Is Going to College Worth It Anymore?

This may seem like an off-the-wall type of post, but it’s purely opinion based on trends I have noticed over the years. Do you have a college degree that you can’t seem to get a job with? You spend hours modifying your resume, scheduling interviews, and hoping someone hires you. Resumes and interviews are like an unpaid full-time job in itself. Perhaps you can’t land a job. Is it your lack of experience? Perhaps your resume wasn’t good enough? Did the interview fall through? Whatever the reason, I can say that you aren’t losing your mind! I feel that this generation has been gypped!

Gypped? How So?

I have seen so many cases over the years of students spending thousands and working hard for years for their degree. They are promised from high school (maybe even middle school) a good job if they have a degree. Think about it. How many times have you heard this? I remember in middle school, the counselor came in and talked to us saying we needed to decide what we want to do for a living. Now, why is this? Oh, right. We don’t want to be “flipping burgers” our entire lives. But wait! There’s hope! If we get that degree, or two or three degrees then we will be living the life! We will be taken care of, have a nice house, a nice car, and a fed family.

It Doesn’t Stop There…

In my senior year of high school there were recruiters from colleges and universities promoting their school. There were only a handful of them, those weren’t even all of our options. Before I knew it, seniors were like, “Yeah, I’m going to University of ______! Where are you going?” When you say you are going to the local community college, it is so uninteresting to others. They think you don’t know what you want to do with your life.

These counselors, recruiters, and teachers are saying you need to maintain your grades to get into a good college. They say that once you get a degree you will get that dream job! You only gotta finish school and work hard! If only that were the truth. It feels like a big lie that they tell us. Maybe that is how it worked years ago for our parents and grandparents.

The False Reality

I remember walking into a class one day in high school, and there were numbers on the board. It showed how much someone with a high school diploma all the way up to a doctorate’s degree makes each year. The doctorate’s degree looked so nice! I knew that was years of schooling and figured maybe a bachelor’s would work. Many with college degrees aren’t getting employed. Teachers stressed going to a “good college” so much that my head wanted to explode. It was, “Go to college and get a job that takes care of you forever.” and, “If you don’t go to college then you are doomed to flip burgers your entire life.” Those burger flippers are now going to be paid $15/hour if robots don’t replace them first. What teachers didn’t tell us is about student debt vs. payment plans, the outlook in the job markets, the demand for different jobs, how your student loans affect your credit score, and that lay offs are possible even if you are an excellent employee.

The Times Have Changed

I have known people personally that have gotten associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Guess where some of these people are? Some are working at call centers. Others are front desk receptionists. There are a few working in restaurants. Believe it or not, some of these people went to the more expensive, prestigious universities. Yes, because they were unable to get hired anywhere else in the field they studied for. They needed a job that paid and had to go with what they were offered. When you have a high school diploma you are “under qualified” and then when you have a bachelor’s you are “overqualified”. How sad is that? There’s many different stories about this topic like this one and this one.

Don’t Even Get Me Started On Debt

For those out there who have student loan debt that you used only for your college degree, I feel for you! You may have been told all this time that you will get your degree, get a job right away, and you will be making so much that those loans will disappear like Black Friday televisions. Sorry to say that the world doesn’t work this way. If you can’t pay these debts back, it can get ugly. They can start garnishing your wages. Some careers if you help your community may be able to forgive your student loan. However, there can be a few catches in there. My opinion stands as this: If you can’t afford to pay for college then don’t get the loan. First, see if you qualify for financial aid. Payment plans may be a better option. By co-signing you aren’t doing anyone any favors.

How Much Does College Cost?

It’s no wonder people are taking out student loans. I mean, who has thousands of dollars lying around to spend? Some of us may heard from parents or grandparents we need to “save up and pay for our own college”. Without a loan, that sounds like the reasonable option. How long will it take for many of us to save up this high cost amount? In 1980 – tuition, fees, room and board amounted to $2,230 per year at a 2 year college and $3,499 at a 4 year college. That sounds nice, right? Let’s skip to year 2014 –  it is about $10,837 for a 2 year college and $23,600 for a 4 year college. That is per year! It has more than quadrupled! So now how do we save up and pay for our own college? All I can say is check that financial aid, ask about scholarships, and inquire about grants. They can go a long way! You may qualify for grants you never knew you could, all you need to do is ask.

It May Go Beyond a Degree

Depending on the field you wish to enter and the jobs you would like to acquire, you will probably need more than a college degree. You will more than likely need experience and skills. After a point, you will probably be required to do an internship (which doesn’t have to be paid). If  you go for psychology, law, or medical then you will end up needing to pass vital exams that give you the license to practice (this can depend on the career choice, too). Those are costs on top of your degree already.

Research the Job Market

Don’t limit to yourself to those pamphlets at the college. Likewise, don’t stick to library books about job market growth. Pay attention, notice the trends of jobs in your area (if you wish to stay in your area). Do a lot of people in your city or town work in healthcare? Are there many jobs involving childcare or senior citizen home care? Find someone else in your area who has the degree you do and see where they are at with it and why if you can. If you plan to move, research the jobs in that area. It might be disappointing to want to work with young people when you are moving to a retirement town that revolves more around the elderly. Pay attention, ask questions, and understand what skills you need specifically for these jobs and if they are included in your degree.

Know Your Options

I feel that when I was in high school, I did not know all of my options. It seemed like, “Go to college or be poor…you peasant, you!” All of the pressure from teachers, counselors, and recruiters made it seem that college was the answer to opportunity. They speak of “degrees” and “higher education” and “better chances of jobs”. The price tag is hefty. Within the past couple years, I knew one person with a bachelor’s degree that was on the hunt of a lifetime for work. They spent a lot of time trying to find one job that would hire them, and hopefully it would be one in their chosen field. They got calls from retail stores and restaurants, but not so many from the places that would have mattered more. No job offers were extended to them for months.

I knew this other person that didn’t have a college degree, but they started taking certificate programs. Before finishing the certificate program, they had two job offers already! So, wait! This doesn’t make sense. The person with the bachelor’s degree isn’t catching a job, but the one not even finished with their certificate program is like getting offers? What the whaaaaat?

Certificate Programs

Look into certificate programs online, and see about ones that will count or meet qualifications in your state to practice in that field. Seriously, put in any search engine “certificate programs online” and you can find some that are nearly as credible if not more than a degree. Why? They teach  you certain skills. You become “certified” in a skill. A lot more jobs are also requiring certain certifications. I’m noticing some universities picking up their pace and including certificates in degree programs. After taking a certificate, you may need a business license in your state, or a permit depending on the certificate and state requirements. However, the certificate itself may be less than $1,000. Doesn’t that sound a lot better? Recently, I knew someone else who had a master’s in their medical field of expertise and applied for another job. They got turned down because they didn’t have a certain “certificate” in that field. It didn’t matter that they were practicing medicine for many years because they didn’t have that stupid “certificate” that the employer was looking for.

Good Paying Jobs Without College?

Yes, they exist. Some of them are high paying jobs, too. In fact, sometimes it makes me rethink college all together. There are so many jobs that do not take a college degree to earn a good income. Did you know that some CEO’s do not have a college degree? Many jobs don’t require a four year degree. Some of these good paying jobs didn’t take much more than 1-3 years to become educated for.

Some Fields May Require Higher Education

If you want to be a psychologist or psychiatrist in your own practice you will probably need a Master’s or Doctorate Degree to get started. If you want to be a surgeon or anything in advanced medical, you will probably need a higher degree. It can all depend on the career you are aiming for.

So Is College Worth It?

Personally, I feel that education is important. Being allowed to receive an education is a definite privilege that others in this world may not have. I believe an Associate’s Degree is important to achieve, but after that focus on certificates, other programs for skill building, and gaining experience. Employer’s in this changing world need employee’s that know skills with their degree, not only a degree. Someone that can apply their knowledge from their degrees/certificates may be more desirable to an employer. Anyone who gets the chance to attend college can get a degree, but your time needs to be invested into skills. A two year degree with a certificate or two may help you navigate the job market easier. Try to get jobs lined up while working on your degree and certificates so you aren’t left out in the cold after graduating. If you need a higher education degree, plan accordingly.


Do you feel having a degree in higher education is worth it? Post in the comments below!


[Image Credit: Alex Jones on]

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