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09/20/21

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Are college degrees worth the price of admission to the job market?

By Janice Davis Richardson, MPA  |  LinkedIn: JaniceRichardson

As a youngster growing up in a lower middle-class family, it was instilled in me that I should go to college and get a good education and then get a good job. Like many of my Baby Boomer peers during the 1980s, I earned college degrees and worked for employers with the hope of retiring comfortably and collecting my Social Security checks. However, I am finding that many people who have spent astronomical sums of money to go to college are disappointed with the return on their investment. Some people are underemployed or working in a field that does not even resemble their degree choice and may also be paying off student loans for years.

When you look at people like Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Jay-Z, and Bill Gates who did not earn college degrees, you wonder if a college degree is worth the money. These people built very lucrative business empires because they ran with their ideas. After giving this some thought, I have decided that some college degrees are not worth the hype. I know a woman who is a very accomplished Human Resources professional; however, because she does not have a college degree, it has been difficult to get employers to recognize that her years of experience far outweigh a piece of paper. She recently landed a position that is finally paying her what she is worth; however, it has been an uphill battle to get to this point in her career. Her boss, an entrepreneur without a college degree, understood that the value of her experience was much more important than a degree.

In my opinion, a high-school curriculum focusing on entrepreneurship should be a required part of the classes that students take in order to graduate.

An excerpt from the June 26, 2021 article on helpentrepreneurs.com titled: Importance of Entrepreneurship Education reads: “While entrepreneurship refers to a person’s ability to translate an idea into action, students need to be introduced to this arena through creative teaching approaches. Entrepreneurship Education empowers students to think creatively, to seek problems – to solve opportunities, to empathize with others, to take risks, to accept failure as part of the growth process, and to appreciate the correlation between hard work and success.”

Entrepreneurship training will not only help people start their own business, it will also provide students with a skill set that can be transferred to general life experiences. But let’s go back to the original question, “Are college degrees worth the price of admission to the job market?” One way to answer that question is it depends.  For doctors, lawyers, and other specialized fields I want that practitioner to be well-versed in their discipline and that does require academic training, leading to a college degree. However, there are other career paths like healthcare support, welding, plumbing, and many technology-related fields which are very hot job categories that may only require a certification or specialized training.

In closing, today’s job market demands that we examine job/career readiness through a different lens than what our parents may have recommended.