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Is College Worth it?

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If you’re wondering whether if college is worth it nowadays, the following statistics might give you the answer.

While 100 years ago, higher education was one of the main contributing factors to climbing the social ladder, nowadays other factors, such as connections, soft skills or emotional intelligence, play a more important role.

The reason why in the 1920s higher education was a key factor is that the percentage of people attending higher education was much lower, therefore enabling people who graduate to provide a much higher added value to prospective employers in comparison to others who have not attended college.

The majority of the jobs were blue-collar jobs, while white-collar jobs were being created at a very fast pace, therefore increasing the demand for educated human resources, enabling college graduates to easily find a well-paid job.

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At the same time, college fees were much lower and affordable, making for a quick return on investment. College tuition fees were less than $250 per year, including to some of the most reputable universities, such as Harvard.

To put that into perspective, the average annual service salary of a civil service employee was $1,100, clothing workers $1,700, engineers $3,200. The current college tuition fees average $32,000 per year, while the average annual salary in service occupations is $30,000.

is college worth it
Infographic by What To Become

So, is college worth it?

When putting these figures next to each other, the obvious fact is that higher education might not be worth it for everyone. Sure, if you are coming from a financially potent family, higher education can bring a return in the long run, especially in fields such as law, health, education, etc.

However, if your current financial situation does not allow enough disposable income to invest in higher education, it might be a smart choice to look at alternatives, especially if you wish to pursue a career that does not necessarily require a degree.

is college worth it
Infographic by What To Become

I am talking here about anything that can be self-taught. With so much available information and courses, you can up your knowledge and skills with little to no money, not mentioning in less time.

For example, if you are passionate about technology, you can learn to code all by yourself. There are endless mobile application developers or software developers that have not attended higher education and became successful at what they do because they are passionate and self-taught.

Fields such as graphic design, digital marketing, writing, sales, do not require a degree. In fact, in such fields, you will never learn in 3 or 4 years while attending university, as much as you can learn by having practical work experience.

As an exercise, let’s say you decide to pursue a marketing degree, which will take an average of 3 to 4 years to complete, at a cost of $20,000 per year. That is a minimum investment of $60,000; without taking any other expenses into consideration, such as living, eating, going out, etc.

You graduate after 3 or 4 years with a very nice degree in marketing, however without any practical experience in most cases.

is college worth it
Infographic by What To Become

Asides from this, I particularly took marketing as an example, as nowadays everything is shifting towards digital marketing, and as trends and technology change from month to month, you might end up with a degree that will not serve you once completed.

Personally, I went to college in 2007 and because of different circumstances, I was not able to graduate. If I had finalized my studies, nothing other than the basics of marketing would have helped me today. Everything that I know about marketing, I have learned alone by reading hundreds of books, articles and attending numerous courses, that have allowed me to enter the workforce at a young age and develop my skills while working and producing an income. Having been able to be in the middle of industry changes when they happened and learn in real-time by practicing, not just reading, has been monumental in helping me have a good income and a good career path, even without a college degree.

As an alternative to college, you can invest a much lower sum into a short course that will teach you the basic skills of what you wish to pursue as a career.

Let’s continue with the marketing example. There are courses for as low as a few tens of dollars that can teach you the basics of social media, for example. Such a course would take an average of 2 months to complete.

This will allow you to get an entry-level job, such as a Social Media Executive and start earning a decent income very soon while continuing to learn. This can lead later on to a Social Media Manager position and even allow you to earn a side income as a Freelance Social Media Manager, on top of your full-time income.

With only 3 years of experience, you can earn $3,000 per month, which wouldn’t be the case if you spent these 3 years in college without any practical experience.

the student loan debt situation
Infographic by What To Become

On top of this, employers nowadays, are looking at much more than a college degree because the market is oversaturated with degree holders.

The majority of people currently in the workforce, or entering the workforce, have a college degree, therefore employers are looking at other things to differentiate between candidates.

Things such as being responsible, knowing how to solve problems, having an open mind, being motivated and, one of the most important, emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

If 100 years ago there was a simple formula: attend college, graduate, get a well-paid job and live a nice life, today this formula does not work anymore.

While you may succeed in life if you get a college degree, it is not a guarantee as it used to be.

average cost per degree
Infographic by What To Become

Nowadays the formula is so much different that it does not even have to include a college degree. 

Bottom line is that whatever decision you take, you need to make sure that you are taking all aspects into consideration and if you can’t afford to pursue a college degree, that does not mean that you can’t become successful.

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Forrest Webber

Forrest Webber, I hope you will enjoy reading and applying the things that I am teaching through my articles.While working for 12 years in different fields and 9 different countries, I came across different cultures and different work environments.

8 thoughts on “Is College Worth it?”

  1. Wow, things have changed so much over the years. I was pushed to go to college because, at the time, a college education would lead to a higher paying job. Now, that’s less of the case. So, I couldn’t agree more with you that it’s a decision that needs to be carefully considering.

    Reply
    • Indeed, things have changed. Going to college is a big investment and needs careful consideration. It’s the same as buying a house. You wouldn’t get a loan to buy a house if you were not sure you have the means to pay back. Thanks for the comment Angela.

      Reply
    • I totally agree, careful consideration should be made when deciding to get a degree. Times have changed and the workplace is requiring more and more. Great article, thanks for sharing

      Reply
    • I completely agree with you. Starting a business teaches you so much more than going to college, even if that business fails. Thanks for the comment, Rebecca.

      Reply
  2. Great ideas here. When I went to college in the 80s, I could pay for it with a part-time waitressing job. That’s no longer possible with the high cost of tuition and there are so many education alternatives out there.

    Reply
    • You’re absolutely right! Happy you found my article on “Is a college degree a good investment?” useful. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply

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