The True Value of a College Degree

When I first made plans to go to college, I noticed an immediate difference in the way people talked to me. Every time the subject came up, people applauded my decision to go to school with encouraging comments:

“Once you have your degree, you’ll have no trouble finding a great job.” — “Employers will be eager to interview you.” — “By the time you graduate, you’ll have a career already waiting.”

Regardless of the words used to say it, the message was always the same: Having a college degree would make a remarkable difference in my future. Interestingly, this was an atrocious lie.

Of course, I didn’t know it at the time. I naively took their recommendations as truths, got on the college conveyor belt, and earned my degree. Armed with my ticket to easy street, I looked forward to having my pick from the large selection of employers who handed out jobs to recent college grads.

As I’m certain you’ve guessed, I never managed to meet up with those employers. In fact, many friends of mine had similar difficulties. Though we were all under the impression that our degrees would guarantee us great jobs with great salaries, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Following graduation, I submitted my resume, application, and cover letter to over 100 employers over the course of two months. I interviewed for nearly a dozen positions — but wasn’t offered a single job. Where did I end up working? For the organization I interned at — doing a job I could’ve been doing without my coveted degree.

My friends were in the same boat. They earned their degrees but ended up working jobs they could’ve been working right out of high school. One works as a food runner at a restaurant. Another deals cards at a casino. Yet another works as a laborer for his father’s masonry business. In every case, it was a simple matter of dollars and cents: Starting salaries in their specialized fields offered less than what they made at their previous jobs.

How did this happen? We believed that our degrees were supposed to help pave the way to a better future — but that’s not what happened for any of us. So what were we doing wrong?

We were failing to see our degree for what it actually is.

Consider what I’ve done with my degree since receiving it: I framed it and hung it on a wall. A few years later I moved, so I packed it into a box. It never met the wall at my new place, and remained stowed in my attic for another few years before I moved again. Currently, it’s hidden in a filing cabinet.

In other words, the degree is a piece of paper. It’s not some magical entity that grants the holder immediate and undeniable success. This claim is not to suggest that a college education is worthless, I’m only suggesting that a college degree is nothing more than a ticket to compete. It puts you in the running for a better future, but it provides no guarantees.

That was not what my friends and I thought we signed up for. We thought college would be the answer to our problems. Once we had our degrees, we would be coasting down easy street with fifty thousand dollar starting salaries at every turn. But when our graduation dates arrived, what we imagined would happen wasn’t anywhere near what actually happened.

We walked, shook some hands, accepted our degree, had our picture taken, and then looked around for the employers that were supposed to be handing out jobs — and they weren’t there. Though we were promised they’d be there, they weren’t. We were lied to — and the harsh truth stood before us:

The degree wasn’t the final answer, it was just one factor in a much larger equation. It was the starting line, not the finish line. Now that we had our ticket to compete, it was up to us to make something of it. The problem is, most of us didn’t understand that.

Some of us still don’t. I say this because of the new trend among my friends: Since they have found little success with their undergraduate degrees, many have decided to attend graduate school.  Again, I don’t mean to deny the value of education — I simply believe they’re falling into old habits:

They’re still in search of a piece of paper that can solve all of their problems. Although I’d love for them to prove me wrong, I fear that they are making a poor investment. I suspect that upon receiving their new degree, they will discover that they’re still not at the finish line — they’re just at a different starting line.

My point is that people often attribute too much value to the degree itself. Don’t expect it to do all the work for you — because it can’t and it won’t.

As for the true value of a college degree, it tells employers only one thing: Since finishing college is relatively difficult, then you must be relatively intelligent. So remember, a college degree is only a ticket to compete. Everything else is up to you.

Update 9-13-2007: I read a writeup by George Leef of the National Review Online, which outlines how Higher education has been oversold. It’s an excellent writeup that parallels many of the ideas I explained above.

Update 3-19-2008: I read another excellent article called A Guide To Potential Grad Students: Should You Go To Grad School? Anyone who is considering going to graduate school just because they don’t know what else to do should definitely read it.

Update 7-19-2008: I read another article called The Declining Value Of Your College Degree on MadConomist that parallels the topics in my article above.

Update 2-6-2009: Yet another article on this subject, The Great College Hoax –

Update 2-11-2009: I keep discovering more articles.  Student Loans Can Wreck You: The Next Financial Crisis

Update 4-27-2009: Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market — End the University as We Know It

Update 7-1-2009: The four-year college degree has come to cost too much and prove too little. It’s now a bad deal for the average student, family, employer, professor and taxpayer. — Don’t Get That College Degree!  – New York Post

Update 5-18-2010: According to another article, high school graduates would be better served by being taught how to behave and communicate in the workplace than attend college. — Plan B – Skip College

Update 6-30-2010: “Research suggests that the monetary value of a college degree may be vastly overblown.” — College : Big Investment, Paltry Return

Update 3-11-2011: “Articles with headlines such as ‘The University Degrees that may add nothing to lifetime’s salary’ are easy to find” — Is it worth going to university?

Update 11-28-2011: “a college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence” — The Dwindling Power of a College Degree

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130 Responses to “The True Value of a College Degree”

#1 Dave on 14, Aug, 2007 at 5:40 pm

I’d have to say that the only value to a degree is that it shows you can set yourself to a task and follow through with it.

Even though its 15 years later, I still question the real value of my degree.

#2 Mark on 14, Aug, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Believing that a piece of paper from a University is the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s world of success is a mistake that many people make.

Unfortunately when parents/peers are driving home the importance of a college education they fail to stress that it is just a ticket to compete in the race…..not a guarantee of victory.

That said, not having the entry ticket gives you a lot less of a chance of winning than the people who do.

I wouldn’t even agree that being able to earn a degree shows some sort of intelligence but rather the ability to complete a long term task as Dave stated in his response.

To compound the problem even more I’ve seen people make the mistake of choosing “_____” University because they believe it will make a difference on their resume. These people become even more bitter after they realize they just took out 120,000 in loans and work side by side with the guy who graduated from a local community college.

There are always exceptions. Completing law school or medical school will most likely guarantee you monetary success if you pass the boards. Graduating from MIT or Stanford’s C.S. department will probably land you a good job the day after you get that piece of paper.

I do have to say that by the time a student graduates they should be wise enough to realize that the degree guarantees nothing. If not then it’s obvious that they haven’t been paying attention to the world around them.

#3 Sean on 14, Aug, 2007 at 11:29 pm

I’m basically realizing the value of a College Degree from the opposite end. I’ve been a Pizza manager for years, who was told grand stories of riches if I worked hard and played my cards right. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I would require to move 2000 miles in order to accomplish that goal. Personal priorities prevailed, so I left that career and suddenly found myself very fragile and vulnerable. I bounced around about 5 jobs in 6 months, quickly realizing that the experience I had, while quite extensive, didn’t matter to most employers without that Golden Ticket. Now I’m on my way to University, to attain that higher level of success – but I am definitely not naive in thinking that it will be a cake walk to find a job when I am out.

Thanks for the encouraging words – they confirm that I am headed in the right direction!

#4 Eileen on 15, Aug, 2007 at 5:38 am

I went to college thinking that a degree would mean guaranteed success and easy money. I had great high school credentials and went to a top university. Now, a couple of years after graduating, I’m disappointed that I still have to work for money, and instead of people kowtowing to me and depositing money into my bank account for nothing, I have to do what other people say and make less than them. This makes me question not the value of a degree, but the value of life.

#5 Patrick Allmond on 15, Aug, 2007 at 8:18 am

I believe another very important value of a degree is the experience and knowledge you gain that takes a very long time otherwise. People who get degrees are already exposed to so much that people with no degrees as ‘real world’ experience take lifetimes to get.

#6 jesse on 15, Aug, 2007 at 9:30 am

What I learned in college:

How to get in debt

#7 umar on 15, Aug, 2007 at 9:37 am

again… it depends what the major is… if you are going to college for something you are passionate about, chances are that you will stand out, and end up getting a job better than those who went to college following an illusion of success. Conversely, if you are going to college thinking that 4 years later employers will knock at your door and offer you a job on a silver platter, while in those 4 years you got average grades in the subjects you are least interested in, you live in a fool’s paradise.

Go to college and choose the field that really attracts you and you are confident that you can do good in it.

#8 Patrick on 15, Aug, 2007 at 9:41 am

I hear people whining about the lack of success their degrees have brought them. Invariably, it’s because they majored in something that has no value in the market place, such as English Literature or some sort of Humanities discipline. If people would see what degrees are being hired before they declare a major, then maybe they would choose useful fields of study such as Accounting, Engineering, or Computer Science.

#9 AJ on 15, Aug, 2007 at 11:19 am

I have to agree with you on the naivete of people coming out of their undergrad careers. They go to school to get a diploma, not a job. I was in that boat and thought a job would just come.

I have an engineering degree from the University of Michigan, and I used to blame the economy of ’01-’02 for my plight, but I realize it wasn’t solely blame. That was just convenient to tell people. I didn’t get an internship the year before I graduated because I thought the degree was enough. The career assistance at my school was deplorable and no one ever set me straight to let me know that in reality they want to see what you’ve done not what you’ve learned in a classrom.

After three years at a crappy lab job, I had to reinvent myself. I took the grad school route, but this time I wanted a job instead of a degree. I studied for the GRE for months, I applied to the exact program I felt would get me the job I wanted. I worked my ass off, I tried for months to get an internship, I worked my ass off at the internship carefully documenting my experience to add to my resume, and went so far as to ask to do things that would make my resume look better.

When I graduated, I read about interviewing techniques and how to best present your skills/abilities to potential employers. I created bookmark files of over 700 career websites of companies I was interested in and checked their sites weekly for new jobs.

It took until 6 months after graduation, but I found the absolutely perfect job. It was all worth it. I don’t care what you studied….the job search is about how much you want it.

#10 LJ on 15, Aug, 2007 at 11:29 am

To Patrick:

It has nothing to do with what a person chooses to major in. English degrees can be just as successful as Accounting degrees. It’s really up to the person and how they want to shape their career. Maybe we should redefine success. Is success making millions and driving Escalades? or is success actually waking up, feeling happy about what you do, and living moderately…

Success is purely an individual decision.

#11 kickstand on 15, Aug, 2007 at 11:53 am

You don’t say whether you got the internship through the college, but if you did, well, that’s what college is all about: the connections and the experience, not the piece of paper.

#12 DiskoVilante on 15, Aug, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Of course a bachelors degree isn’t worth much. It’s a bachelor’s degree. Almost anyone can get one. Going to grad school and getting a PhD degree, now, THAT will certainly give you a large step up in life.

#13 Tim on 15, Aug, 2007 at 12:36 pm

To LJ:
Actually, what degree you get does indeed matter and it is naive to suggest otherwise. Some careers need a particular degree, and a degree that prepares one for a specific carrer (such as medicine, or engineering for example) will go much farther than a liberal arts degree in medieval literature. Some fields require a degree to even get a foot in the door, as well. Go get a degree in art, then try to become a murse. You can succeed in business without a degree, but it requires natural aptitude, interest, drive, and hard earned experience – no one drops out of high school to become a CEO, at least not many 😉

#14 mds on 15, Aug, 2007 at 12:52 pm

A degree may prove useful when you least expect it. I gave up on my field of study and took a much higher paying job in a field where degrees are not necessary. Come promotion time that diploma proved invaluable.

#15 Craig on 15, Aug, 2007 at 12:52 pm

My experience with degrees is quite different. While I was doing my undergrad, I was working as a consultant. As I worked through my program, I quickly learned how I was benefitting from my education. My education was training me how to deal with problems that I had never seen before. My education taught me how to deal with complex problems; the kind that others find daunting.

When I got my first degree, I was making 2-3 times what people with just a high school diploma were making. I continued to consult while I went to grad school. After I finished my Masters, I went back to consulting full time and was instantly making double what people with B.Sc.s were making. Everyone told me while I was in grad school that the second degree wouldn’t change anything and I believed it. It was totally wrong! Everything changed.

Now, I’m a professor at a University and I see the same things that I did when I was a student. For some reason, there are a number of people who think that the point of an education is to get a degree. This is not true. The point of an education is to learn how to think. I’m constantly amazed at how many students cheat or plagiarize. Clearly, these students have bought into the idea that getting a degree will make it possible for them to make money but they don’t realize that it’s not the degree that makes money; it’s the person holding the degree who makes money. If you didn’t learn anything while obtaining your degree, then why should anyone pay you more than a high school graduate? You’re going to make the same mistakes, you’re going to require the same level of supervision and if you went through university thinking that getting a degree meant that you didn’t have to work for a living, you’ve probably got the same intelligence level as a high school grad.

I do find this article whiney. The central message seems to be that the author was “lied to”. I find that unlikely. I think it is more probable that the author simply wasn’t listening and only heard the message that he wanted to hear.

#16 sgc on 15, Aug, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Yes…expanding your mind and considering art, humanities and literature is not useful. Bettering your mind and broadening your exposure to the world and art is not only useful, it’s necessary. It just depends on your values and priorities.

Anyone who thinks degree=job is Creationist-level naive. Perhaps you should have gotten a part-time job while in school to see what the work force was really like. Perhaps you should have spoken with graduates to see how they were faring in the job market. Or maybe your parents should have slapped you across the face and woken you up to reality a few years early.

#17 Bill Crybaby on 15, Aug, 2007 at 1:36 pm

Are you joking? What did you get a degree in, history, spanish, or art? Where did you go, community college?

You are such an American. I did this, now reward me!!! But what did you major in, what was your GPA? If you got a 2.0 in art, no, you don’t get a free pass anywhere. If you got a 3.5 in engineering at an accredited school, you probably had a job waiting. Did you even use some common sense when you started school, like “Why would anyone value a degree in Spanish?” They wouldn’t, and they don’t care if you know anything about Spanish. Why not just teach yourself and read some books and get a real degree?

Yes, it’s only worth a piece of paper if you major in something useless. If you had gone into Construction Science, Engineering, law, business (maybe), a hard science, you could have done something with that. I see that you fail to mention what your major was or where you went, that shows that you figured out that you made some mistakes and don’t want to admit the real reason you didn’t get that job as a CEO right out of college.

No one ever needs to major in: art, history, music, or any language unless you want to teach. Otherwise, you can learn just as much on your own, and not waste a bunch of money on a degree that says you know a lot about the Greece in the 13th century.

You worthless-degree people are all the same. If only you parents would have asked you the one important question “So what are you going to do with a degree in Trombone/Spanish/Sculpting that you couldn’t do without the degree?”

#18 Steven Erdmanczyk on 15, Aug, 2007 at 1:39 pm

The value of your degree is relative. If you get a communications degree, yeah, you could do that stuff out of high school. If you get an engineering degree or physics and go into research or get a career as an engineer, a college degree can be very valuable. Also, college isn’t just about getting paid more, it offers you an experience to meet other people and learn things about the world you may not in a normal working environment

#19 Lauren on 15, Aug, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Testify Shaun! It kills me when I think about nearly having my master’s and still working for minimum wage. And unlike Mr. Crybaby says, I attained excellent grades at accredited universities in practical fields.

#20 J Delphiki on 15, Aug, 2007 at 1:55 pm

“When I first made plans to go to college, I noticed an immediate difference in the way people talked to me. Every time the subject came up, people applauded my decision to go to school with encouraging comments…”

“Once you have your degree, you’ll have no trouble finding a great job.� — “Employers will be eager to interview you.� — “By the time you graduate, you’ll have a career already waiting.�

Frankly I doubt anyone you know said any of those things.

This whole post reads like someone who’s fantasizing about this experience. But given the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you are the first to attend college in your family? Those words of assurance above came out of ignorance, and uncommon ignorance at that. I think the mixed responses in the comments come out of incredulity.

Putting that aside, most jobs are obtained at least partly through connections, the social networks we form through our families, communities, our past work experiences and our academic pasts. It’s not uncommon to have those bonds override the nominal value of your diploma(s). That fact doesn’t doesn’t invalidate your entire college experience.

Finally: “As for the true value of a college degree, it tells employers only one thing: Since finishing college is relatively difficult, then you must be relatively intelligent.” I’m trying to think of a non-blue collar job where the employer might actually think this. How could you not mention that it’s -what- and -where- you studied, not simply the fact that you did study?

For people interested in some insight into the subject, do some more reading:

This post remains a perplexing gesture.

#21 major tom on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:01 pm

Getting a job is 99% who you know and 1% ability/accreditation.

#22 eeee on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:03 pm


#23 Vai on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:03 pm

I believe that a degree is invaluable. It teaches you what it means to actually work out a complex problem. The type of degree in relation to the demands of the market, definitely depends on your success. In college I was learning how to program in HTML, Calculate the required energy output of an air conditioning unit, balance a 20 sheet excel accounting ledger and the rules of raquet ball all in one day! I met Vietnamese, Latin American and African American friends and many others with different cultural backgrounds. No where can this be repeated! However, it is also how you apply it after school that counts. I believe I.T. skills are best applied to the creation of your own project, not someone else’s ideas or wishes.

Now I realize that a second graduate level professional degree means everything. It means publishing a book, it means being paid to talk, it means being able to work in different countries, it is helping on a massively wide scale, and above all it means freedom for yourself.

There is truth in the argument that a degree is only a piece of paper. You are what you make of your life whether in college or not. However it is access to the resources at a college that makes college worthwhile.

#24 OHWolfman on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:06 pm

I’m one of those guys who stopped going to college because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. Never got my degree and instead pursued opportunities. Without that precious degree I have: Worked at NASA, BP Oil, Kaiser Permanente, been a seminar presenter around the US, presented a workshop at the White House, was the company manager for a national Broadway Touring show, and started my own online business. These are opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I had settled for a job based on a piece of paper. I am now 43 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

Currently I am at Kaiser Permanente making a very good wage — more than the other folks who have been here 20+ years more than I have. I am already looking forward to changing jobs in the next couple of years where I can travel for work again.

To all of you who are still searching, take this advice: NEVER let a piece of paper stop you from anything. The key qualities that lead to success are curiosity and determination. Learn how to be affable and deliver whatever you promise.

I wish you all the very best.

Cleveland, OH

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Dorothy Parker

#25 Degree on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Here’s an idea: college is for learning, not for gaining access to some trade or another.

#26 homer on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:17 pm

if you end up going to podunk state like most “college graduates” in the states, yes, your future prospects are not enhanced by any detectable measure; you may as well work at walmart. however, going to top tier universities (read: top 20) and receiving a degree will make all the difference in the world, provided you’re actually intelligent and have merit.

the people giving you advice weren’t completely off base, they just neglected to mention the most important part: “Once you have your degree *from a top tier school*, you’ll have no trouble finding a great job”

#27 Vince P. on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:38 pm

I would like to echo what Craig said above, even though my experiences were completely different. I scrabbled just to make it through school because I didn’t have anyone to pay the bills except me. When I got done with school, I was very much aware of how deluded most of my classmates were, so I scrabbled to get my first job too. I started at the bottom of the pay scale and took the first job that would give me more marketable experience. Within 5 years, I was making more than 4x what I made in my first year.

I love what I do. I make no assumptions; including that anyone owes me anything. Ditch the whiny tone and get with the program already; become marketable! Pick a job you would love to have (say within 5 years) and be relentless! It really is that simple. People will see your hunger, your drive, and your talent and will either get the hell out of your way or help you out.

Say goodbye to the pity party forever or pay the price the rest of your life.

#28 Haley on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:43 pm

This sob story ignores the empirical data that decisively demonstrate the value of a college education in terms of lifetime earnings. It is also completely insensitive to the even greater difficulties faced by those without college degrees.

Perhaps I’d feel more sympathy for Mr. Boyd if he didn’t put his education towards admittedly well written, but insufferably whiny prose.

#29 Computer Dick on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:48 pm

I don’t know man, I majored in Computer Science and have had incredible success and mountains of job offers since I graduated 5 years ago. I guess there is a caveat that needs to be added when people say, “By the time you graduate, you’ll have a career already waiting.â€? You have to study something that employers really need. And guess what? Most of those things require a degree that have difficult curriculum.

#30 Johnny on 15, Aug, 2007 at 2:56 pm

I have to agree with Craig. I’ve always understood that the point of a degree was to get an education, and I got exactly what I wanted from school. If you think college is about a piece of paper that is a ticket to job opportunity, you’re completely missing the point of going, and of course you’re going to be disappointed.

#31 jay12345 on 15, Aug, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Do not think of the degree as a free pass to a high paying job. You make college out to be a waste of time. You said that you applied to over one hundred jobs and did not land one. Maybe you are the problem!!! I have been out of college for three years now. Yes, I had to work lame jobs for three years. Now I have my dream job. College + experience really helps you land that dream job. Keep doing what your doing and work those dead end jobs. Eventually, if you keep with it, you will be in a far better position and move up in the ranks far faster than someone with just a high school degree. And good luck finding a decent job with just a high school diploma without knowing anyone. This article is junk!!!

#32 LJ on 15, Aug, 2007 at 3:18 pm

To Tim:

I know exactly what you’re saying… but my point is, if you get a degree in English, then obviously you want to pursue a career in that field. Most people don’t get degrees in art and then try to pursue a career as a nurse. They may get a degree in art, then decide they want to be a nurse, requiring them to go back to school. Why is everyone so against people who studied the arts? because it doesn’t pay top salary? or is it not respectable living?

It doesn’t matter what you get a degree in, as long as you have passion towards what you’ve studied and didn’t just pick for sake of Market success. The wonderful idea about freedom is that we change who we are and what we want at anytime. (:

#33 Henry on 15, Aug, 2007 at 3:44 pm

College is only worth it if you want to be a lawyer, accountant or medical doctor.
Those are the only useful majors that I know of.
Most of the technical degrees are being outsourced (math, comp.sci, elec.eng.) so they are useless to take.
Other wise save your money and get work at Starbucks and after 4 years you get to become a manager and make 76,000$ per year.
Or go work for the government and have guaranteed benefits for life and have a nice easy job.

#34 Ron on 15, Aug, 2007 at 3:51 pm

I don’t know, but, it seems that experience kills a degree every time. I just got passed up for a promotion because someone with a few more years of experience (and no degree) beat me out of it. You will find a person with a Bachelors Degree and 1 year of experience apply for a job and not even get a call back. The same job will be filled by someone with no college education, but, 3 years of experience. There is NO easy street, and, there is NO right way…it is different for everyone.

#35 Jan on 15, Aug, 2007 at 4:34 pm

With all due respect, reading your article all I could think of was “what kind of a degree is he talking about”?

I suppose it wasn’t law, engineering or medicine?
(those are seriously in demand most of the time in the Real World).

Sorry for sounding critical. I generally love your writings.

#36 Jan on 15, Aug, 2007 at 4:39 pm

I just found out you seem to have a computer science degree. Maybe you graduated after the internet bubble burst?

#37 Foster Foskin on 15, Aug, 2007 at 6:26 pm

I never even bothered finishing high school because my father was in the military and we kept moving. Every time we moved I had to start all over again. I just gave up.

It was tough at first, because I had no idea what I wanted to do. But when I got a job selling advertising on the phone and started making huge amounts of commissions I knew I was a good salesman. From there I went on to a selling career. I have built up three businesses and sold them for a profit…my latest one just this month. I am investing the profits into a new business selling exports. I expect to make this business a success too.

It’s not the piece of paper that helps. It’s your attitude. My motto for success is: Do what you are afraid to do!

Overcome the fear, do it well, and you will find success. Good luck to all you graduates. Sorry you had to work so hard for such a worthless piece of paper. But better you find out now rather than later. Go out and make your lives a success!

#38 Claire on 15, Aug, 2007 at 7:23 pm

Yes, a degree is a piece of paper. However, while you are earning that coveted sheepskin some thought and or planning should go into what you are going to do after the strains of pomp and circumstance have faded. Many students are actually invested and interested in their futures, while others are waiting for “jobs to be handed on a silver platter�. You see the committed students actively participating in study groups, internships, workshops etc. For others attending college is now the equivalent of daycare. Mommy and Daddy say they have to go so they go but pay no attention to what degree they are getting. I have known many students who were “communications� majors because it was in the front of the catalog, had very few math courses and the classes were in the afternoon. My Father told me that having a college degree would open doors. I have a bachelors and a Masters degree in Anthropology but I was also smart enough to realize I probably wasn’t going to get a job in that specific field so I devised a back-up plan. I think “planning� is what is missing from today’s college students.

#39 GadgetPig on 15, Aug, 2007 at 7:37 pm

This is a great article and I agree with the author, Shaun.

There used to be a time when college helped prepare you, and indeed there were plenty of jobs available. Those days were in the 50’s.

Today’s dynamic is much harder. We are being forced to compete daily for daycare, housing, jobs, and working longer hours. It’s no longer enough to graduate from an ‘ordinary’ college. You need an ivy league degree nowadays, and even THAT is no guarantee. We are the victim of our own capitalistic excesses, and it’s biting us in the @ss.

#40 Cole on 15, Aug, 2007 at 7:44 pm

If you could have done the job you have without the degree, you were obviously a liberal arts major.

I agree with some of your ideas, but the premise just doesn’t apply to the sciences at all.

#41 Finer Minds - Todays top blog posts on Meditation - Powered by SocialRank on 16, Aug, 2007 at 2:53 am

[…] The True Value of a College Degree […]

#42 Ibod Catooga on 17, Aug, 2007 at 4:04 am

I got a college degree and I was hired to be a nigger.


#43 Stephen G. on 17, Aug, 2007 at 11:40 am

One of the most important things people miss out on when they attend college is the chance to mix what they love to learn about with what they love to do. College simply helps to provide students with a solid foundation to build upon. For example, if you truly love writing, college will allow you the opportunity to hone your skills and develop your style. But if all the writing you do is for your classes, then your experience is limited to that of what your professors can think of. There’s nothing very original in that.

The same idea applies to Computer Science and Informations Systems degrees like I graduated with. Without internships and real world experience how can anything you learn in these classes have any real meaning to you. These classes merely teach the tools programmers and IS people use to do their jobs. They certainly do not teach you how to be programmer or tech support specialist. This is definitely a learn-by-doing industry. Experience cannot by taught by some professor, regardless of how many years he or she has been doing it.

Yes, to be successful at anything you need to have a vested interest in whatever you’re doing. You don’t necessary need to love it, but you should certainly find a level of enjoyment while performing the tasks involved. If you leave college with a 4.0 GPA but have no real world experience, you are absolutely doomed to jobs you could have done with the degree. The biggest misconception about college is that knowledge does not equal experience.

#44 GadgetPig on 17, Aug, 2007 at 12:47 pm

>”Yes, to be successful at anything you need to >have a vested interest in whatever you’re doing”

Therein lies the problem, companies nowadays do not care about you as an individual. They care only about the bottom line. We are essentially termed a ‘cost center’.

People that work in IT/Operations/Accounting are mostly salaried, and they are getting f_cked left and right. 50/60/80hr work week? In our field that’s considered ‘normal’. And yet, why is it there are IT/operations/Accounting unions?

Today more than ever, companies care only about the bottom line, about giving more work for less, keeping costs centers like IT/operations/accounting underfunded, undermanned, and undervalued. They care more about marketing budgets, terms like ‘SLA agreements’, ‘Efficiency experts’, ‘% time worked on a project’, ‘deliverables’ and so on. You know, they really want you to work 24/7, but not pay you for it.

So what is happening now? There is a wave of defections, we are leaving the corporate workplace. And the companies they left behind no longer have the talent they once had. You know, when you have a company, you must never forget that your employees have a ‘partnership’ with you. Business works 2 ways. If you treat employees badly or underpay, they will surely leave.

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#47 aunt vera on 11, Sep, 2007 at 4:06 pm

“we spend so much time getting ready for life that we don’t live it.”
unfortunately employment settings support capabilities of producing a desired effect rather than necessitate or reward scholarship.
instant gratification is not the answer!
hi shaunie!love you for who you are:^)
aunt vera

#48 geezer on 14, Sep, 2007 at 10:59 am

Have you considered the role of outsourcing / globalization in the difficulty you experienced in finding your first job?

There was a time when getting the first job was not that hard.

Don’t underestimate college as an experience which has the potential to make you a thinking, feeling, active and engaged citizen, consumer, taxpayer. Even if you are going to be a plumber or trucker, you still need to have the ability to understand the world and your place in it.

#49 Andrea on 25, Oct, 2007 at 2:02 pm

If college is so useless, why are there 60 year olds in my accounting classes? They have been working for years, so they have experience. But experience is not good enough anymore. You need experience and at least a bachelor’s degree just to get by. I’ll probably have to take a clerk position (about 20k a year) out of college because I have no experience. Yeah, life sucks but I know it would be worse if I didn’t have a degree.

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#52 get the right degree on 20, Dec, 2007 at 3:21 am

Majoring in the right field goes a long way in seeing that your expensive piece of paper – your diploma – turns out to have a good ROI. Of course a 4-year degree in sociology, anthropology, history or most other social science disciplines (political science, international relations and of course business/economics/marketing excluded) is frankly a waste of time and money. However, you will be hard pressed in making the case that 4 years of comp sci, biochem, PT or nursing doesn’t result in many doors opening wide.

Going to college just for the sake of getting a degree is not a smart investment. Going to college to study an in-demand field guarantees an excellent ROI. Comp Sci grads start at ~$55,000 a year where I’m from (metro Boston); Physical Therapy grads start at ~$50,000. I double majored in International Relations / Political Economy and International Marketing, and I had a range of companies recruiting me.

So yeah, if your degree is in 19th Century Chinese Lit or Sociology, good luck finding a job. But if you chose wisely and majored in basically any natural science or business-related field, don’t be too surprised if companies end up in a bidding war for your services.

#53 Bill on 30, Dec, 2007 at 9:24 pm

I look back today and really kick myself for taking the time to obtain not one, but two college degrees! One is in the humanities and the other is in business. I gradated with honors both times. After being out of college for 8 years I have found nothing but minimum wage
no-benefit work. My life has been little other than working 2-3 part-time minimum wage jobs at 50-60 total hours per week.

Nothing bothers me more than to run into people I knew from college (who knew how well I did academically). The look in their eyes and the comments at hearing what I’m doing makes me die a little bit more inside each time.

I’m also looked at by my family as a huge failure and they’ve basically lost all faith in me to ever have a decent “middle class” lifestyle or job.

I decided back in November that I’m not going to stick around. I’m tying up a number of loose ends right now and plan on shooting myself in the head sometime in early May of 2008. I’ve even got the costs of burial paid in advance so that my folks won’t be left with any more large bills related to my time on the planet.

If I could go back in time and not attend college I think it would at least be easier right now to face everyday. I’m relieved that none of this will last much longer

#54 Shaun Boyd on 30, Dec, 2007 at 10:18 pm

I don’t think you used your true email to fill out the comment form so I’m reaching out to you here. Listen, suicide is the ultimate “fuck you” to everyone you’ve ever known. Although I can relate to what you’re going through (yes, I used to struggle with thoughts of suicide myself), all I can tell you is that your life could never be so bad that nothingness would be preferable. Life is about experiences — even the not so wonderful ones. I hope that you talk to a friend about your plan to kill yourself or seek professional help. It would be a shame for you to end your life. Please consider calling 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) if you feel that you can’t confide in anyone that you know.

#55 Bill on 30, Dec, 2007 at 11:35 pm

You obviously don’t understand that suicide (in many cases) is a perfectly rational decision that is sometimes also the “best” decision. I’m perfectly happy with the course I have set out upon. I believed with all my heart in the American dream of getting an education, working hard, and having a decent life where I could support myself on a living wage. Boy was I stupid! My college degrees are nothing more than a huge source of disappointment, embarrassment, and disgrace. My decision isn’t saying “fuck you” to anyone. It’s saying that I don’t want to live out any more years while doing the same things I’ve been doing since I got out of school 8 years ago. The thought of living like this at 40, 50, or 60 is unbearable. Don’t feel bad for me or try to talk me out of anything. This may not be the right decision for other people, but it is for me.

What makes me shake my head in sadness and disgust is when I remember back to my years in college and how I actually thought that I was accomplishing something! Too bad someone didn’t just shoot me then.

#56 Rod on 22, Jan, 2008 at 9:51 am

It is my hope that no one will give a second thought to this pedantic and incipit article. In my opinion the mantra “A college degree is just a piece of paper” is the cry of the incompetent and foolish.

While it is true that a college degree is not a panacea to a good job, it certainly is a requirement. A college degree proves several things to a hiring manager. It shows that the applicant has the intestinal fortitude to complete one of life’s most difficult tasks. The process of earning a degree exposes a person to a myriad of circumstances, points of view, conflicts and resolutions. These experience can and usually do translate into real-world situational and practical skills that are necessary to be successful in business.

In my 27 years of business experience I have found that a person with a degree is better able to handle stress, manage deadlines, supervise people and act in a professional and courteous manner.

College builds character, teaches skills, and instills knowledge to a level that no amount of practical experience can replace.

One final note: if you don’t have a degree; don’t come to my office seeking employment.

#57 Shaun Boyd on 22, Jan, 2008 at 10:29 am

I earned a computer science degree, so according to your comment I completed one of life’s most difficult tasks. Yet as the author of this article, you tell me that I am incompetent and foolish. To me, the fact that your statements contradict one another indicate that either I must be relatively intelligent, or the process of earning a degree is relatively simple.

Food for thought: I attended college under full scholarship. I completed the four-year computer science curriculum in only three years. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA. The only choice I made about my college career that I look back on and believe to be foolish was the fact that I didn’t stay there for the full four years — because it would have been one more year for me to live without paying rent. I chalk it up to experience and say: “Live and learn.”

The thing is, even with your 27 years of business experience and fancy vocabulary, you still missed the point I was making with this article. I never said that a degree was worthless, I simply said that it was nothing more than a ticket to compete. It can help qualify you for an interview, but the rest is up to you.

As a final response to your final note: Although I do have a degree, you shouldn’t worry about me coming to your office seeking employment. Your condescending attitude tells me that you’re not the kind of person I’d ever want to work for anyway.

#58 Rod on 22, Jan, 2008 at 4:38 pm

I find your responses fascinating. Since you did not read my response in context, I can see why you think the way you do and perhaps it gives some insight to your situation. . You have a degree in one of the most in-demand fields of the 21st century and yet you are unemployed. You might want to ask yourself why that is true. Most likely it is not your lack of education but your interview and personal skills.

Being a CIO for a large company, I look for applicants with a passion for Information Technology and a willingness to be a team player. During the interview process a good hiring manger can usually discern if a person, like yourself, has what it takes to be successful in the organization.

Someday, when you get that chip off your shoulder, you may become a success. Also, I apologize for using the big words in my earlier response. This time I was more careful and used smaller ones so you could understand their meaning.

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#60 Mimsie on 16, Feb, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Insipid is spelled the way I just spelled it.

I’m pretty sure more people would go to college if it didn’t bankrupt them. Not everyone has an equal chance financially. And unplanned things happened.

College degrees are great and for some fields, absolutely necessary — but not for all.

You certainly can have your own specific criteria for whom you’ll hire. No one’s arguing that. But to think there’s only one way to achieve might be close-minded.

#61 JD on 23, Feb, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Unfortunately in this day and age there is no perfect formula for finding the perfect job. Having a degree can help, but not always.

Unless you have a degree in a high-demand field, chances are you’ll be competing with several others for the same job. As such, the hiring manager (I use the term loosely) can be really finicky. Often they have their own personal motivations for who they do and don’t hire.

Most “hiring managers” only hire for positions a notch or two below their own. If the manager has doubts as to their own abilities, they might be worried about hiring someone who could might take their job. These types of people usually don’t make good bosses. They will lie, cheat and claim credit for your work if need be.

Some bosses prefer hiring people with similar backgrounds. So if you come from a blue-collar background, even with a degree, and the boss is an east coast WASP, chances are the boss will seek someone from a more monied background. Conversely, if you list on your resume that you were a member of yuppie-prep-omega fraternity, and the hiring manager worked his or her way through college selling bibles door to door, chances are you might get passed over.

Bosses, like the guy above, who say they won’t hire someone without a degree, because having one makes for a better, more rounded person are usually just saying that they want someone who is also a member of “the ‘alumni’ club.” Because if someone has become qualified for a position by working their way up, without a degree, they have likely already proven that they are capable.

A majority of the time, if you don’t get a job for such reasons, you probably wouldn’t have been very happy there in the long run. That’s small consolation if you’re trying to keep a roof over your head. But when choosing long term career goals you should be thinking beyond immediate needs.

What things can you do? Well, if you can find out who will be reviewing resumes and/or interviewing for a position, try doing some background research. Googling John Smith might bring back 2 million hits, but John Smith at XYZ corporation might narrow it down. If you find out Mr. Smith is the president of the local wine tasting club, you might mention that you enjoy visiting Napa Valley during the interview. (If it’s true.)

If that sounds a little devious, tough. Chances are that potential employers are doing the same thing to you. If you have a MySpace page with pictures of you taking a bong hits at a kegger, it could come back to haunt you.

The best thing someone can do to increase their chances of getting a dream job is to make their own job.

Whatever you decide, you must NETWORK. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s not always fair, but it’s a fact of life. Accept it and move forward.

If you network, you’re more likely to encounter “hiring managers” with similar backgrounds. If you have a degree, and so do 50 other applicants, but you come recommended by a mutual acquaintance, your chances of employment are greatly increased.

#62 Chris on 11, Mar, 2008 at 11:33 pm

I can empathize with a lot of the disenfranchised bloggers here who feel the corporate world has stuck middle fingers at their 4 years of dedication. BILL: I had an uncle who attempted suicide in 1985 who, coincidentally, was an underemployed furniture mover despite having an English BS from Univ. of Pittsburgh in 1980. The stress of feeling he “failed” brought him there. He survived a 90 foot fall off Kensico Dam in Westchester County,NY and lived 20 years from 85′-05′ paralyzed from the chest down before passing on at the “ripe old” age of 48. He was like a big brother to me and I miss him so much. I’m 32 and forgave him always since his attempt in 85′ when I was 9. The attempt had a terrible impact on his dad and he passed on soon after due to the stress of his son’t “mistake.” As for myself, earned a BS in Marketing from University at Buffalo in 1998 with a 3.1 GPA and a decade later here in Buffalo am doing bullsh*t work just to survive at $12/hr. My highest earning income was $34,000 and that was in 2005. I always prided myself in paying my bills despite pedestrian income due to lack of job offers.Unfortunately last summer, my debts were too much at a loss of income to maintain and my FICO score tanked from 730 to 580 in a couple months just from missing a couple credit card payments. I’m at a point that I am likely going to file chapter 7 later this year and my exact words to the trustee at the “Meeting of the Creditors” will be “I am a decade old 4 year grad who wishes he never got a worthless Marketing Degree causing me underemployment and bringing me here today.” To make things worse, I atleast had respectable credit till last year when many employers check your credit. Now, I’ve been turned down to several 30-40K jobs not because I wasn’t educated or qualified, but because my credit is in the crapper. I say “If I wasn’t underemployed, I wouldn’t have defaulted.” It’s a vicious circle and you have two choices. Swallow your pride and find a new skill and admit many years were for naught, or waste away and contemplate suicide. Anything is better than suicide. Unfortunately, I learned through losing my uncle that suicide is never an answer.

#63 Kit on 08, Apr, 2008 at 1:30 pm

If anyone’s promising *a* degree is a ticket to success, they did ineed lie – but I suspect most folks just weren’t listening – like may kids – they only hear what they want to hear.
“Getting a degree in a desirable field is the ticket to a high paying job”
becomes :
“Getting a degree blah blaaah blblah is the ticket to a high paying job”

Then “English and Fine Arts majors won’t make much money” somehow becomes “English and Fine Arts majors are stupid and made bad choices”.

It’s all about justifying a choice that didn’t turn out the way one expected.
Frankly, English and Fine Arts have intrinsic worth for their own sakes, but like Social Work or volunteering in a 3rd world nation, they won’t be your ticket to financial success.

If success meant money, those would have been poor choices.
If success meant loving what you do regardless of the pay, then sure, those are excellent choices.

But the griper in this article was purely concerned about CASH. Money.
“In every case, it was a simple matter of dollars and cents: Starting salaries in their specialized fields offered less than what they made at their previous jobs.”

No one lied to these kids – they just didn’t pay attention.
If the English or Fine Art degree was a labor of love, the recipient of such a degree would be working in the field they majored in, but instead, gripe is about money.

#64 Kit on 08, Apr, 2008 at 1:33 pm

And Chris, your credit card debt is not the result of being underemployed.
It’s the result of spending more than you earn.

#65 Eric on 18, Apr, 2008 at 11:04 am

This is my first semester at university after 2 years in Community College. So far, I have learned that to make money, you need to pay up first. Sure, Im learning something but will it help me in the job market after i get a degree – maybe? I personally feel that your degree shows you can stick with something, and that you have paid your dues thereby allowing you to make money, and hopefully profit some someone else’s education down the line.

#66 Jack J on 26, Apr, 2008 at 2:45 am

Dude, to be completely honest Engineering Degrees are not worth anything anymore at all. As I write this I am 2 weeks away from graduating with a B.S.c in Computer Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. I have been looking for jobs or co/ops or internships for past 6 months and no luck. I have fully given up on the idea of even finding a job in this field. I have literally applied to about 100+ jobs in the past six months, I even got turned down for a internship for sophomore/junior level students who were getting close to graduating with no pay just for the experience. If I could go back in time I would get a degree in business or finance. what a good waste of 5 years of busting my ass with nothing to show for

#67 William H on 02, May, 2008 at 10:35 pm

A degree in Computer Science is ‘worthless’ to corporate pursuits if you have no work experience to back it up. These days IT hiring managers want certifications, internship experience, and interpersonal skills.

And frankly, that’s bull. If you want to hire someone to write code, their interpersonal skills are almost completely irrelevant. Do they follow directions well? Do they know your language? Can they work with your product and people? Good, you’re set. Code monkeys don’t need to write good essays or speak well in public.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t qualified workers in America, the problem is that American corporations have become short-sighted, cheap, and driven by imbeciles that only see quarterly profit lines. The hard, cold economic truth is that you only get what you pay for. But sometimes you can put all you have in and get nothing in return.

#68 GadgetPig on 09, May, 2008 at 10:29 am

Colleges haven’t adapted well to the needs of business. If you are majoring in computer science, then colleges should break it down into career friendly skill sets. So if you major in programming, then they need to teach intermediate and advanced sql server, oracle, java, C++, and make internship “guaranteed” as part of the curriculum (while still in college.) There are not enough schools that do this, they stick too much into traditional “theory” methods.

I’ve seen people from prestigious schools struggling with powerpoint slide. They should make msoffice/openoffice and using windows OS/linux OS part of the required curriculum.

Match college majors to “real world” skillsets, and you may find a better trained workforce, and happier hiring managers.

#69 shanlillie on 08, Jun, 2008 at 3:12 pm

I have to agree with the statement “a degree is a starting point”, I have been trained on the job and worked for more than seven years in my profession. I work in a regulated environment that requries constant updates and certifications. I do not have my BAS, I am working on that now. I cannot find work without this, as most HR departments are trained to screen out those employees with degrees. That is not enough – you need both. Experience is necessary, so we all need to find a way to learn on the job AND earn the degree. I suppose there is no special key for any success?

#70 Reginald on 12, Jun, 2008 at 10:50 pm

@all the engineering & science majors:
Congratulations to you in having an innate ability in mathematics (and yes, mathematical ability is largely genetically determined) that is valued by the marketplace. Spare a thought for us unfortunately liberal arts majors who were cursed with strong verbal skills instead.

#71 Reginald on 12, Jun, 2008 at 11:07 pm

And another thing – people who have creative or artistic abilities also have higher rates of mental illness. So not only do we not have any marketable skills, but our brains suck as well. Unfortunately, this isn’t being bred out of the population since creative people also tend to have more sex partners.

#72 Penny Stanton on 28, Aug, 2008 at 12:59 am

I believe there is a fundamental question here to be considered; namely, what is the purpose of a college education? Some folks on this forum believe the key reason is to acquire marketable skills, which usually means becoming math or science majors.

Other folks believe that the key purpose of a college education is to become an educated person — these are the arts and humanities majors — who, of course, need to get a job when they graduate, but the job, and how much it pays, is not the key determinant on choosing a major.

I believe both points of view are legitimate. I certainly didn’t use to think so — I thought that going to college was for the purpose of becoming an educated, erudite intellectual, who loves to learn and study the humanities mostly, for the simple joy of learning.

(And, by the way, I would like the non-humanities majors (i.e., math and science) to understand that you “can’t just learn the arts/humanities on your own” the way you can in an academic environment. As an English major, I will you that there are techniques and processes you need to grasp to understand poetry fully. And there are techniques to sharpening your imagination to write fiction. And there are techniques to proofreading and effective editing. And there are techniques to making an exciting speech. And it takes rarefied knowledge to compare Dickens and Thackery; Moliere and Flaubert. Not to mention the fact that the arts, in total, work to help us understand who we are as human beings in a vast universe. Is this useless? I think not, unless your only definition of utility is marketability. It is a sad statement if a rich life is only defined by income. In fact, the arts allow us to have a rich life without a large income. I know that I don’t need “stuff” to fulfill me, but I do need creativity to fulfill me.

That said, we all have to pay bills, including large tuitions. And that is why I am not as condemning as I used to be. We live in a global economy; it’s very tough to get a job with a reasonable salary so that you can buy a home, a car, go out to dinner sometimes, etc. Generally speaking, math and science majors are going to make higher salares than the humanities folks. They will have more of that good “stuff,” and they will likely have it sooner than the arts/humanities folks.

So here is the fundamental problem: lack of truth, and lack of conveying that truth to college students, or prospective college students.

Parents, high schools, the media, etc., should convey to college students and prospective college students that they will likely make less money than their math/science/business major counterparts. And — most importantly — they should convey what this means.

It means that if a person wants to be self-supporting, the arts and humanities folks will likely have to rent and not own their dwellings for at least the first 10 years of their career, and may not be able to afford a car and have lots of nice “stuff.”

The arts and humanities folks absolutely must be explicitly told this.

Why? In line with some of the writers on this forum, they need to be told explicitly that the market does not generally view arts and humanities folks with the same “open arms” as it does the business folks.

Arts and humanities folks must be explicitly told that their financial and emotional satisfaction will likely need to be derived from their personal lives; not their professional lives. If that is not okay with them, they should not major in the arts or humanities.

#73 Ilike on 04, Sep, 2008 at 3:12 am

I graduated from a prestigious university with a “useless” degree (English Lit.) I’m in debt. I have more work than I can ever handle (ironically, just turned down a full-time job offer yesterday) and I’m very happy with my life. If I had to go back and do it again.. blah blah blah.

I never thought getting an English degree would be a ticket to a job (How could I, when my friends in IT degrees were razzing my unmarketability since freshman year?) and I always told them right back that if I wanted a degree = job situation, I would never have moved from Portland, OR to Boston… just trotted down the block and gone to a local program that taught me a marketable skill.

My foofy humanities degree may not have landed me a position out of college in its field – but it changed my entire life, taught me how to think (better), sent me around the world, and like Penny said, stimulated my creativity and showed me academic fulfillment.

It gave me an education, not just a job. Which is what I thought humanities degrees are all about. I have met the Bitter Humanities Graduate and I cock my head at this person– and more broadly, at everyone who thinks the college success equation is a lie.

It’s not about the paper. That’s just a flat, framed thingie that tells your potential employer that you’re (maybe) not a complete nincompoop. It’s about everything that led you to the paper and everywhere you will go then after it.

#74 moxierain on 07, Sep, 2008 at 12:24 am

Great article but I disagree about one thing, earning a college degree these days is not hard, many classes are very generalized and have been dumbed down (sad but true), a person would have to be an absolute idiot to flunk out of college.

#75 Donna on 16, Sep, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Why are you crying about finding a job after college? I am 50 years old and have gone back to college to learn a new career. My first year English teacher has us doing a paper on the value of a college education. I am reading so many pros and cons on the degree finding a “good job”. Why are you settling for a job??? Build a business! Open a new line of whatever your degree will allow! Use your education and the self confidence you have just built by finishing and graduating college to start something new!! I am!

#76 Brian on 22, Sep, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Whatever happened to going to college to be an educated person? Our society has lost the meaning of what it means to be educated.

It’s less about money and jobs and more about an educated, powerful workforce.

Grow up.

#77 Peter on 30, Sep, 2008 at 11:42 am

I’m from Ireland and have been having the discussion about the importance of a degree with my son who is 19 and has just “dropped out” of college “for a year”. He struggles with academic pursuits as I did some 35 years ago. I have walked away from a 30yr career in Telecoms/IT having never had the ‘piece of paper’ but I have always felt at a loss for not having one – particulary in later years because I believe my employer put more sway in the piece of paper than in years of experience.

I have always told my son that getting a degree is less about learning the subject matter and more about showing that you can learn and apply yourself to a goal, that having a degree opens up opportunities that otherwise would not present themselves and simply positions you for a more rewarding career and that it would be pointless to study a subject that did not interest him. I fully relate to his difficulties with academic subjects and am frustrated by the fact that he may be passing up an opportunity that I never had but am trying to give to him. BUT As he has said “Dad, you can’t live your life through me”. So I have backed off. What ever he will be it will be of his own choosing and that’s fine with me.

I feel education is important and having that the piece of paper would have been good for my self esteem but it doesn’t always count as you expect. I have worked with a degree holder who had no common sense and was a disaster at everything and I have worked with a qualified archaeologist who was employed (at some obvious risk) to manage a billing software development team – no one could have done a better job that this guy – it shows that intelligence and willingness count as much if not more than the piece of paper itself. It is unfortunate however that employers generally don’t like to take risks and see the piece of paper as the be all and end all.

#78 Peter on 30, Sep, 2008 at 11:54 am

One last thing to add to my post above –

There are only two things to consider in a job:

Satisfaction and Remuneration.

It depends on which is more important to you. In my case No matter what I was doing at the time from climbing ladders fixing peoples telephones or running a multi-million pound billing system, working on my own or managing a small team of people I was always happy even though the pay didn’t always reflect the effort and commitment . When the fun and the challenge went out of it – I simply couldn’t do it any more.

#79 ade on 04, Oct, 2008 at 8:09 am

I came at this from another angle, having worked in Software Engineering for 20 years a career I managed get into having worked in a help desk contact agent for a large IT services company. Purely through showing an interest in taking a LOWER paid trainee position managed to work my way way up the ranks to become a senior Software engineer (and quite a good one too) with little or no qualifications of any sort, and certainly no degree unlike most of my colleagues.

I loved my work, the pay yes, but mostly the absolute joy of learning on the job for many years. But the nature of the workplace (I believe in most of the Western world) has changed and I saw many of my colleagues become disillusioned and stressed to the nth degree, with offshoring and outsourcing being a constant threat and many suffering affluenza, a total disconnect between life and work. When the latest batch of redundancies came around, I decided to take redundancy and am now starting a degree course in the humanities, a leap into the unknown yes, but I want some empirical evidence beyond my career history, of the ability to think critically as well as reasoning, communication and organisational skills. As someone, who himself in his earlier years did not think a degree mattered, I can understand. Beyond the specifics of the degree in question, think of the transferable skills you will acquire and put them to good use in whatever you choose to do with your life.

#80 Anonymous on 12, Nov, 2008 at 5:24 pm

I am currently taking classes at the University of South Carolina, I will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Restaurant and Tourism Management with a specialization in Club Management in December 2009. Though I will probably never use the degree I will obtain because I currently work in real estate, the value of a degree is not to be under estimated. The “true” value in a degree is how other people view you, I know the old saying “I don’t care what people think,” and if you say you really don’t care, that’s bs. Because, unfortunately for some, we will all be judged at some time in our life. If you are actually trying to obtain success, other than winning the lottery, you will be judged by someone. Weather those people are employers, peers, or clients, you still will be judged. I understand that people will rate success to their personal scales, but I would at least consider success having enough income to afford health insurance and maintain a decent living. People will treat you different and respect you more because you are educated. When choosing or not to use their degree is one thing, but you also have to do things while in college to put you ahead of your competitors when searching for a job after completing college. Showing leadership during college by being the head of a club or organization can be enough to put you ahead of others for a particular job. Also employers look for more than just the degree, while the degree will me mandatory (when you search for jobs and it says BS/BA required), for instance being in a fraternity or sorority, I know a lot are saying “why does that matter”, well it shows that your are socially acceptable, its shows that you can socialize and probably fit in better with the current employees a company will have. I believe you have to have a set goal at then end of a college degree before you peruse it. Have a general idea of what you want to accomplish and where you want to be after graduation. The degree is not to be used or viewed as a ticket to success and wealth, it is a tool used to represent your personal motivation, sort of like a barometer used that employers will use to show your motivation and knowledge. This knowledge is gained through not only going to class daily, taking notes, and reading books, but mostly through the arguments/discussions a student is required to make based on the knowledge gained. Good luck to all and I applaud anyone who decides to make the decision to get a college education.

#81 NoJoco on 16, Dec, 2008 at 10:25 am

Well written article. A few years ago, I returned to school only to find out the classes I was taking were either antiquated or contained gross mis-information on what was attempting to be taught (information technology related). I left school and never looked back.

I realized over the years, that a college degree is like belonging to a club. The tuition that is paid is nothing more than a “fee” to belong to the club. The higher the “fee”, the “better” the club. And like most clubs, if you know someone in a company who belongs to the same club as you, that’s almost a for sure meal ticket into the job!

My current college “education” consists of nothing more than a 2-year associates degree; and yet I make nearly a 6 figure income and have no debt. I think a college “education” would have kept me down.

#82 Sean on 18, Dec, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Nice article. My story is very similar to yours. I was encouraged from a very young age to go to college because of all the opportunities I would have with a college degree. So I went to school, majored in finance, and 2 1/2 years later, I am living my worst fear, working as an educated waiter. The only “opportunities” I seem to qualify for is selling insurance for full commission, or working as a bank teller for $8/hour (which I cannot afford due to student loans). I didn’t expect to become wealthy directly out of college, but I expected to qualify for higher paying jobs than a recent high school graduate.

#83 Allen L on 03, Jan, 2009 at 2:08 am

What amazes me is how few people here mention the notion of working for YOURSELF as opposed to hoping for whatever crumbs fall off the master’s table. College teaches far too many of us to be nothing but employees for life who should feel forever grateful if someone decides to give us a job.

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#85 G.S. on 07, Apr, 2009 at 9:54 pm

I have recently been evaluating my decision to attain a college education and where exactly it will get me. I, like others, was told from a young age by hard working blue collar parents that a university education was the golden ticket to financial success that was ‘easy street’ compared to what they were doing. I decided to a 3 year marketing diploma from college and upgrade to a marketing degree for 2 more years of my life. I am currently finishing up my 1st of 2 years at university and am contemplating what I need to do to make the most of my degree.

Joining clubs, business associations, business competitions, and obtaining internships are what seperates you from the pack. Alas, I feel like I am like the many other ‘university clones’ who graduate with little to no experience, just struggling to be noticed in a sea of equally qualified individuals.

All of your feedback has been very insightful about the pros/cons of a university education, and any feedback from anyone with a marketing degree will be greatly appreciated.

#86 Worth less, but not worthless on 16, Apr, 2009 at 2:19 am

In roughly three weeks, I will graduate with my second degree in computer science. Finishing graduate school, I enter what is easily the worst job market in my 25 year old lifetime. I have applied at probably around seventy places. I have heard back from few, but after 3 weeks of looking I have not been offered a single face-to-face interview. The cold, hard reality is that I do not have the job experience to back up my degree with.

When a recession hits, the first step a company takes is to instill a hiring freeze. The numbers from Gallup show that the percentage of companies hiring has fallen to an anemically low 20%. Of those, it’s painfully obvious that most of the entry-level positions were the first to head towards the chopping block. The few positions that do exist are of course highly competitive. With millions of jobs lost in the last few months, it’s easy to see cause for pessimism.

I don’t blame anyone but myself for this result. I should not have gone to graduate school. I should have taken a job two years ago. I should have started looking a few months later than I should have. Taking the easy road and letting my parents pay for my education has left me with little real work experience on my resume, which is the equivalent of a death sentence in an ever-tightening job market.

Like the author of this article, I believe that on a certain level we were lied to. A degree is little more than a piece of paper that shows you were smart enough to make it through college. A college degree is not a guarantee that one will find a job. In some cases, it isn’t even a ticket to compete because many jobs require industry experience. If you’re a recent graduate without practical internship experience, you’re in for a rough ride to find a good job.

I’m lucky that I was able to count on the support of my parents throughout this. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened otherwise.

#87 Greg on 01, May, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I am currently working toward completing my first Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, I have actually attained 4 Associate of science degrees, but the whole time I have been going to school I have been making over $80,000. I joined the military in the reserves, and my job skills turned out to be in demand, lucky for me. I am 25 years old now, and last year I made $112,000 some might ask why I bother to work for my degree? The reason is that if I want to go further, to be apart of the advanced research and development teams, I need to have the background to work on it, also I love electronics and nothing makes me feel better than being able to understand a new concept. In some carreer fields you do hit a brickwall at some point without the degree. It is hard to work full time and go to school full time, and any other engineering majors who have had to do this know it can be equally difficult to find programs that operate at convenient times. Having said all that and I am sure I am rambling now, The value of the degree is what the person makes it, I do not want the degree for the sake of getting it, I want it for the experience of getting it.

#88 Jeremy on 06, May, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I originally wanted to graduate from High School a year early and join the army. Convinced that I would be missing out on “life moments” like prom and great opportunities like college, I followed my elders advice.

While in college my adviser told me not to do intern ships, “Why waste your time getting someone coffee?” I was told to put off studying abroad till senior year. Turns out “Hi, I didn’t get a chance to look over your records before the meeting. What is your name?” He then told me I could have graduated a year early but would have had to give up studying abroad. I took the extra time, the university did not accept the credits it promised me it would for another 6 months after my registered “graduation” date.

I joined the national guard was was told I was a failure by my family. Chose a army job with little on the outside world, analysis. I don’t have debt but I’m barely surviving economically. They say either get another education or get deployed. I hope engineers make enough to life a good lifestyle.

#89 Katie on 07, May, 2009 at 3:23 pm

A degree might not guarantee someone a job right out of college, but college itself gives someone a better chance of getting a better paying job and opens up more career opportunities than if someone were to just have a high school level of education. College teaches people how to handle stress, deadlines, work with others, etc and employers know it. Colleges will usually help students earn experience in their career path as well through internship connections. Combining a degree with experience will definitely give someone a better chance at getting a higher-paying job than someone with just a bachelor’s degree, and certainly more than someone with just a high school degree. This isn’t to say you can’t be successful with just a high school education – as was mentioned before, success is relative.

Stats do show, however, that people with a Bachelor’s degree earn about twice as much in their lifetime as people who have only completed high school. The US Census Bureau has more info about this too (

In today’s economy as well, hundreds of people are competing for the same job openings which are limited, and most “white-collar” positions require a degree to even get an interview.

Of course experience is very important, but to say that a degree is completely useless is just naive. As with anything worthwhile in life, you can only get out of something what you put into it.

#90 Heath on 02, Aug, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Well, while a lot of what you are saying is true, this isn’t concrete. Your school and degree make a big difference. If you get a degree from joe schmoe university in something like psychology, yeah, you aren’t going to have a guaranteed job. If you get an engineering, technology, or business degree from a well known school, that is a different story. My program had 100% job placement last semester with an average starting salary of over $50,000 and I’m just going to be a management grad from Purdue University (just a state school, but widely known).

#91 Jake on 06, Oct, 2009 at 11:39 pm

I have two brothers. Two of us make around 45,000 the other makes over 100,000. Guess which one has a college degree?

#92 Bill R on 29, Oct, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I have read this chain of stories with great fascination. I graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree from a ‘good’ university over 35 years ago. I’m sure I had the lowest GPA of anyone to ever graduate there, but everyone thought I was a brain. The difference was I truly loved electronics even though I had never learned how to study.
Because I impressed a recruiter (head hunter) he found me the highest paying job of my entire class! A brief mention of a job I had done caught the eye of the hiring company, and they offered me more than I asked for….. After 11 years I grew bored with the job and started my own engineering design company. That was where I really began to enjoy life. I still feel bad about my poor performance in school, but as several of you mentioned, it’s what you LEARN that let’s you EARN.

I guess good luck (and confidence)was the main driver of my life’s path.
There was a major recession going on then too.

I am brought to these pages looking for help to advise my son, who also is studying engineering. He was born with a learning disability and through much hard work, has overcome all but the math skills that are more a gift than a learned tool. He has lots of drive and determination, but not the love and passion that sustained me. His grades are fair (C+) but as with most of today’s youth, he does not connect with the real nuts and bolts that makes the world work.

I could be happy with any income, as I would build my life style around it, but I could not have felt satisfied with my life if I had not been part of the greatest time for technology in the history of the world.

I hope you choose a path that will make you feel the same.

#93 Matt on 22, Nov, 2009 at 1:03 am

I just want to say that I am bitterly angry that most employers look upon people with University degrees with scorn and contempt.
I think a college degree should send alarm bells to potential employers saying–‘Take us on! We studied! We sacrificed! We are devoted! We are the right person for you!’
Instead, I see ridicule. Most employers will be offended by someone’s intelligence instead of thinking, ‘Mmm, we need a man like you on our team.’
I have a bachelor of Arts degree, but I am still working at a job which is literally killing me. When I went to college, I vowed not to be a hard grafter in a dangerous job, but the opposite happened. I work in a job that is literally killing me just to make ends meet.
It is very soul destroying.
And some may not understand this, but I also feel a college degree should be a ticket for unconditional respect. I mean, why not? We went to college to get the best job, the best title, and for respect.
Its not like we think we are better than everybody else, but we went to college to be better.
Now I think my only hope is to go into business myself. I know that is challenging, but when interview time comes up I can hire myself for the job that those insensitive employers didn’t.
I am valued as a hard worker, but sadly not successful in the field of my study. Sometimes I think getting a heart attack would be so much better than having to continue to live this static, and unchanging routine that oppresses me.
I admit it has caused great depression, and I am so weak now. I’m being honest here. People can laugh at me, but I just want to break down and cry.
I apologise if my comments caused offence to anybody reading my post. All I am saying is: ‘We all worked really hard. Why can’t the powers to be just cut us some slack.’ My only hope is to be self employed if I am truly going to make amends for my failures not securing the career of my choosing, or rather ‘THEY’ the employers not choosing me.

Peace out!

#94 will on 29, Nov, 2009 at 12:59 am

i graduated from highschool like i was asked to, colledge looked to me like “im gonna go graduate, get a job at a forbes top ten company ,get married have kids, get old then seemed boring to me,no adventure,no exitement no drama. i decided to start from the streets as a drug addict, cut off all my rich or at least moderatly weathy friends.was broke filthy and despised by all-including my to the bottom of the barrel then it happend,my girlfriend was i cleaned up got sober .then on september 11 2001 my fiancee woke me up and said a plane hit one of the wtc buildings,i got up and was watching cnn as the second plane hit on live tv———we were under attack.i got patriot real quick and enlisted in the army .well i got hurt in training and was sent home,worked under the table for a few years then started working legit.real experience earned by sacrafice,and hard work. noone knows about my past. now my fiancee is my wife.we’re expecting our third sacrafices this past year allowed my wife to go to colledge and become an MA,she going on to an RN, then getting her PHD. then after a while ill go to school.for buisness. now tell me everyone.after reading this………..would you hire me with my colledge degree? if so email me at –

#95 will on 29, Nov, 2009 at 1:02 am

i just realised i misspelled college……..oops.

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#97 Adam on 04, Jan, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I just spent the last four years of my life struggling to work full-time and earn my college degree. I literally just graduated with a B.S. in Business Management. Thing is… I learned more working my ass off in the trenches of my field (food & beverage) than I ever did in the classroom. I went to school because I was told by everyone that that was what I was supposed to do. I feel like such a sell out now. I wish I had spent the past four years off my life writing music and playing guitar, surfing, and learning languages. Now I’ve met a girl that I want to marry and start a family with. Which life path do you think will support that decision? I know surfing isn’t going to pay the bills and real rockstars don’t make money until after their dead. It’s a vicious cycle we’ve gotten ourselves into.

#98 Daniel Bennett on 07, Jan, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I am sixty-two with three worthless degrees: Anthropology, Foundations of Education and Substance Abuse Prevention Program….from a university in Oregon. Having had degrees now for five or more worthless years will more likely turn to dust then financial gain or retribution or sense of personal accomplishment…ego is sucked down with the unemployment and oral masterbatory entitled Lifelong learners= suckers.

#99 Unempowered and Bitter on 02, Feb, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I worked by butt off to acquire my BA degree in history with a minor in IT. Graduated Magna Cum Laude with other honors as well. I am currently stuck in a dead-end job where I have remained for the last ten years, spinning my wheels with NO chance of promotion, raises, etc. The manager lumps me with the “clerical/support”staff and treats me like dirt. I am currently working on my Masters Degree in the hopes that I can at least secure a teaching position somewhere and get out of the current hell hole I’m in. I continually watch them hire high school grads and bring them in at salaries 5-10 grand more than I make! When I question this, they tell me that as long as I’m in my current position, I have no choice. I accepted the position and there it is! They will not honor my degree, so I have gone back to university to secure my Masters in Education. I’m almost finished. I guess I can at least teach when I’m finished. I will be glad to get out of this demoralizing situation. No, a college degree is NO LONGER what is was; but at least I can prove that I tried at something and succeeded. I’m given to chance to succeed in my current position at all. Just ignored and forgotten except for the most menial of mind-numbing tasks….

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#101 Betty Kincaid on 10, Mar, 2010 at 9:27 pm


2 1/2 years later we’re still talking about this issue.

Is a college education a right or a privilege? And, who’s going to foot the bill? (hint: think taxpayers)

Here’s our take on it:


#102 Lizzie on 16, Mar, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Shaun and all others in the same boat: I feel your pain. Really! I graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Arts (Spanish/French) *quadruple facepalm*. And I graduated Magna Cum Laude in only 3 years, blah blah blah…. In the real world, nobody cares about that.

It did me no good whatsoever. Today I work in a warehouse alongside people of… ummm… much lower education. The only saving grace in my ho-hum worklife is that I took many years of piano lessons and also now work as a church musician. The church job is great! It’s what I truly love to do, but alas, is only part-time. The FT warehouse job truly sucks.

And how did I stumble upon this article??? Glad you asked! I was running a Y! search on the phrase “Can I sell my college degree?”. It’s up for grabs. Actually I don’t even know where it is anymore, so you might have to wait for me to locate it. Yup. Not cool. If anyone ever masters the art of time reversal and turns back the clock about 15 years, I would say NO to college and YES to learning a trade.

OK, rant finished. Back to dinner, kids, and getting ready for my sucky 3rd shift warehouse job. *another facepalm, just for good measure*

#103 Rosalind on 08, Apr, 2010 at 8:51 pm

I just happened upon this after doing a search on how to know what career is right for me. I’m 55 and have pondered getting my Master’s. I have an English and writing degree and then tacked a secondary education degree onto it when I became divorced 12 years ago. I never wanted to teach, but there were no other options. I now am working in a community college at several part-time positions, each paying a low-to-OK hourly rate, but will never get full-time or benefits. Thus, I have been here nearly 13 hours today….Some have told me to go for a Master’s – in what? Not the field of education, I think to myself. Plus, I wouldn’t get it paid for by the time I would like to get out of working so much! (although the way it’s going, we may all be working until we’re in our 80’s…)

My son is just starting college at the age of 25 and is filled with questions, as well as expectations, about and for his college endeavors. All of your posts are interesting! At least I know that I am not the only person my age who questions the value of her degree(s) or may be disappointed in the way things have gone in their career/life path.

#104 Clint Cora on 02, May, 2010 at 11:27 am

I speak on the college circuit sometimes and what I tell students is that in many cases, what they will be doing in future careers will have nothing to do with what courses they took in college. To me, the real reason for college is that the time there teaches one to think and use the mind more effectively. This type of training can then be used to tackle the real life challenges that will come post graduation.

#105 Blue Rage on 18, May, 2010 at 6:58 am

I think having a degree is still important socially. The simple truth is that I would have never met the majority of my friends and associates had it not been for earning a degree from a private college– something they value as a sign of worth. I’m not wealthy as far as their circles go– but I’m respected.

The same goes for women– I have found that most women prefer a college educated partner. I know some women who won’t even go on a date with a guy unless he has a degree. One can suggest that said women are “stuck up”– but most will say that they prefer educated partners because it gives them some idea of the values they may pass on to children. It also indicates that they are interested in more than just typical “guy things”.

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#107 DREWL on 04, Jun, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Interesting blog…..Well, here is my take on the college gig……..I have one A.A.S and two B.S. degrees (Science and Engineering majors, as well as a six-sigma black belt and Homeland Security certificate, if it really matters)…..My career in the engineering field I had worked in for 17 years was primarily triggered because of one software class I had taken on a whim as part of my curriculum for my A.A.S…….To make a long story short, go to school and get a degree. At some point within the first 5 years of graduation, start your own business and press as hard as you can to make it a success……If all else fails, then use your degree to find “a job” . I truly wish I would have implemented this plan myself in my early years……Thanks to corporate outsourcing I am attempting it now (lol)……

#108 Ouroboros on 06, Jun, 2010 at 12:48 am

I agree with the idea that the connection between a degree and a job is over-glorified. The University system was designed

to provide an education, not a job. All the talk about marketable skills are not applicable to the University experience.

If you want marketable skills, attend a Vocational Technology program or apply for an apprenticeship.

I desire that our University system would make this simple fact very clear to potential students, but they do not because

there are dollars riding on their ability to attract top students, so they can attract top professors, and so they can

compete for federal research and education dollars and on and on…

But the reality and politics; and the design and intent are very different things. It is for this reason that I believe

VoTech degrees like business and communications really don’t have a place at publicly funded universities.

I also feel that subsidized eduction should be limited, and only given to top performing students (and based on the number of actual academic job openings). If someone wants a degree in English Literature, that is fine, but the rest of us should not subsidize this pursuit unless there is actually some sort of return on our investment. That is, our investment goes to the top performing students, who are the ones most likely to go on to earn PhD’s and actually contribute to the study and field of English Literature. To subsidize an education because someone feels entitled to a ‘good’ job is nonsensical.

That we are subsidizing English Literature B.A’s so that these graduates can complain about the lack of available jobs in

business is ludicrous to me. Even more ludicrous is that we are subsidizing business majors — who in most cases would have

more street cred if they spent the four years working their way into a management position at a fast food chain, than they

will ever get from earning a business degree at a public university.

#109 teejay on 26, Jun, 2010 at 12:22 pm

just look forward in future what you do what you got

#110 Wesley Wilson on 02, Jul, 2010 at 11:46 am

Wow reading this I am in the exact same boat you were two months out of college, except a bit worse given the declined economy. Yes I did everything right in college… I got a 4 year degree in Computer Science a very marketable area, and followed up with another major in History to add a bit more to my resume. I graduated with a career GPA of 3.2 which is respectable by most standards. I was nominated and elected to Who’s Who Among Students in college as well.

So where am I now? Still unemployed after roughly 250 applications/resume distributions, literally for the last month been trying to get bottom rung jobs I didn’t need any education to get and still can’t get hired. I figured, well maybe my resume and cover letter are not as good as I thought, I have had several professional people review both and they said its very strong.

So really whats going on? No one looks at the degree anymore, they just don’t care. What I’ve realized is I could have taken the 4 years in college in self study/research and the 60-70k spent to attend and started a very profitable business for any number of product idea I have. Or I could have invested that money in the stock market and worked normal out of high school jobs and watched that investment grow and done better than I am now. 88% of my friends I attended college with “all the top draw people” are in my same boat no job. One even graduated with FOUR bachelors degrees in very good fields and still is unemployed. Another worked multiple internships every year, worked other jobs in related fields, got a second degree in management, and still can’t get a job.

Bottom line: College is a lie, it doesn’t do hardly anything for you no matter all the paper you have. It gives you no edge whatsoever as stated its just a ticket to compete in jobs that require the minimum degree nothing more. So don’t waste your time and money instead invest it in more returnable areas, educate yourself (you don’t need a professor to do it I promise you), and try things the way they were done in 1850 -innovation- and -self initiative-.

#111 What? on 18, Jul, 2010 at 6:02 pm

So, I paid 50k a year to get a “ticket”? A ticket? I didn’t know I was playing some sort of lottery…. -______-

I’m sorry, but unless your being idealistic, the truth is everyone goes to college to get a decent entry-level salary/career. Pursuit of knowledge is wonderful, fantastic even, but it isn’t very useful to get food on the table or a roof over your head.

College is an utter joke. The recession exacerbates this reality. Yes, if you went to college there are certain circumstances you should entitled to: at least 29k starting salary, it shouldn’t require experience (but it doesn’t hurt if you have any), and some basic level benefits. Yeah, that’s right. I used the word entitled. Employers feel entitled to their workers having a degree, which for many middle-lower income families means spending a hell of a lot on college tuition (a.k.a. an investment), thus college grads (and parents) are entitled to see that investment prosper (i.e. their child receives an entry-level position.)

This post is utter bull. I can go to the Quik-trip an play some Cash4 if I’m interested in playing my luck with a “ticket.” My life isn’t a game, and my money wasn’t spent on a hope, but on a promise (one that a lot of teachers feed to young pliable minds) that college will give you a better life than your parents.

What bull. Anyone who accepts their hard earned money being flushed and their degree being totally ignored is an equal opportunity idiot. If college was optional, fine. But now people at friggin’ retail chains and fast food quickie spots even need degrees.

What does that say about that ticket now?

#112 Eugene on 22, Aug, 2010 at 2:24 am

I completely agree that a college degree is just a ticket to compete. However, you never specified what kind of degree you received. Different degrees have different payoffs. Engineering or Business degree, for example, will have a payoff that is much higher than a degree in Social Science or Liberal Arts. Overall, however, I agree that a college degree is just a single factor in a huge myriad of other factors that play a role.

#113 BAP on 18, Oct, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Couple of things:

1. An undergraduate degree takes years to attain so telling someone to pick a degree that is in demand is ludicrous. By the time you are finished the demand may be over. Not only that, but there are only so many engineering positions available.

2. Paying tens of thousands of dollars to “learn how to think” is ridiculous! The whole point of going to a university and paying their outrageous fees is to have an edge in the job market! Anyone who says otherwise works in academia and needs to perpetuate this dilution in order to stay employed.

3. Graduating from a university is not easy no matter what major you choose. You have no idea what classes another person took. College is challenging, time consuming, and most of all EXPENSIVE.

4. I’m sick of hearing people say that college graduates are getting what they deserve if they took out student loans. That it is the consequence of taking out money to party on. What a bunch of rubbish. Look up the cost of tuition and then look up the maximum amount of money a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior can take out on federal student loans. The kids you see partying in Cancun had their parents, GI, scholarships, grants, etc. pay for college and then took out loans for their own enjoyment. The majority of college students (contrary to popular belief and Hollywood) used their loans to pay for tuition and books. Example…the public accredited university I attended cost $27,000/year with housing and food (which was required if you had less than 40 semester hours). There was no money left over to party on. I had to work 2 jobs to pay my bills and went to class fulltime. That being said I would like to also know how someone making $8.00/hr is to work a year to save up to pay for college themselves. That idea is ridiculous also. This also entitles me and everyone else who sacrificed 4 years of blood, sweat, and tears to a better paying job. You bet your @ss.

5. College is big business and to treat it otherwise is a gigantic mistake. I can assure you it will only get worse. Businesses are contributing to this mess by demanding an undergrad for an executive assistant (secretary) position. This is insulting and part of the problem.

6. On the job training is much more efficient. However owners, managers, and HR departments would rather “outsource” this to the universities who are utterly incapable of teaching these kinds of skills.

7. Give it 5 years and a Masters will be required. This is what happens when there are no jobs and almost unlimited financing available to “further” your already worthless education. It’s not that obtaining a masters will teach you to do a better job, but the market will be flooded with them like it is today with the undergrad.

#114 Mike on 13, Nov, 2010 at 2:15 pm

So here’s my take.

I went to University of Illinois @ Urbana Champaign for aerospace engineering and every year the college would hold 3 major job fairs for the engineering students where literally 100’s of awesome companies.

You know who got jobs? The people who:
1. Worked hard to get halfway decent grades.
2. Worked hard to polish their resumes and pound as much pavement as they could to get research opportunities, co-ops or internships during their education.
3. Worked hard to line up jobs & develop relationships with employers in freshman, sophmore, junior & senior years.

You know who didn’t?
1. The people who spent too much partying and didn’t keep their grades up.
2. The people who didn’t trying as hard as they could to get a job

And so what was the overall value of the degree?
1. It taught us the pre-requisite knowledge we needed to do a technical job. For fields like engineering, physics, biology, chemistry, computers, medicine, or other kinds of science the degree is absolutely necessary to learn the pre-requisite knowledge you need to do your job. None of the aerospace engineers I went to school with would be able to do their job without knowing things like fluid physics, thermodynamics, how structures react to stress, how to program numerical simulations, etc.

2. It puts you in a place where employers are looking at you all 4 years. If you assume they’ll just take you with open arms after college then you’re going into debt for no reason, because you WON’T get a job. If you however WORK YOUR ASS OFF ALL FOUR YEARS to understand what employers want, get to know them, and get early opportunities for them then you are getting out an immense return from college. Most GOOD colleges make active efforts to place their students in industry, and if you don’t take advantage of that, you’re throwing your money away.

3. It taught us how to think analytically. I’m not sure how liberal arts degrees do at this but from the engineering degree I learned how to solve hard problems and now I apply that to solve any technically hard problem I come across in my life. I own a company now, and it’s been a powerful tool for me that’s allowed me to learn programming, create a good technical infrastructure in the business that allows us to deliver great stuff to clients, allows me to troubleshoot client issues etc. So yes, learning how to think analytically has earned me money.

So a degree gives you knowledge and puts you in front of industry and it’s up to you to make something out off that. If you goof off and expect a job, then duh, you’re going to work as a burger-flipper after college. If you work your ass off to get great grades and make connections to industry all 4 years, then your chances of getting a job will be much much higher.

#115 Angie on 20, Dec, 2010 at 8:17 am

I went to college when I was 18 years old and earned my MSc at the age of 23. And yes, it did prove pretty worthless. I landed a dream job only 5 years later.

Now, aged 31, I am working towards my second MSc (this one related to the job I ended up doing) and it has been an absolute blessing.

It is clear to people around me that the quality of my work has improved vastly, my opinion is HIGHLY regarded and I am slowly but surely becoming the kick-ass person on the team. This means another promotion and salary increase amongst other things – even before I graduate!

A degree? At the right time and with the right attitude – 100% yes. But you only get out of it what you put into it.

#116 Brandon on 11, Feb, 2011 at 12:27 am

I earned a degree in Philosophy and i think some of you have missed the mark in exactly what your college degree means. What is the true value of a college degree? If you answered money then you should be prepared to live a life where you will never be satiated and you will literally hate your life and yourself. This is what happens when you make money your ultimate good. Aristotle (hey remember that guy!?) warned people of this thousands of years ago and it holds true today. I will not go too much into this because my fellow liberal arts majors already pounded that point in.

YOU create the value in your college degree, not the other way around! Your college experience only matters as much as what you put into it. I earned a degree which has opened my mind in ways i never thought possible and in the process i had the chance to assume many roles that have reflected each and every skill i learned while earning that degree. It is easy to put in work and earn a degree and think that you deserve something. It is easy to just pass the classes and do nothing beyond that. What is not easy is going above and beyond and wanting to know more and be better at what you do through research, internships, communication, etc. You can discover the meaning of your degree no matter how worthless or easy society may view it. If anything Philosophy has taught me that i will never know as much as i think i do, and that there is always something else i could be doing to enhance my knowledge and my very being. These “worthless” liberal arts degrees actually prove to be quite superior in dealing with society and everyday life. This includes the workplace! The things i have learned from thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Hume, Hegel, Marx, Heilbroner, etc AND their respective civilizations have dealt directly with reality itself and proven to be invaluable.

When people ask me “what can you do with a philosophy degree besides teach?” I simply reply “Anything i want.” I have done exactly that working in various fields such as healthcare, aeronautics, education, etc. Keep in mind that you are hired to solve a problem..

When Phil Jackson, the extremely successful coach for the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers, was asked about what it was that made him successful. He replied that it was what he learned while earning his degree in philosophy. Specifically, he researched the philosophy of native americans and other indigenous tribes and took their idea of “community” and applied it to teamwork in basketball. The point being, everything you do is what you make of it.

#117 Brandon on 11, Feb, 2011 at 12:30 am

forgive me for my writing errors.. i was kind of writing this on the fly :).

#118 Ryan on 19, Feb, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I would have to agree with Brandon. I attained a Computer Science degree at the California State level and I will admin that that system isn’t of the highest ‘prestige’, my colleagues and I have become successful afterwards. The college education is what you make it. I have seen colleagues start work for Apple, Google and Microsoft right out of non-prestigious school known for agriculture studies right out of college. A piece of paper alone WILL NOT get you a job, however what did you do in college other than the required coursework? Any projects? Clubs? Attend any non-school , field related events? I landed my first job out of college because the manager hiring me was impressed with project that I had going on that was not related to my school work. The second job I landed I got because of the ties I had when I apart of the campus ACM (computer science club) and another hiring manager was apart of the same faction in a different city. Notice how both of these opportunities had nothing to do with the actual degree itself. I learned this; If you attend a not so reputable school, then make up for it by diving into other stuff that you can stuff your resume with. Most schools teach the same stuff, prestigious and non. Really if you start going beyond just the required coursework and put yourself out there, you will have the upper hand when it comes to job searching right out of college. Even compared to ‘elite’ college graduate.

#119 Is it worth going to university? on 11, Mar, 2011 at 5:20 pm

[…] an interesting read, try The True Value of a College Degree where Shaun Boyd writes, “Following graduation, I submitted my resume, application, and cover […]

#120 college degree on 13, Mar, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I believe if you put your best foot forward you won’t have to face these ridiculous measures. Make good grades and excel and perhaps you will find your way. Don’t blame the world for your mistakes or hardships. If you perfect your college career perhaps you will be invited to a thing called graduate school. Whatever it is do the best with what you’ve got. You are always a product of the environment that YOU make for yourself.

#121 Laura on 04, Jun, 2011 at 9:09 pm

You are a talented writer. And thank you for writing this! It’s going to be a great source for my own paper on the topic of being educated.

#122 Art on 09, Jun, 2011 at 4:17 pm

A college degree is similar to fancy clothing. A person who wears unattractive clothing (NO COLLEGE) will be less sought after by men/woman. A person who is well dressed(COLLEGE) will catch many eyes. This fancy clothing in no way guarantees that you will get a date or two. Some people feel that that clothing (DEGREE) will strengthen their chances for meeting a mate. Truthfully it all really boils down to how well you carry yourself and your determination to overcome obstacles that matter. But having that fancy outfit on could be beneficial in the long run.

#123 Mo on 05, Aug, 2011 at 8:11 pm

It seems like a catch-22. The truth is that without a college degree, I am not qualified for many of the admin jobs I am seeking.

But since I’m in my 40s, have no money, and do not wish to go into debt (again) going to college now is not an option.

#124 Jonathan Webber on 15, Sep, 2011 at 11:27 am

Wow. This is a very well written article. I am a college student attempting to do a paper for my Accelerated Composition class. I hope you don’t mind if I use this as a source.

P.S. Im using an old keyboard, so if there are spelling mistakes, blame the board…

#125 Mike on 05, Oct, 2011 at 3:33 am

Very well written manifesto. I was experiencing the same problem as most people here reading this. I have a BA in Communication Studies and a Minor in Marketing from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi with a (3.5 GPA). It took 9 months for me to land a job.

Now over this course of time I learned the secrete to finding a job. Todays students are socially connected “via the internet” so in-turn they try to apply at 5-6 jobs at the same time online. Meanwhile todays employers are socially connected via actual social interaction or “face to face”

I don’t have the worlds most fancy degree, but I know people. There is a disconnect between generations and young grads today feel that employers will look at their resume recognize the degree and say “yes!” this is exactly who I’ve been looking for. No, thats not how life works.

You want a job, go get it. Wake your butt up early one morning, put on your business attire, bring your resume (several copies) and go looking for jobs on foot. When you walk into a business of any kind you are a potential, customer, client, patient, prospect or guest. It’s in their best interest to treat you with respect. Kindly ask to speak with the manager. Look him/her in the eye and ask if there are any openings for employment. The worst that could happen is them saying “No”. However, most of them will say have you filled out an application? Say I just wanted to know if there is a position open before I go through the processes of filling out any applications.

Going to the place of employment has several benefits. (1) Employers get to meet you in person and see your desire to work. (2) Employers can put a face to the application they are reviewing. (3) Going to the place of employment shows your not sitting on your butt waiting for a call, but that you are being proactive (4) Getting up early in the morning and just walking in out of nowhere shows employers your not scared to try and your not lazy (5) You get to choose where you want to work so you can start by looking close to home.

Don’t expect to start off making big bucks right off, you just need to get your foot in the door. Any entry level position in your particular field is a good start.

I also have some other good tips. (1) Remember how to spell everything that could possibly be on a resume. I forgot how to spell the name of my county i live in. (2) Know the date, people who have been out of work for a long period of time tend to lose track of a simple thing like what day it is. (3) Be honest, tell the employer if you have no experience but counter that with your ability to learn quickly and your desire to work in this particular industry. (4) Take anything just remember that the low wage is temporary.

Just think to yourself, how would you want to hire someone as an employer? Would you want to look at dozens of applications a day, call several people whom you’ve never met, and then schedule them in for an interview? Or would you rather someone brave just show up, look you in the eye, and ask for a job?

#126 Mike on 05, Oct, 2011 at 3:38 am

i wrote resume when I meant type say application, in the second to last paragraph of the previous post.

#127 Tracy on 24, May, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I graduated in Dec 2007 and could not fund a job. In the last 4 and half years, I have struggles to earn more than just a meer $36,000 per year. I was making 30k before going to college. I am not about to graduate with a Masters. I still cannot find a job. The entry level positions are being filled by people with at least 3 to 5 years experience. I do not know how to gain experience prior to obtaining an enter level position. This is where you are supposed to start to learn your new career in the entry level position. I cannot even fine an internship. I have a BS in Urban and Regional Planning and a minor in Public Administration. I am graduating now with a Master Information Systems Management (MISM) with a concentration in Project Management. I have very stong foundation, so where are the entry level jobs???

#128 Crystal on 20, Jul, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I really appreciate this article and I hope you have great success in your writing. If I had a job I would donate.

#129 Jim on 15, Aug, 2012 at 10:09 am

I have a Bachelor of IT degree and now I really do not want to be in that business at all. When I was a freshman I really loved computers and I was keen in learning but now when I have finished my college I literally hate computers, I hate programming, I hate web design and pretty much everything related to computers. What I hate the most is learning everything about it since this yucky field requires intensive lifetime learning. I suck at programming and what is the most depressing thing I really do not want to learn anything about it, I can´t find the desire to do that even when I really try. I would rather do lowest shitty jobs that I do now than spend one more f***n hour looking at anything related to C++, C#, MySQL, Java. I just makes me sick now. How could that happen? 🙁

#130 Jenise on 29, Aug, 2012 at 6:10 am

Wow people. You are killing me about the ‘golden ticket’ agenda. Let me tell you something, when I was going on job hunt and be getting interviews, the one thing that most interviews look at is what major you was working on. In my case, all the jobs in Chicago, Il is looking for people in marketing, sales, Itt, business administration, ect. And all the jobs that I’ve applied to, the HR has sent my resume to the marketing department and the employer would ask question about that field I study in and I have to be honest with them that I only have basic understanding in that field of marketing. These employers don’t care what school you went to. All they want to know if you have experience in the major you decided to take in college and reference to backup your claim in that field. One employer have told me that he didn’t care what school I went to, because he stated that he can always go to the local library or online to learn the same amount of skills that I have in college and then some. It all comes down to experience in that field and who know you best in that field.

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