We are in the midst of Graduation Season. Congrats to all of you who graduated with an Associates, Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate. My wife recently earned her Doctorate, so I know how much hard work all of you did to reach that milestone. Drew Magary’s advice for all Grads is to walk more.
I have been pondering the following the 3 questions the past few months: How important is getting a college degree? Is there significant evidence to show that someone needs a degree? Is it worth getting a degree? These questions arose because I see so many graduates working in jobs that they didn’t go to school for, didn’t want and perhaps are too qualified for.
Here are the average salaries for someone with a high school diploma ($35,256), Associates Degree ($41,496), Bachelors Degree ($59,124), Master Degree ($69,732), Professional Degree ($89,960) and Doctorate ($84,396). So as you see, the more education you get the higher your salary can be.
The $25k difference between having a high school diploma and a Bachelor’s is astounding to me. A friend of mine does not have any college degree and is currently looking to leave his job. But he is having a hard time getting interviews even though he has more than 10 years of experience in his field. It goes to show how much value a piece of paper can have just to get an interview.
Of course there are plenty of non-college educated people making six figures, so your level of education is not entirely indicative of your salary expectation.
To become a doctor or lawyer it is obvious that you need to got to medical school or law school. So we know that higher education is necessary for some fields.
Here are the educational requirements for some fields: Marketing (BA/BS in various Majors), Financial Analysis (BS Finance, Accounting, Statistics), NYPD (Requires 60 college credits), FDNY (Requires 15 college credits) and Writers (BA English, Journalism, Communications).
In the financial analysis/budgeting field it is extremely difficult to get an analyst position without a bachelor’s. I only know of one person who was promoted to an analyst position without a degree. And that was because she worked as an administrative assistant for more than 5 years.
Ease of Entry
My economics professor talked about the “ease of entry” when describing how a company determines whether or not to enter a new business sector. This also applies to people entering job markets. If I wanted to become a nurse I would need to earn a Bachelors in Nursing and then get certified for the nursing license. So there again, college would be needed and more time to do so.
But to become a bus driver, like my dad, I would need obtain a CDL, have a clean driving record and pass a few written and medical tests. There would no extra classes or degrees for me to obtain. I could probably do this within a couple of months.
Resumes and LinkedIn
In my Networking post I lauded the virtues of having a LinkedIn account. But having an online resume does have a drawback when you do not have a college degree. Recruiters search using certain criteria and if you do not have that initial requirement, you will be passed over. In that case I would add as much work experience and skills as possible.
Student Loan Debt
I have to mention that student loans are crippling current college grads. So you will need to make a financial judgment based on how much you expect to earn the first 5 years after graduation. If you feel like you will earn less than $40k the first few years after graduating, then you should consider going to a state school or a community college. I could not recommend, in good conscience, taking out a $100k loan if you think there is a good possibility of defaulting. Remember, you cannot wipe out a student loan balance by filing for bankruptcy anymore.
Liberal Arts Majors
What do you want to do? If you want to become a Professor you have to get a Doctorate. To become a teacher requires a Masters. Plus there is a chance that you can get loan forgiveness based on the school district you are in. Whatever your best skill is try to find your niche in a field that is growing and in-demand.
Is it worth it?
Yes, you can’t get your foot in the door without it in many fields. Additionally there is plenty of proof to show that the income disparities between college grads and non-college grads is getting larger. Money isn’t everything, but it sure helps pay the bills.
I have to admit that my opinion may be a bit of an East Coast Bias. Living in NYC and other big cities is extremely competitive. About 95% of my co-workers have at least a Bachelor’s. Is this the case in the Midwest and South?
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