Any person who has attended their graduation ceremony from their university cannot deny the feeling of triumph when attaining that degree. But the million-dollar question is, are University degrees worth it?
A degree is not worthless as it helps people develop essential skills that make them more employable. But not all people need a university degree, this depends on your chosen career. Generally, ‘white collar’ careers benefit from a degree, whereas ‘blue collar’ or ‘pink collar’ careers require lower education like certificates and apprenticeships.
Are degrees worth it anymore? What Value Does a Degree Provide?
Degrees provide a lot of value in a myriad of ways. They can build your intellectual ability, responsibility and perseverance. This is often associated with making you more employable. An employers dream is to find employees who do not need to be ‘hand held,’ who can be trusted to follow procedures, think analytically and solve problems.
Not only does a degree give you academic skills, these skills translate into life skills. They can make you a more well-rounded individual, giving you the personal resources to find and embrace opportunities and make the most out of life. It gives you the all-around important value of choice. If you have a higher education you have a greater choice in career paths at your disposal.
A Degree Provides In Depth Knowledge in a Specific Field
Not everyone does a degree just to make themselves more employable. Degrees provide an opportunity to immerse yourself deeply in your chosen field of study, guided by extremely knowledgeable subject matter experts. A standard degree goes for three years and you are doing eight subjects a year.
Not only that, you are assessed a lot more harshly than when you were at school, or if you do a certificate or a diploma. There are no easy passes at University. You need to step up, work hard and learn to make sure that you pass each subject so you can earn your Degree. No matter what the reason you choose to do a degree, once you finish your studies, you will have gained in-depth specific subject matter expertise.
A Degree can Build Your Analytical Skills
A degree is designed to grow your mind. Teach you to analyse the world critically and in many cases put your assessment into words, be it in written form or verbal. You are taught not to take information for granted. You need to assess the validity of claims, and make sure you are getting information from reputable sources. Academic staff at the University of Essex ‘identified the interrelated skills of writing and reasoning as the two most important skills for success in higher education.’
For example, in Science degrees you would become proficient in reading and analysing Lab Reports. But you do not always just take scientific claims for granted. You will learn to analyse if the claims made are from statistically significant results.
In an Arts degree you are less likely to look at Lab Reports, but you are looking at a range of published works. You are looking for others who may be critical of different theorists work. Not only that, a huge part of the analytical process, is looking at what others say, and putting forward your point of view based on your educated research.
As a result of this, once you have a degree under-your-belt, chances are you will have a better ability than many, to perform tasks that require higher analytical processes.
Degrees Improve Your Writing Skills
No matter what degree you do, there is a good chance that your subject assessment has a component that is based on essay writing. At school you are spoon fed a lot of information. This is why many people struggle in their first year of University.
You have to source your information yourself, and you have to step up your analysis. If you base an essay solely on an outdated theory, or do not do enough research into the validity of claims, you will fail. You learn how to get your point across clearly and succinctly. A skill that many people without a degree just can’t do.
Hone in on your Communication Skills While at University
Communication skills are a must in most work environments, and University is a good place to build these skills. Not only will you become a proficient writer, but you will also learn how to make presentations, and work in a team environment.
When attending a university, you must be able to communicate properly, ask questions and be knowledgeable of what they are doing to get ahead! Our minds sometimes wander a mile a minute, and during our time at a university, this is something we must keep under control. Listening skills are crucial when your professor is giving a lecture.
A Degree Can Help Build Time Management and Personal Responsibility
Degrees can give a great sense of accomplishment and increase self-esteem. Time management and personal responsibility are vital skills built on while at University.
Unlike when you were at school, you don’t have your teacher following up on your progress with your assignments. Often University students have left home, so they are even out of sight of their parents. So, the responsibility for doing home work, preparing assignments, and studying for exams all comes down to you own will-power and determination to succeed.
If you are able work a part-time job while doing your degree, you will learn to manage your time and deal with conflicting priorities.
Consider First If You need a Degree for the Career you want?
Depending on what field you get into, like medicine, for instance, without a doubt, you will need a university degree. Top earning degrees today, such as becoming a surgeon or a legal professional, will require you to attend a university. Some jobs do not require a degree but experience and a good work ethic.
If you choose not to participate in a university and have developed the art of selling, then a Real estate agent could be a wise path to take as they can make a good amount of income depending on the housing market. Still, many employers today will ask for a university degree just for sitting at a desk and answering phones!
Will a Degree Improve Employment Chances?
We cannot deny that a degree is an accumulation of your accomplishments on one piece of paper. A degree may show to some employers that you finished what you started. You were disciplined enough to take all the required courses, complete all assignments, and studied rigorously for tests to graduate. As 50 Cent is said to have stated “I didn’t go to Harvard, but the people that work for me did.”
If you offer an employer the exact same qualities as another applicant without a degree, chances are you will get the job. But this is not always the case.
There are many blue/pink collar jobs which are lower educational level jobs that rely on a worker’s physical capability rather than their mind. If you want to be a hair dresser than chances are a degree is not going to be worth your financial and time investment. Hair stylists can do a lower level of educational certification, get a job that provides them on the job experience.
In this situation and in many others jobs such as Real Estate Agents, Tradesmen, Drivers, Mechanics, Retail Assistants, Child Care Workers and Chefs you do not need a degree at all.
But Why Would Anyone Say a Degree is Worthless?
People who say a degree is worthless, usually have not got a degree. They lack an understanding of the broad value that a degree can bring, and attribute the value only on a post degree salary.
There has been a long history of people with degrees being the high income earners. While this is still the case in many fields, more and more exceptions are emerging.
This is mainly due to the number of people attending Universities compared to previous generations. We are a more technical society, and youth are becoming more inclined to want a white collar desk job out of the harsh weather elements.
Shortages of Workers in Blue Collar Jobs
Due to shortages being created in other industries due to the popularity of going to University, the wages of tradesmen and other blue collar jobs has risen. This is where terms such as ‘Cashed Up Bogans’ have come about.
A great example is bricklaying. It has an aging workforce, and youth in general are not choosing a Bricklaying apprenticeship as a career. Why you ask? Well, bricklaying is hard physical work! Day in, day out, you are picking up bricks and blocks. In the cold and in the heat…
So, because we have a skills shortage, the laws of ‘Supply and demand’ come into play. If there is a shortage of bricklayers, and the general population need bricklayers, the cost of procuring a bricklayer will rise. 100+ years ago, a bricklayer would have been one of the lowest paid jobs, so it may surprise you that an employee bricklayer can earn more than some University Graduates.
Low Salaries of some White Collar Workers
You go to University for three to four years only to graduate and find out that your salary prospects are not looking too great. This is a trend that is unfortunately growing, especially in some of the lower level white collar jobs. As the Sydney Morning Herald puts it – White Collar Jobs turns light Blue.
“Technology, outsourcing and globalisation are turning some traditional white-collar office jobs into lower-paid labour, more akin to some types of blue-collar work.”
This can happen when too many people study the same Degree, and supply of new graduates is greater than demand. Over the years we have seen this in Australia with both graduates from law degrees and also IT degrees. The main take home is to think about your career of choice carefully and make sure you are aware of what employment prospects are going to be like.
Famous People without a Degree
While it is rare to become a billionaire without a degree, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates don’t actually have a university degree! Steve Jobs attended a private university and dropped out the second semester. What if Bill Gates had never dropped out of the most elite university in America to chase after computers? Would we still have the internet? He would not be worth 126.6 billion dollars today! If Jobs had not steered away from the university idea, would you be holding that iPhone in your hands while reading this?
More and more women are chasing the “Boss Babe” mentality and starting their small businesses from the ground up. Whether it be selling eyelashes, they bought by wholesale from Ali Baba, where they repackage them or making homemade lip gloss to sell. The internet and social media have opened many doors for enthusiastic entrepreneurs who are not fit for the 9-5 lifestyle. Let us not forget about popular Youtubers like Yuka Kinoshita, who makes more money stuffing her face with food on YouTube than your average person who attended four years of university! But the thing to consider is that for every success there are many more failures.
If you have learnt a lot from this article, you should check out what other guides our expert panel has put together for you. Maybe you want to learn about what the real Difference Between a Job and a Career is or if you’re wondering if your first job is going to dictate your career success?