A College Degree Isn’t Always Worth It

A College Degree Isn't Always Worth It

At some point in your life you may ask yourself if getting a college degree is worth it. The overall answer to this question is yes. In most cases, getting a higher education is worth it for several different reasons. Going to college is a straight forward way to getting a decent career that pays well. Many professions require a college education, and there is no other way around it. College graduates can also expect to earn more on average than those without a degree. Yet, there is a growing number of instances where a college degree isn’t worth it.

The Rising Cost of Tuition

The cost of college continues to steeply rise year after year and wages are not keeping up. It’s no surprise that student loans are the largest portion of U.S. non-housing debt. Millennials currently battle record levels of student debt. This is mostly due to sky-high education costs and nonexistent wage growth. Working your way through college and graduating without any debt is a lot more difficult nowadays.

There are ways to reduce the cost of college. Community colleges, public universities, online, and trade schools are gaining in popularity. The reputation of the school where you get your degree may not even matter for most careers. Still, many students end up paying way more than necessary just to get their education from a prestigious college. The additional cost usually ends up being a waste. If you’re unable to find work that’s lucrative enough to justify getting into debt, then a college degree isn’t worth it.

Rising Cost Of Tuition

The chart above illustrates the drastic rise in college tuition from the early 1980s to 2006. It has continued to rise even more over the past 13 years.

Your Major Matters

Arts and psychology majors average some of the lowest annual salaries according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Engineering, computer science, and biology majors are more likely to find a well-paying career. While your salary usually goes up with your level of education, your major matters significantly. If you want to major in a low paying field that’s in low demand, it may not be worth it. Of course, if you dream of graduating with an art degree or have a well thought out plan, it could be worth it to you. Financially speaking, it’s better to seek out an in-demand and high paying major to increase your likelihood of success.

Experience Can Trump Education

Put yourself in the shoes of an employer that needs to hire a web developer. You must choose between two applicants. The first applicant has a bachelor’s degree majoring in information technology but has zero experience outside of college. The second applicant is self-taught and has over 4 years of working experience with examples of previous work. Who would you hire? Most employers would choose the latter.

When it comes to starting a business or other entrepreneurial ambitions, college is optional. Getting a business degree will mostly help you find a career working for another corporation or business. Yes, you could translate the skills learned into starting your own business as well, but why not learn by doing instead? History has taught us that working for yourself does not require any formal education.

A college degree proves your success in academia, not in a real-life job. If you start working early, you will avoid student debt, gain work experience, and get paid. You may even find a job that will help pay for your education through tuition reimbursement and other incentives.

How to Determine If College Is the Right Choice

I’ve always said if you have a plan and have done your research then college is well worth it. But if you’re just going to college to go to college, it’s probably not worth it. Without a well thought out plan, you could end up in a lot of debt with a degree that won’t help you pay it back. If your career choice is attainable without a college degree, you may want to consider gaining experience first.

Education is a great solution if you want to gain knowledge and build skills. With the vast amount of opportunities to learn outside of getting a formal education, you may never need to go to college. It comes down to your goals and if you want to achieve them traditionally or go a non-traditional route.

Final Thoughts

More Americans have college degrees than ever before, and a degree isn’t as valuable as it used to be. The price of getting the degree is also much higher than it used to be. You may end up never getting your money’s worth.

In today’s world, there are more alternatives than getting a formal education. Learning a trade, gaining work experience, and self-education are admirable choices. Higher education alone doesn’t guarantee your financial success.

College isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Students often find out it’s not for them after they’ve enrolled. They end up either dropping out or begrudgingly force themselves to continue. You can save yourself a lot of grief by planning out your future and doing sufficient research. If you want to be a doctor or dentist, then college is obviously the way to go (self-taught doctors have a hard time finding work). However, if your desired career is obtainable without a degree, you can consider skipping college altogether.