There’s a lot of chatter going on whether a college degree is still worth the trouble and money to achieve. That discussion was first triggered by Peter Thiel among a number of others that a college degree was useless now, and people were better off spending their time learning tech skills or similar to get ahead. Most notably he and others put their tech businesses up as examples of how fast success was moving past those “wasting” four years or longer to achieve a college degree. The argument is still resonating today, especially with tuition prices being even higher than when Thiel made his comments and in the midst of COVID-19 where few are actually attending campus now. So what exactly does a bachelor’s degree get anymore?
Regardless of what Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and others might posit, the reality is that a college degree is still a must to get in most doors. While a few might have the opportunity or luxury to work for themselves right out of school or even during it, most people are going to be working for an employer. And most employers still have a four-year college degree in a specific field as basic criteria that must be met before a candidate’s resume can be considered. There are ways around that fence with networking or catching the eye of the right hiring manager with real-time proof of skill, but the bulk of people have to go the application/resume route and pass the minimum qualifications to get hired. So, getting a job is a pretty darn good reason right off the bat for a college degree.
Higher Pay on Average
Most people can think of some YouTuber or tech company startup character who is making astronomical income in their early 20s. However, one has to look at that with a reality-prism the same way one looks at a star basketball player or football gridiron star. For every one success story, there are probably a million who didn’t get there. So, for the large majority of everyone else, income is far more down to earth, starting with hourly wages and then eventually migrating to a monthly salary. By and large, those with a college degree tend to earn more than those who do not have one. Again the criteria for promotions tend to be swayed by both work experience, networking, and the presence of the college degree. In fact, some career paths such as the military, police, or firefighting require it for promotion.
A Broader Skillset
Much of what one needs for upper-level positions and the related income involves soft-skills and emotional intelligence. These are the aspects of knowing how to write and communicate, sense strategy, interact with others successfully, and lead versus math, programming, science, tooling, or calculating. College education frequently provides training and exposure to soft-skill learning that can be hard to achieve outside through base experience. And it is soft-skills that often propel someone in networking and the promotion track at the upper level of organizations.
Not Perfect But Necessary
Again, there will always be examples of people who have achieved amazing success without a college degree. But they literally are one in a million. For the high majority of people, a college degree is still beneficial and a functional necessity, but a student doesn’t have to break the bank getting one. There are plenty of ways to get higher education for low cost or even almost free. So don’t let cost drive you away from your opportunity. Instead, do both. Get a college education and pursue your skill and dream at the same time. You will be glad you did down the road.