about your future, not theirs.