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.

How to Pick A Career With Potential To Earn $95,000 A Year

Go from earning an annual salary of $15,163 two years before getting an Associate’s degree to earning an annual salary of $95,727 five years after completing that degree. Not possible you say? It is possible according data supplied by the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community College System. See BUZZ Today about this important information.

Buzz Today Source: California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Tracking Wages of California College Completers Salary Surfer is a web application designed for students and families that provides an estimate on the potential median wages to be earned after completing an award or certificate in 179 of the most widely enrolled disciplines.

To take advantage of this career income data you need to know a lot more about this dramatic increase in earning power in such a short period of time. The education referenced is an Associate’s degree earned in the California Community College System.  The career is that of Physician’s Assistant and can be verified at the salary web site maintained by the California community college system.

This information about the Physician’s Assistant career opportunity has several important things to tell us. First, it is not always necessary to earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree to earn a decent living. I do show in the book “Your Future is Calling” that in general, average incomes are directly related to the level of education. That is, on average, Bachelor’s degree holders make more than Associate’s degree holders. But what the Physician’s Assistant career shows, is that this is not true for all degrees and professions. When we reference O*NET we see that the average annual salary for a secondary school teacher with a Bachelor’s degree is $55,050,

The second thing the opening sentence shows us is that there are a large number of students who started out at very low levels of income but through an education, ended up earning over $95,000 per year. This is very impressive upward social mobility.  The message is: “It is still possible in America to significantly improve one’s life circumstances”. But you have to have good data and know what you are doing.

A word of caution is warranted at this point. When we return to the Salary Surfer site we see the impact of technology on career opportunities. An Associate’s degree in Journalism started at $14,664 and five years after graduation this career had a median salary of only $17,347. This is a direct result of the decline in publishing.

So what is the “bottom line” in this career choice discussion? All is not doom and gloom as so often portrayed in the media.  There are very good career options in the US economy and there are others that are not so attractive. The key is to have good, objective data to help you make your choices. My recommendation is that the three sources referenced here be used before you enroll in any degree program. The sources are: Salary Surfer, O*NET and my book “Your Future is Calling.” The book shows you how to put it all together and a lot more.