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August 24, 2007


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I totally agree... It seems crazy the way that you need to get a masters degree today to "make it". Honestly, I felt the pressure to finish my degree because I thought if I didn’t I would have no chances of making it. My degree was in marriage, family, and human development and I now work in the world of finance regulation. It’s strange how my degree had nothing to do with my job. I find that a lot with social science degrees. So here is my question. With the cost of education inflating at over double the current inflation rate, will the cost of a masters or even a bachelors degree really be worth the extra $1,000,000 you supposedly make in your lifetime? My friend just applied for a job at Nordstrom’s and the person interviewing her had her MBA… that’s all I have to say.

People who went to college cannot understand why their children would do anything different. Nor are they as willing to hire people who didn't got to college.

Thats my take anyway.

I agree as well, and my Ph.D. is in higher education administration and I work for a university. The standards for K-12 education have fallen so dramatically over the past 25 years that much of college is indeed remedial.

I have mentioned this in a couple of my posts. With the government pushing for each child to have access to a college education, it is becoming more the standard than the differentiator.

I wonder how many years it will be before a Masters is required for the average job.

I guess for most people a college degree is now required, as it is for most jobs. But there will always be those exceptions to the rule that can make it in other professions based on innate abilities.

For my career, CPA, I couldn't even take the exam until I had a college degree. Now you have to have a Masters in most states to take the exam.

Trades that were common paths for a highschool dropout 40 years ago (skilled trades such as plumbing, auto repair, etc.) now require at least a G.E.D., and often some post-highschool education. Most white-collar jobs now require a bachelor's degree - even if it's not related to the work. I don't think I know any administrative assistants or sales executives who don't have at least four years of college education.

I followed my paternal family tree's tradition of studying engineering (although I ended up in computer science) - but it's tough to get a P.E. and do "real" engineering work without a master's degree. In contrast, my great-grandfather was a tenured professor of mechanical engineering at the beginning of the 20th century, and all he had was a master's.

We're lengthening childhood and adolescence, and education is one area where it is highlighted. My grandparents worked to support their families while still in highschool and got married at 18. My family thought I was still awfully young when I started working, received my bachelor's degree, and got married at 22.

I think the ability to "make it" and survive depends on the motivation of each individual. For some college is a good thing but not everyone needs to go to college. Did your friend mention what his kid might do in lieu of college? Are they planning to go to a trade school, serve in an apprenticeship, start their own business etc? IMO, each of these are good options in lieu of college.

In my opinion, a degree is only useful when applying for your first job out of school or when attempting to change professions and it is only one tool that a candidate can use to get a foot in the door. In fact, most of the time, the other tools (networking, internships, etc.) have a much larger impact on finding the right job or career. In fact, in most professions where a degree is a requirement, if you can get your foot in the door and don't have a degree, your employer will pay for you to get one.

Also, having a degree has declined in utility because in the past, employers would consider a candidate's degree in leiu of previous experience because it was difficult or impossible to find someone with the skills needed for an open position. Employers today have so many options available to them when hiring for a position that they can typically find the exact skill set they are looking for. Only positions where a candidate's degree is in a discipline that matches the skills necessary for the position (eliminating ALL liberal arts degrees, think doctor/lawyer/nuclear physicist) does the degree hold any weight.

Because employers can find candidates with the experience they are looking for, they are much less likely to take a risk on a candidate that doesn't but has a degree unless they can get that candidate for much less money. Obviously, this reduces the monetary value of having a degree which was the whole point in getting one anyway.

Richard --

No, he didn't say what options his child was considering.

I agree alot with Nick. A degree is needed many times to get your foot in the door when first starting out. Case-n-point: my old coworkers son worked at a store all through high school, it was a little store so he ended up really being more of a manager. He even convinced his boss to let him bring in a line of swimsuits and he did all the buying, marketing, etc. Because he had this experience he didn't feel he needed a degree, but after being in the real world for a few months he realized that a degree would be good although much of it he already knew.

It is true though that degrees are needed more and more. In my field (youth ministry/religious education) it use to be that all you needed was a passion for teens, God, and tons of energy. Now most churches require atleast a BA in theology or a related field, experience, and if you want to get into other ministry fields, a Masters or decades of experience. At my new job, in my department all of us have a BA, and most of us have or in the process of getting a Masters.

I think as education is more readily available and more attend college that it is becoming the standard and to get ahead you need to get advanced degrees plus get tons of experience.

I agree with Richard in that a degree is more of a way of getting your foot in the door. My girlfriend and my sister both recently received college degrees and they are getting a lot of interviews. The interviews that they are getting, however, are for lower paying jobs than the positions that they are in currently. The jobs are in their field of expertise though. They are now faced with the dilemma of taking a pay cut to get their foot in the door in the industry that they have studied or move up the ladder in their current field. My dad did not graduate college until he was 35 and by that time he was already a top executive at an industrial manufacturing firm. The only reason he continued to finish his degree was because they offered a pay raise to college graduates (It didn't hurt that his company paid for him to finish).

Actually, I don't really know where I'm going with this. College was very beneficial to my Dad but for my girlfriend and sister, the benefits have yet to become apparent...

I, on the other hand, have not finished college yet. I own two companies and I'm taking classes at night. This is more for my own personal knowledge though. I am a finance major and I want to better be able to manage the finances of my companies. It's not so much a career advancement move or a getting my foot in the door move. It's a personal knowledge advancement move.

At 38, I am finishing my degree in Information Systems Management. When I started in this career, I started as a data entry clerk entering data on a computer inventory project. I had the aptitude for computers, so I was kept after the inventory project was over and trained as a support tech. Today I am an IT Manager, which in my company, is an executive level position. I really don't need the degree and I HIGHLY doubt it will get me more money from my current employer, but I am getting it to satisfy my own personal need to have it. To me, at least in the computer industry, a degree is useless unless you truly have the aptitude. When hiring for my department, I look at ability rather than what piece of paper they overpaid for.

How will they survive w/o college? Just fine if they are a dry waller or electrician (business owners of course); the two millionaires in my neighborhood. The idea that you need college to get a basic job now is flawed. It's an assumption on businesses part so they can cut training expenses. Btw, only 20% of the US has a Bachelor's. What are the other 80% doing?

Now a days the degree that you attained has no relevance to the job that you do.
Having said that, i think that having a college degree or a master's degree gives you an edge over others. Employers these days are looking for candidates that have college degrees and in some cases Master's degree. Having a college degree shows that the individual has a different attitude and a commitment to work hard as getting a college degree requires a lot of hard work. While some people may look at a college degree as a piece of paper, it is a sense of pride and accomplishment for the ones as it involves a lot of time and costs you a lot of money. As for myself, the way that people looked at me before i got my Master's and the way people look at me now at my job now has changed a lot. This may not be true for all, it really makes a difference. This is my opinion. By the way, i am 37 and have a Post graduate diploma in Business administration and a Master of Business Administration, both from the UK. I completed both of them taking a break from my regular job.

Emily --

Just as inflation will drive up the cost of college, it will also drive up salaries. That said, it's always wise to do the cost/benefit calculation of any major financial expenditure.

This may be a bit off topic, but in reading this Blog for a while, I have found many readers have an odd view of college. What I find sad is the idea that the only purpose of a "degree" is to get a job in a specific field that pays specific dollars. What ever happened to the idea of going to college to Learn, to learn how to learn, to explore etc. (Yes I know it costs a lot of money, that is why we as parents saved and she worked from age 14 on up, and no, we are not "privileged" people, this family has always worked and saved hard so we can pursue opportunities)
I don't buy the idea that only certain degrees get you good jobs. My middle daughter graduated with a BA in anthropology, minor in English from a traditional liberal arts school. She learned how to think, write and communicate coherently, how to get along with people who have different views and backgrounds. End results, her first job out of college is at a law firm in Boston as a Web developer. Starting pay 40K with great benefits. She is currently enrolled in a Master's Program in Knowledge Mgt (firm has tuition reimbursement) and plans to pursue a career in Knowledge Management and Law librarianship.
A different way of looking at this - It is the journey, not just the destination that counts. What she learned both in and outside of class, away at school, is hard to equate to $. However, the end result is that she was educated to compete in a global economy. My youngest daughter plans to attend the same college and hopes to major in sociology and minor in art - all the more power to her. Thanks for letting me say my piece.


I heaved a great sigh when our third and final child graduated college this spring. The oldest, a National Merit scholar, got a free ride, but could barely tolerate the academic boredom he faced at university. He loved his major, though--linguistics. Now, at age 28, he's authored a computer language book called "Ajax on Rails" and is a well-known conference speaker. Our daughter received a degree in Sociology and Family Studies, and was immediately hired to teach disabled kids in the inner city--while the district pays for her to get her Master's in education. The youngest got a dual degree in Business Administration and Hospitality Management. One of the classiest hotels in KC was thrilled to hire him on as a supervisor for his first job.

That said, my husband and I have to fill out certain forms by placing an x in the "some college" box. Neither of us are quite sophomores yet. We do own our own company, though, and if we can quickly recover from forking it over for the kids' college educations, we'll join the millionaires next door soon.

One advantage to being as old as we are is that no one ever asks anymore where we went to college! All of our closest friends at the new church we attend have masters and doctorates. They claim we "fit in" with them quite well, but at first they were shocked to discover that some people who only have high school educations are able to speak in complete sentences!! :)

I agree with you JJ in Balt. The merits of college extend beyond the purpose of employment but that's not a sexy or popular concept in today's economic/pop climate. To quote songwriter, Randy Newman, "it's money that matters."

Anitra hit the nail on the head. Many people don't consider themselves adults until they are nearly 30 years old today. this new phase of young adulthood was unknown to our grand parents, who generally regarded themselves as adults once they could be drafted or hold a fire arm steady.

If you know an enterprising young person (by this I mean someone in high school or lower) send them the following essay:

It will blow their socks off to learn that they can be an adult whenever they choose to be responsible. This lesson eludes some people their whole lives.

It is really the type of career that you want that matters. Some require it and brook no alternatives. For others it can be helpful, but not necessary. For others it is largely irrelevant. What career do you want, what means of making money do you prefer, what are you passionate about?

I agree that college is the new "high school". It's true that there will always be people who are able to get around that....but they will be the exception, not the rule. Although college is a necessity for many professions...for the most part it's just a way to weed out job applicants. Education, in many ways, is used as a way to perpetuate the class system. Middle and upper class parents know how to play the education "game" and teach their kids accordingly. Poor & working class parent's don't (and sometimes don't want to learn). This is how the class sytem reproduces itself. There are always a few poor people who are very ambitious and/or talented who will slip through the cracks and "beat the system", which perpetuates the idea that the system isn't really rigged, when in truth, it is.

I don't recommend college as a way to find yourself unless already wealthy; there are many more enjoyable less expensive means. You should already know what you want out of it when you start or delay it until you do. It is used as a gatekeeper, but ten years out, it is what you have done since that is important.

Just as inflation will drive up the cost of college, it will also drive up salaries. That said, it's always wise to do the cost/benefit calculation of any major financial expenditure.

There are many underemployed college graduates who will gladly work cheap. If salaries are driven up, the underemployed should become a better and better deal for employers, eight?

Oh Lord,

Let me ask...I am 25 years out and have nothing remotely resembling career-related experience. Is there any hope for me?

Here is an idea. If college is so valuable why not hire a grad and put him to work for you. You should be able to do much better than him if you know what you are doing.

No MW, abandon all hope and try something completely different.

I find intriguing the idea (per Richard) of starting a business in lieu of getting a degree. Wherever would one get the startup capital?

Re: cost/benefit analysis. One problem with the calculation for a college degree is that the cost of the degree is a moving target - law school was affordable when I was a freshman, but it had become unaffordable by the time I graduated.

"I find intriguing the idea (per Richard) of starting a business in lieu of getting a degree. Wherever would one get the startup capital?"

Catch-22 on that for sure. A good friend with a solid business plan, excellent credit, and 5 years of experience in the field was denied a loan to start up a small salon due to not having a degree or having years of management. She is currently in a management position and after 5 years or so more experience should be able to get a business loan to finally start her own business.

I would also like to add that this entire subject is highly dependent on the area and local job market. After looking for positions in the greater Seattle area which supposedly has the highest percentage of degrees of any metro area in the US it is shocking the requirements for even the more basic of IT jobs. Once you get out into the surrounding areas its even more shocking. A 4 year degree plus certifications and several years of experience needed for a job that pays about the same as I was making in the military as a junior enlisted person when I got out 5 years ago? Seriously!

It's funny because a hundred and fifty years ago a person with a 5th grade education could do just about anything they wanted to. The public education system came into being and then it was a seventh grade education. As time went by the education system continued to grow then in the fifties all you needed was a high school education (12th grade). Now a college education is pretty much the standard. If you don't have a bachelors degree, good luck finding a decent paying white collar job. I have a Masters degree in counseling, and i can't find a decent counseling job. My professors all thought that i should go on for my doctorate and that i would be a benefit to the field. Now i am working in a job that has many high-school graduates working at the same level as myself. Why is that?

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