College Worth It? Yes, But Keep These Factors In Mind
Is college worth it to you? Would it be if you knew that you could make more money working a trade without racking up the student loan debt? The answer will largely depend on your skill set, passions, and interests.
In a recent study from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce it was found that unemployment rates for college graduates were 7.5 percent in 2012. This was just slightly better than the 10 percent rate for workers with experience and no degree. Recent graduates with majors across different fields did a little better except in areas of social sciences and architecture.
CNBC reports the unemployment rate for those with a bachelors degree who had graduated recently “in nearly every major has improved, with the exception of communications and journalism majors, whose 8.2 percent unemployment rate is still rising.” The unemployment for health majors plateaued “at around 6 percent.”
Experienced workers suffered the highest unemployment at the undergraduate level (majors: the arts, architecture and social work). Experienced workers with graduate degrees withstood job losses the best of all in almost every case.
Georgetown’s report speculates it could be around 2017 or later before a full employment recovery took place, and it could be even longer than that for earnings to increase. The report also stated that even though the wage premium that exists for those with college degrees over those without has remained steady, it’s only because lesser educated workers have also experienced a downgrade in earnings.
“Even in the midst of a lackluster recovery, college degrees have retained their earnings value,” the report concludes.
For some insight into how you might approach the question of is college worth it, these reddit commenters might be able to shed some light.
1. “I went to a two year trade school for computer networking, and made some contacts who were already in the business doings contracts or already having full time jobs. In that time period I learned a bunch hands on, and the classes were small, in depth, and the teachers were more than willing to stay after if you had any extra questions. A few months before graduating one of my friends recommended me for a 3 month contract to do IT stuff at a healthcare company. That 3 month contract has turned into a full time job which I’ve worked at for nearly two years and have easy paid off my loans. Going to get some certs very soon and am very happy I didn’t waste my time or money going to a 4 year school. Trade school isn’t for everyone and I know a bunch of friends who look down on me for it. But, they definitely aren’t looking down at the money I’m making while they still are dorming, partying and having uncertain futures at a 4 year college.”
2. “i was out of school for 2 years thinking i didn’t need a college degree. and then when i found myself seriously over being a waitress, I found that everything that i wanted to do required a degree to get in the door. Go look at job listing online. If you want to make 50K or more there is a degree required. if you don’t have a degree what you need is ALOT of experience. So do you have experience? Do you have QUALITY experience? How much of a hussle do you have? Even with a college a degree you are going to need the above things, but the degree is the “minimum requirement” to get the interview. Do you want to own your own business? Okay, that’s great idea! But what actually is the idea that is going to run your business? Until you have that and make the serious decision to invest in your own company, you need to make yourself the best candidate for someone else to hire. I’ll be graduating in May and even though I am depressed about the debt that I took on by going back to school, I truly feel that I am a way better position than I was 2.5 years ago.”
3. “It all depends on what you want to major in. Some jobs you can get by networking and having a decent resume (don’t forget business cards people). While others require at least a 2yr degree if not a bachelors or masters. Figure out what you want to major in, look at job sites and see what the requirements for those jobs are, and go from there.”
4. “Yes. I dropped out and had to work my a** off to get where I am. Not saying I wouldn’t have worked hard otherwise but the fact that I didn’t have a degree held me back for a couple of years both in career development as pay. You really do need to be significantly better at your job than someone with a degree to get noticed. Even now: I have my own IT company that is turning a nice profit even in these difficult years but if I would apply for a government job I would be classified as someone without qualifications and paid less than someone with a degree who has been failing for the last 10 years.”
5. “Yes, it’s possible to educate yourself..but good teachers make it easier. Yes, it’s possible to get a good job without a degree … possible but increasingly difficult. Some professions like law or medicine require degrees, some like engineering or science are close to impossible without a degree. So yes, college is still necessary, but it is essentially a medieval organization that desperately needs to reinvent itself.”
6. “It depends on what you want to do, really. I know many people with a master’s degree that are doing menial jobs for little pay in a field they don’t enjoy, and I know people with GED‘s that are getting along just fine. I personally dropped out of school my sophomore year. I make decent money, but I’m not happy at my job. I, personally wish I had stayed in school and gone to college, but hey, live and learn.”
7. “Not for what you usually go for – which is landing a certain job. I’d say best bet is to go to a cheap, easy 2-year community college and get your AA then if you still want more education get a real job going to get your foot in the door and then finish the 4-year degree or more. My Master’s degree is totally worthless because I had to start out in basically entry level shit and it’s hard to get promoted past that because the people above you don’t want to lose their job just because you’re better at it than them (or more qualified on paper). Overall, for education, I’d say it’s a total waste of time to go past an AA degree but for partying/freedom (if you grew up like me) go away to a 4-year university and enjoy a few years of life before you have to work the rest of it. Obviously, it all depends on the person but starting out early and making connections is far more important than a degree you could just as easily lie about and nobody would question you.”
8. “My opinion is everyone could benefit from the two year degree. That’s not because a college degree is all that important, or carries that much weight anymore, it’s because our education system (US) is god awful. Like stated in many other comments, it’s very job/ life direction specific whether additional schooling, will be of any use or benefit to you in the real world. After two years of both college and full time work, I feel I’ve learned more about life, and specifically the direction I want to take my life, from working than I ever did in either high school or college. My favorite two examples, finances and credit score, kind of related, but not really. Ask any high school student, and most any college student if they have any idea wtf they are doing about either. I think I’ve got my shit together and I’m still not too sure what I’m doing.”
9. “It depends. You can bet on the odds, which favor college graduates, or you can bet on yourself, which means you need to be motivated and connected. If your only goal is to travel, then you don’t need college. Anyone can travel. Pack a bag, walk to the nearest road and stick out your thumb. You are now traveling.”
10. “As a recent graduate, I’ve been wondering this for a few years. I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, college can absolutely be worth it. The advantages of a college degree in the job market are pretty much irreplaceable. That being said, the paradigm that everyone should go straight to college out of high school, just because they need a degree to be competitive is extremely outdated. College is so expensive today, that people who go without any real direction toward a career path (i.e. a lot of the 40 something generation) just end up with an enormous amount of debt and a subpar degree. … College is only worth it if you take full advantage of the tremendous opportunity it can provide. Older generations (my family included) treat college like a high school degree; something you just have to have regardless of how you get it. Treating college like that is how you end up with 80k in debt at 24 with an art history degree from a mediocre state school. If you’re going to make that kind of financial and time commitment, it needs to translate into a potential career opportunity in some way.”
11. “Yes because it’s the new high school diploma. Any job will require it, even if it’s not posted. Mostly because the majority of job seekers will have it too. The value of the education comes in the classes and major you select. For the love of all that’s holy pick a useful degree. Research the job opportunities and pick something you could see yourself doing for 20+ years or longer. That and make connections. One of the most important thing in college is connections. It’s who you know and where the hiring manager went to school that will get you the most interviews.”
12. “10 minutes of opportunity is worth more than 2 years of education, IMHO. I wish I didn’t bother with college and debt, but then again it wasn’t like I had a direction either, just kinda stumbled into a career in the end. But after my first years salary, I wished I had started years earlier. If you have a dream and a goal the requires those extra years of study, then by all means pursue your goal. The fulfillment should be worth the money spent. If not, skip the whole thing, find something that pays the bills and work your way up. Trades are always in demand, just go where there’s growth.”
13. “I’d start at a trade school first, and if you desire higher pay, back that trade up with some college in that field. College is just for acquiring higher pay, not actually getting a job…Also, odds are once you’ve gotten a job from the trade school, the company will most likely pay for your college anyways.”
14. “It is worth it, but you must go to the right college and get a valuable degree. A good college is either a top university or a good state school. Good degrees are easy to find, the universities will usually have statistics of who is getting hired on their websites.”
So there you have it, readers. Hopefully the different points of view can give you some insight so that you’ll be able to answer the question of is college worth it for yourself. Good luck as you forge ahead toward the type of future that you want.
[Image via AEI]