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.