Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Neo

Was going to college truly worth every penny?

41 posts in this topic

I've had this discussion many times with many people with varying outcomes, but I would say a greater percentage believe that the time spent going to college for a general degree (just to have one to make yourself more marketable) would have been better spent by getting yourself out there and working extra hard to make it in the real world, whatever career choice you may have made.

I work in the IT field. I do carry a few certificates but you can't really compare an IT certification to a real college degree. I'll be honest in saying that I never stepped foot into a real college and as a result I don't have a college degree. It hasn't hurt my chances whatsoever in getting my dream career as I currently reside over an IT department of a mid-sized company and make a decent living doing what I love. I sometimes wish that I did have a bachelors degree and perhaps the chance to get an MBA, but doing so would be for the sole reason of being more marketable.

I tend to learn and pick-up on new technologies and methods relating to my field very quickly and do my best to stay on top of the aspects of my career. By doing so on my own I have managed to bypass college debt and the four or more year debt of my time where that time has seemingly been better spent practicing my chosen career in the real world.

If you can prove yourself to a company that you truly have the knowledge and experience required to master a said job then is it really and truly necessary to have a college degree? Why do companies seem to think just because you have a college degree that it makes you a better choice for a said job opening than someone who has spent that four years practicing that resulting degree choice in the real world?

I understand that there will be some degrees that are absolutely required such as medical, etc. but there are some that just seem a waste of time for the most part and can add huge sums of debt to your life. What about those career choices that change quickly such as jobs in the IT industry? Are college degrees really an absolute necessity or should companies be more open to hiring someone based on real world knowledge and experience without a college degree or hire someone with little real world experience but one with a college degree?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I'm an engineer and I'd have to say that a degree is absolutely necessary in that field. Keeping yourself current in the field is equally necessary and I've racked up a PE, as well as gov, NFPA, and ICC certs over the years.

Yeah, college was worth every penny, but you can't discount certifications and continuing ed, at least not in my field.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A college degree or trade certification is definitely a must in many fields I think. My father for example is highly skilled in tool and die/fabrication work, but has in recent years had issues getting jobs for which he is more than qualified in terms of skill sets and experience compared to new kids out of tech school or college with little or no experience simply because they have a piece of paper. Age probably plays a factor too, as he is pretty close to retirement, but his skill sets almost certianly should out weigh that factor. Now he still is successful due to his persistance, strong interpersonal skills, and references, but employers increasingly place more emphasis on having the right piece of paper over actual skill sets often enough that I would argue that obtaining certification and/or a college degree is the best course of securing job security in your preferred field of employment.

Personally I have found my own college education invaluable and absolutely worth every penny; and I credit my father for forcing me to go to college instead of the military or going into factory work. He always told me that I could do whatever I wanted, but I was going to go to college and get a degree, because it was either do that or take over his tool payments. I listened to him and I really appreciate that he pushed me to do so, as I excelled in college and obtained a top rate education that I would not have otherwise received.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know if there will be a big pay off for my college education (I still have one more semester to go), but I can say that the educational experience, regardless of how much money I might make or how marketable I might be upon completion, has been worth every penny. As difficult as it has been to work a full time job and be a full time traditional student, the experience has been one of the most positive things I've done in my life.

As for the financial cost of going to school, I am one of the lucky ones. I'll only end up owing $19K. There are some grad students I know who are facing hundreds of thousands in debt. That would scare the bejesus out of me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A college degree or trade certification is definitely a must in many fields I think. My father for example is highly skilled in tool and die/fabrication work, but has in recent years had issues getting jobs for which he is more than qualified in terms of skill sets and experience compared to new kids out of tech school or college with little or no experience simply because they have a piece of paper. Age probably plays a factor too, as he is pretty close to retirement, but his skill sets almost certianly should out weigh that factor. Now he still is successful due to his persistance, strong interpersonal skills, and references, but employers increasingly place more emphasis on having the right piece of paper over actual skill sets often enough that I would argue that obtaining certification and/or a college degree is the best course of securing job security in your preferred field of employment.

Is that the best plan of action for a company to take though? Should they place more emphasis on a piece of paper over someone actually being able to do the job and prove it? I agree that many companies require a piece of paper these days, which is likely one reason that I've always pursued self-employment as a secondary career, but I disagree that a company should place more weight on hiring someone with a piece of paper instead of hiring someone with the required skill and drive to do the job.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've noticed that in a lot of career fields, having a college degree isn't really necessary to do the job or succeed in the field but the upper management often makes it a requirement for advancement. Kinda a way to weed out people as they go through the interview process.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've mostly worked for myself in various fields since college. My degree has nothing to do with anything I've done (degree in Criminal Justice) but the overall experience, learning to deal with all types of people, learning to work through deadlines, learning how to learn, etc, were well worth every bit of my education. It was the overall experience though, not the actual nuggets of info from specific classes. The single exception to that was a semester of Grad work in Public Administration where I took concentrated classes on Land Use Controls (Zoning), Organizational Theory, and Planning. I've used my textbooks and knowledge from those over and over in what I've ended up doing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose I am quite old fashioned but I don't believe going to college is only about attaining a high paying job. I had a great liberal arts education, and expanded my horizons culturally, personally, and philosophically. There so much more to the college experience than obsessing about whether you will be able to have the most expensive car or the most lucrative job to brag about. So I agree that college is worth every penny in the intellectual sense as much as the monetary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I was one of those who ended up not in college the first 3 years after high school. Instead I moved out on my own, got a job and learned some of what the real world was like. I decided that I wanted to be an engineer at some point during this period and after a frustrating year of trying to work full time and go to college I gave up work and spent the next 4 years in near poverty to put myself through college. I was lucky at the time as I was able to get a lot of financial help that most likely isn't available now.

To answer the question is that in my case the 4 years of time and money was definitely worth it. It opened up a lot of doors for me that lead to a lot of experiences over the last couple of decades that I would not have wanted to miss. And as Voyager said, there is a lot more to college than just the economic aspects of it. Having an advanced education does give one a lot of tools that are useful in life than just those that one might use at work. You can never get too much knowledge and some of it you just can't get anywhere else except in school.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is that the best plan of action for a company to take though? Should they place more emphasis on a piece of paper over someone actually being able to do the job and prove it? I agree that many companies require a piece of paper these days, which is likely one reason that I've always pursued self-employment as a secondary career, but I disagree that a company should place more weight on hiring someone with a piece of paper instead of hiring someone with the required skill and drive to do the job.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't know if there will be a big pay off for my college education (I still have one more semester to go), but I can say that the educational experience, regardless of how much money I might make or how marketable I might be upon completion, has been worth every penny. As difficult as it has been to work a full time job and be a full time traditional student, the experience has been one of the most positive things I've done in my life.

As for the financial cost of going to school, I am one of the lucky ones. I'll only end up owing $19K. There are some grad students I know who are facing hundreds of thousands in debt. That would scare the bejesus out of me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a degree in something unrelated to my field of work. I too work in IT, and I have to say much of this particular career is quite doable without a degree - for now. But that may not stay that way for long. I think IT as a career is fragmenting into different aspects, just as pre-60's there really wasn't much of a difference between an electrical engineer and an electrician. IT technicians are, unfortunately for us, becoming something more of a trade than career.

Having said that, I think there is definite value in a college education. And it has little to do with technical skills, it has to do with problem solving, working on projects, and developing a personal style. Not everyone gets through with all of these skills picked up, and there are some who develop these outside of college.

I think few people can really expect a fulfilling career without some kind of post-high school education. But I think that it's time we changed that process. I think we need to, as a country, simply start making two-year colleges part of the regular course of education, focusing on those last years to develop job skills, team work and problem solving, and explore life choices. I know it will be expensive, but I think it will be worth it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

College was a very interesting experience for me to say the least, so it was worth it in my opinion. I've always been intelligent and had a desire to learn more, and college was an outlet for that. On a much more personal note, I have Asperger's syndrome... which is held against me by controlling fundamentalist Christian parents. Being away at school was the only time I have ever felt truly free, truly been able to be myself, and explore/learn more about the world. Being at home, I have felt suffocated. I only have my family/the church, and I escape that with an addiction to the internet. If it wasn't for going to college, I would have no social life whatsoever. It's bad enough having a social disability without the compounding issue of the people around you wanting to cut you off from the rest of the world.

On an economic standpoint, I owe only $20k ... which I can work off within a year or so. I can more easily save up to pay off my debts and be able to move out on my own. My current job, I didn't need a degree to get into the company I work for... or probably even this position I have. However, it made me more attractive and got me in on this position over some spot lower on the totem pole with lower pay.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I suppose I am quite old fashioned but I don't believe going to college is only about attaining a high paying job. I had a great liberal arts education, and expanded my horizons culturally, personally, and philosophically. There so much more to the college experience than obsessing about whether you will be able to have the most expensive car or the most lucrative job to brag about. So I agree that college is worth every penny in the intellectual sense as much as the monetary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I suppose I am quite old fashioned but I don't believe going to college is only about attaining a high paying job. I had a great liberal arts education, and expanded my horizons culturally, personally, and philosophically. There so much more to the college experience than obsessing about whether you will be able to have the most expensive car or the most lucrative job to brag about. So I agree that college is worth every penny in the intellectual sense as much as the monetary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Perhaps most importantly, I am very much aware of the importance of alumni connections across the course of a lifespan. I got my current job through an alum friend of mine, and I'm certain that my career will be enhanced by those kinds of opportunities occurring repeatedly throughout my life. No way I could measure the economic fallout of those connections.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
..... just as pre-60's there really wasn't much of a difference between an electrical engineer and an electrician. IT technicians are, unfortunately for us, becoming something more of a trade than career.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally I am at a crossroads. Next month I turn 26, I have a few IT certifications but no college. My income is quite a bit higher than the average for someone with a 4-year degree so at what point is it worth it to get the 4-year degree just to say you have it? I've always been fascinated by individuals that are extremely successful that do not have a college degree. Richard Branson (of Virgin fame), Rachael Ray (of Food Network fame), Steve Jobs (of Apple fame), Bill Gates & Paul Allen (of Microsoft fame), Steven Spielberg (of movie fame), Michael Dell (of Dell fame), Ted Turner (of CNN fame), and the list goes on and on.

I'm in no way condoning that not going to college is the answer. When I have kids I plan to push them to college as I believe it will be a sure necessity by that point, but what if you are currently successful without a degree? Is it worth the time and money to go back and get a degree? Would it really protect you in the future should something happen or would riding on your success without a college degree carry the same or more weight?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm in no way condoning that not going to college is the answer. When I have kids I plan to push them to college as I believe it will be a sure necessity by that point, but what if you are currently successful without a degree? Is it worth the time and money to go back and get a degree? Would it really protect you in the future should something happen or would riding on your success without a college degree carry the same or more weight?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In-between careers I worked briefly in the office of a staffing agency. My job was mostly to look over resume's and weed out people who didn't qualify for job postings. During that time I was really saddened at how many middle-aged people there were on the market who had 20-30 years of work experience, a completely clean personal background... but no degree and therefore no shot at jobs paying higher-end wages.

Personally, I think you should see if it's possible to get your employer to help you out with attending a degree program. That way, if something terrible should happen and you find yourself on the market at age 40 with no degree, you're not missing out on $10/hour jobs to paper-holding mental midgets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ This is especially true given the declining quality of college education. Particularly at larger institutions, a degree is no guarantee that a person has actually mastered the subject or developed a strong work ethic. The intellectual difference between the valedictorian and the barely-made-it can be startling.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm in no way condoning that not going to college is the answer. When I have kids I plan to push them to college as I believe it will be a sure necessity by that point, but what if you are currently successful without a degree? Is it worth the time and money to go back and get a degree? Would it really protect you in the future should something happen or would riding on your success without a college degree carry the same or more weight?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm certainly aware that a particular degree is required for some types of jobs. It seems that in government positions it is required more so than in private institutions. My wife is currently in the middle of getting her Masters in Library Science just so that she can work in the library at a middle school. That is a tremendous amount of education to be paid the same amount as a teacher (albeit those with a graduate degree get paid at a slightly higher rate) but luckily the county is contributing half of the total tuition and we're lucky enough to have some great schools in North Carolina where she can go at a tremendous discount.

I've talked with her many times about me going to college to get some kind of formal piece of paper and every time we come back to the fact that it would be just that, a piece of paper. I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit, especially after seeing my Dad be very successful at starting and running several private companies. Perhaps if you are going to rely on an employer then college will have more weight than if you have the drive to go it on your own.

I'm in the process of converting old family tapes to DVD and my Mom gave me a few to convert recently...in the bunch was a tape of my sister's graduation. The speaker that they had was a very successful person that had gone to college and made a name for himself in his corner. Something he said was enlightening (though the rest of the tape was a bit boring to be honest)...He made mention of a story about a doctor who had come home from a long day only to find that his wife had to call a plumber to come and fix a leak that had occurred. When the plumber was finished, and the doctor went to pay him, the doctor was shocked as to how much the bill was, more specifically the hourly rate that was charged. The doctor asked him if he made that every hour and the plumber replied that he did and that he was a good plumber so he stayed busy. Interestingly the plumber ended up making more than the doctor did and he didn't have all of the tremendous college bills associated with obtaining a medical degree.

Some people choose to go to college and some don't. For those that choose to not go to college then I think there is a requirement of to not only be the plumber but to run the plumbing company. Some of the most successful individuals have been successful in this way. I'm not discounting those that did go to college however, since companies like Google have benefited greatly from those that did. I suppose each situation and each field is different for everyone. In IT I believe you have more leeway. A doctor obviously can't be a doctor without an associated degree and required training. I think that it's ok to work in a factory, but run the factory, don't just work on a line doing the same repetitive work all day long.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Some people choose to go to college and some don't. For those that choose to not go to college then I think there is a requirement of to not only be the plumber but to run the plumbing company.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was lucky in this regard. Technically I finished all of my required high school classes in the 11th grade and the county put me on a pilot track where I spent my entire senior year at a local technical school. Whether or not they're looked down upon or not, it was a great experience for me. While the rest of my senior class was taking English and other general education classes at the high school I was across town taking Computer Engineering 1 & 2, Electronics 1 & 2 (fast track of one per semester), Computer Network Engineering 1 & 2, etc. The school even warrantied me when I finished up. They guaranteed that if after I started working for a company and could not do my job proficiently for anything I learned that the school would retrain me at no cost.

Looking back it probably looked cheap to prospective employers. I did get several IT certifications ranging from being Novell certified, A+, etc. to prove that I could do the work. I was lucky enough to land a job at a great law firm in Chicago as the 4th man on the IT team and I have no doubt that job had a hand in landing me in my current situation for someone who doesn't have a college degree.

To this day I don't discount technical schools or community colleges for students out of high school for the reason that it no doubt bolstered my situation. My sister is about to finish up with her Associates in Business degree at the age of 40. I believe it was a situation where she had gotten as far as should could without one so I do understand the need for such a piece of paper in some situations, but I don't think every situation requires a degree when a few certificates and a great deal of work experience will do.

I suppose my next question is how do employers or head hunters view community college degrees? Do they get tossed out with 'no college' folks or are they given the same weight as someone that graduated from the local state college system for example?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.