Do You Really Need a Four-Year Degree for a Good Job?

by Miranda Marquit · 50 comments

When my dad was growing up on a farm, my grandfather made him and all my uncles work at the nearby sugar factory. The pay wasn’t that great, and the work was dirty and difficult. My grandfather had a motive for sending them to participate in this job.

“Do you like working there? No?” he asked. Then he continued, “Get an education. If you want a good job, you need to go to school and get a college degree.”

As a result, my dad and his brothers all excelled in education and earned advanced degrees with little surprises.

But, as my husband nears the end of his Ph.D. work, and as I stare at the Master’s diploma on my wall, I wonder if an advanced degree is really worth what you pay to get it. How cost efficient is even a four-year degree?

With college tuition rising, and financial aid dwindling, university is more expensive than ever. And when you are done, your return on investment may not be that great. Right now, the job market is tough, and you may find yourself saddled with a job that pays less than $40,000 a year — while your student loans may total upwards of $60,000. (Luckily, there are ways to reduce debt effectively. Here are 25 such ways.)

Good Jobs You Can Do with an Associate’s Degree

U.S. News and World Report has a rather interesting look at jobs you can do without getting a four-year degree. The following jobs are most often done by people with Associate’s degrees, and include the median pay for each job as reported by U.S. News:

  1. Dental Hygienist: $66,570
  2. Radiation Therapist: $72,910
  3. Respiratory Therapist: $52,200

There are other professional jobs that require some sort of vocational or long-term on the job training — no degree at all — and pay reasonably well. You might have to pay for training sessions and to take exams, but you generally pay less than attending school. U.S. News reports on some of those jobs, with their median annual salaries:

  1. Subway Operator: $53,220
  2. Powerhouse Electrical Repair: $61,040
  3. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator: $73,320
  4. Air Traffic Control: $111,870

Educational Return on Investment

Of course, it isn’t always about the money. Many people choose their professions based on a passion. For others, money isn’t a deciding factor due to their enjoyment of a frugal lifestyle. However, if you are looking for educational return on investment, it is clear that a four-year degree may not always deliver the best value for the money. (Although there are still plenty of jobs where a four-year degree — or an advanced degree — is required.)

I’m not saying education isn’t valuable. I’m all for education. But maybe a formal four-year degree isn’t always the way to go. Instead, it might be more cost-efficient, and you might get more long-term value, if you focus on a skill that others need. This is a type of education that we do not often think about. But in a society with increasing demands on specialization, the type of education that focuses on the development of specific skills might provide better returns for your education dollar.

Two of my cousins are radiation techs, and they make pretty decent money, especially considering how long they went to school, and how much they paid for their respective education. It took less than a year for one to pay off the loans for her program and the other took two years. Both of them also had their pick of jobs, since their skills are in high demand.

If you are concerned strictly about return on investment in areas that expect to see job growth in the next five to 10 years, you might do well to start looking at professional training programs and certain Associate’s degree programs. You just might be able to find a good job — and find it faster — if you consider options outside of a traditional four-year degree track.

Education is important. Though Miranda makes a great case, never ever use her reasoning as an excuse. If you thought this through, by all means, make the sensible and mature decision. However, if you are like most people in high school who couldn’t care less about their future (yet), stick with the 4 year university as you mature and figure out what you actually want to do.

One of these days, you will figure it out but don’t do anything like drop out of school if you don’t know what you are going to doing with your time yet.

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Jobs in Pakistan April 27, 2010 at 6:29 am

If you think that a good job is only achieved by obtaining a good four years degree then you are not 100% right. You should start search on the internet and a best way is to get registered with good job portals..

Thanks for sharing useful information with us.

Cheers.

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CD Rates Blog April 27, 2010 at 7:22 am

One thing to keep in mind is options. All of the above may be in high demand now and you may not need a 4-year degree for them, but what happens when they aren’t in demand and you find yourself having to look again.

There was a time in my life when I was looking. I didn’t have a degree and almost everywhere I applied that was the first requirement. As they were receiving 100s of applications, it was very easy for them to toss resumes that didn’t at least have a 4-year degree.

A college education isn’t a must, but it just keeps your options open as you go through life. It makes getting your foot in the door a little easier. I wished I had completed mine.

cd :O)

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marci357 April 27, 2010 at 7:35 am

I’ve never found that NOT having a 4 yr degree was any obstacle to any job I chose to pursue…. Obviously I am not interested in techno jobs that require a 4 yr degree or more :) However, I do have a 2 yr associates degree, and that has been handy, and even required for some jobs. And even more, the 2 yr degree put me at the top of the list, over those without that degree.

Economically, I could not see where spending the money to go further would be a good investment in my situation. There was a time I looked at going from a special ed teaching assistant and upgrading to a teaching degree – but economically, there was no way financially that it was going to make sense – and shortly after that I moved up to school secretary instead.

Being debt free and mortgage free is an accomplishment that I managed to obtain without a 4 yr degree – so it can be easily done :) All depends on what you want out of life – each person has to make up their own mind about it.

Of my 3 children, none now has a 4 yr degree and all are doing well. That being said however, one (28 now) is about to obtain a 2 yr degree, and will then be going for a 4 yr degree because she is going into nursing and it’s obviously required for the specialty she wants to be in. One son has a few business management courses and will call that enough as he is self-employed. The other son has just been transfered and promoted within his company, and his company will be paying for his 4 yr college degree now as a part of his salary, because they are grooming him for a management position. He’s worked his way up.

So I guess it all depends on where you want to go and whether a degree is required for that line of work or not. And there are ways of getting that degree without paying for it yourself in cash also. I have several nieces who went into the services, and came out with degrees or with the balance of college paid for. And there are a lot of grants and scholarships out there also.

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Juan December 15, 2013 at 4:19 am

I would literally bet that you’re white. I wouldn’t bet $50,000, but I would but $50 right now. Literally.

I will add or clarify my point further by saying that the market is based so much on stereotypes too. Racial stuff can be extremely difficult to overcome. My jewish friend from high school is a doctor, my indian heritage friend from high school works at google. I am one of two people from my prestigious high school class of hispanic descent. I have been a college educated forklift operator. The other one has found some success with a housekeeping business.

So basically, yes, if you are elite in school and go to schools of prestige you may to a degree overcome racial oppression. (Barak Obama went to Harvard, he is President).

Conversely, even if you don’t bother with the bills of a college education and you are a member of one of the favorited races you’ll do quite well regardless. It is crystal clear to me that whites and Asians enjoy a level a vastly greater financial reward through no individual merit. I won’t even go as far as to say that the groups involved haven’t in some ways earned and established those advantages as groups but at the individual level we are really faced with impossible odds.

And of course by the time we’re talking about adults the temporary gift of over employment (being employed over and above your skill and preparation) will give way to actual experience and hands on knowledge. So let’s say you have a 23 year white man who is under qualified and received a wonderful opportunity, by the time he is 25 he will be well worth that money and more.

Conversely, when you take a mathematician and force the situation down to a forklift operator you engage in underemployment. When you under employ a 23 year old, later on as a 25 year old that person won’t be worth too much more than they were worth at 23.

I’m 33 and this is the very certain truth and that is altogether too common. When I was younger I thought blacks were kind of crazy in their thinking, but actually some subgroups of blacks have been able to overcome these realities as groups.

So while women and minorities are busily entertaining themselves with educational pipe dreams that may well not pan out for many … we blindly trust in youth and dedicate some of the better years of our lives at the expense of actual opportunity, financial opportunity cost (for example, if instead of starting with a degree you get into debt to start a Dunkin Donuts, you can later put yourself through college with absolute ease). My feeling is that education is mass distraction from real disparity.

People who are extremely rare racially, are also able to define their destinies better because they have no pre-judged thing one way or another. For example, “persian” you just don’t know enough to create a stereotype so then you ask, “what degree?” and go from there. So a persian without her own business or a degree will be a donut shop worker who will never see promotion whereas that degree will mean huge dividends to them.

I’m sorry if the truth is too much. I know a high percentage of people who read this will think, “I deserve what I have, I have worked hard” and that’s a wonderful thought and you should hold on to your good fortune.

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Mike P March 4, 2014 at 9:34 pm

I am white, and a man, so I have no idea how hard it is to get a job as a minority. That said, I was working at a very young age (12), lied about my age at 15 to get a Jack in the Box job, and then quit when they were about to find out. A few weeks later I turned 16, and immediately got a job at a full serve gas station (when was the last time you saw one of those? And no, I am not 60 years old (no disrespect to older folks).
At 17 I got a job at a local retail store, and at 23, I bought the company. Within a few years I had doubled sales and was making 6 figures. Within a few more years, I had doubled sales again and was making two bills. Then the great recession came, and along with some other factors my business basically disappeared. During my good days, I went to night school (on the encouragement of my wife) and earned a BSBA. When it was apparent that I was failing as a business owner, I decided to go back to school, and enrolled in law school (I know, along with 1 million other people). Now I’m done with school and seeking better employment… Nothing yet.
To feed my family, over the last few years I have been working in sales, in a few different places… After all, it’s what I do best (sales).
I have probably submitted 200 resumes over the last few years, in hopes of getting a job that has some hope for future growth, unlike the jobs I have had, really were/are go-no-where jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I have been very happy to have the jobs that I have had, but a 20 year business veteran with a business and law degree should be able to get a better job… It’s just the times we are living in. Nothing yet.
But here is my point… Actually, I have two points.
#1, no matter how crappy it is out there, I would rather be underemployed or unemployed with more letters after my name, than less. (Eventually, it will pay off). (In the meantime, I now know how to think and write better).
#2, those of you who are young enough that you are making a career decision at a time where you don’t need much money, chose an industry that WON’T GO AWAY… Trying to get a door to open, in an industry that you have never been in, is really tough. And frequently the best way to break into an industry is by being willing to work for nothing, or very little… That is not easy to do when you have a wife, 2 kids, and a dog… Hence, you are forced to take the wrong job, (i.e, driving a fork lift to make ends meet, or in my case, selling goods retail, to make ends meet), rather than taking a lower paying job that will lead to something better in a few years (i.e., a clerkship etc.).
Ok, I lied… I have 3 points.
To the gentlemen that is driving a forklift (Juan), don’t give up. Whatever job it was you envisioned when you enrolled in college, FIND A WAY, to get that job… I am sure there are still prejudiced idiots running around this planet that look at you one way or another, based on your name, color of your skin, etc. But everyday that # is shrinking (thank God)… Maybe you can seek out Latin business owners and solicit them for employment.
Anyhow, a fellow underemployed worker wishing you the best of luck!

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kt April 27, 2010 at 9:21 am

a higher education is important even if it is not a college education. I am for the opinion that a high school diploma is not enough education for anyone, unless you are steve jobs or bill gates. So people should look for ways of increasing their education levels at whatever field

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Juan December 15, 2013 at 4:36 am

Well and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (and Mark Zuckerberg) all had a super high level of education by the end of high school . Like say if you were to have given any of them a GRE (graduate record exam, typically taken at the end of college) I am quite sure that they each would have performed extremely well after high school. I think one of the terrible mistakes we’re making as a nation is time-scoping education.

“four-year” degree > “two-year” degree and whatever. How long it takes someone to learn something is inconsequential to what they actually know.

I wince when I hear the expression, “get my education”. The ultimate sign of the consumer society. You can get a hot dog, but you also have to eat it. Likewise the thing we need to focus on isn’t on “getting educations” “loans” and all the usual nonsense that we’ve become fixated with through propaganda. The important thing is to “learn”, “to master”, “to experience”. You can “get a gym membership” and use the jacuzzi and aquaerobics and expect to be healthy and in shape. Or you can actually exercise and be super healthy by exercising with no equipment regularly and be in just fantastic shape.

I went through college, and sadly I “got myself an education” too much and learned too little about making a living. I’m now correcting this with IT certifications and having much better success for my time and money. I can tell that it’s also healthier on my brain as well i.e. I feel like my mental pencil is actually being sharpened better and faster with practical issues.

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Miranda Marquit April 27, 2010 at 9:41 am

I think, as has been pointed out, it depends on your situation, what you want to do, and your goals. While I certainly believe that education is important (someday I’d like to build on my Master’s degree), I think that too much focus on a four-year degree as a one-size-fits-all solution is overkill. I know plenty of people who do not thrive in such an environment, and might do better developing skills. Of course, it is possible that some skills become obsolete, but if you choose carefully, you can do quite well. And, of course, you can continue learning, expanding your horizons and getting an education without being in college.

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Juan December 15, 2013 at 4:43 am

I think there needs to be a divorce between financial reward (and the loans that correspond with that) and the joy of learning.

It makes sense to stipulate and award a loan for education like you would a business loan. It doesn’t mean you can’t spend your own money in your own bank account on whatever education you desire.

Like, get going on securing a way to earn a living, and then take 3 photography classes a year for the rest of your life if you want for your own enrichment. Not the other way around.

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ChrisFM April 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I tend to agree with you on this, Miranda. As I’ve yet to finish up a degree program (though I plan to return for nursing here in the fall), I’ve seen how it may have held me back to some extent.

However, I believe there are skills that sitting in a classroom won’t teach you that can be gleaned from things such as volunteering. I would encourage this to teens while still in high school, so they can get an idea of what they can see themselves doing. Of course, their minds could very well change by the time they get through college — which is why I’m not so much an advocate for the 4 year degree myself — unless they’re in some specialized field.

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Stephan April 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm

the problem with america is that going to college is expected of eveyrone, not just those that need it to further their careers. People who have no interest in working in more advanced areas should not go to college, but they still do because it is expected of them. It really bugged me while at college knowing that a large minority of students there had no idea what they were doing there. They took the classes, did their work, but really had no interest in what they were studying. Hopefully this system changes, students will be given a choice, and because of that hopefully secodnary education will become more affordable once again as the demand will hopefully fall.
Preferred Financial Services

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James April 27, 2010 at 3:56 pm

i feel you are leaning towards saying that a higher education might not always be worth the investment in time and money. i would have to say that 7/10 times i would totally agree. i think it is important to have people with higher educations but in reality they don’t typically pay for themselves very fast and only put people and families in a tight financial situation over time

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cb April 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

It’s more about doing a daily job that you enjoy. Sure you can get a great job in a factory right out of high school, but it’s hard work.

I know I’d hate any of the jobs listed in the post. They are all repetitive or stressful/dangerous.

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MoneyNing April 27, 2010 at 7:48 pm

At face value, it’s increasingly hard to justify college education, never mind post graduate degrees.

However, looking back, the four years at college was such a unique time of my life, and one I will cherish forever. That in itself is priceless.

Sure, I can be working many years before I started if I never pursue a higher education, but I likely would never have gotten the summer job as a technical programmer because I did not have the perceive credentials and skills. As luck would have it, the job exposed me to internet technologies at a practical level and led me to eventually start a website, which led to what I do now.

I could have started working at the age of 18, and even contributed earlier to my retirement accounts. But my life would be vastly different. I can’t say definitively that it would be worst, but I can definitely say that I love my life exactly the way it is.

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physcodog April 28, 2010 at 11:42 am

Success in today’s times can be achieved with or without a degree. All you need is a vision and determination and you can become successful. Yes a four year degree will help you significantly but it is not a requirement for success. There are many stories of people achieving success without the help of a college degree. In Corporate America it is vital. Many people do not even use their college degree and face years of student loans. All I’m saying is just because you do not have a degree does not mean there is no hope for an individual.

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Miranda April 28, 2010 at 5:16 am

I loved college as well, and enjoy learning new things, even though I am not currently in school. And, certainly, I agree that there is more to life than just making money — especially, as cb pointed out, since many of these good paying jobs are stressful. It depends on what your priorities are. I know many people who would rather have the money. In the end, though, I really just wanted to point out that there is something wrong with our thinking that a four-year degree is right for EVERYONE. Because it’s really not.

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Cd Phi April 28, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I totally understand what you’re saying. Years ago, an associate’s degree was enough for you to find a good job. Eventually the associate’s degree turned into B.A. and now we tend to strive for a Masters or even Ph.D. 4-year college graduates now are even having a hard time finding a job…

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Smarter Spend April 29, 2010 at 2:04 am

The list of careers you choice are great income sources- but most of these jobs will require 4 year careers due to overpopulation and increased competition in jobs, similar to how pharmacy was a 4 year degree but now a Pharm.D program.

Get your degree- its the best investment you’ll ever make.

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Olivia April 29, 2010 at 8:33 am

It depends on what you want to do. I went to an art school and obtained a three year professional certificate (a bachelor’s without the academics). No one asked for a bachelor’s. It was enough for them that I attended a good school and had a good portfolio. The advantage ot being surrounded by others who are passionate about what they want to do, is it stimulates you to take chances and do your best work. I couldn’t have gotten that in an informal training situation. For me this was the best of everything.

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Donna April 29, 2010 at 8:34 am

My husband has his doctorate which was required for his job as a college professor but the pay is not all that high. However, he is doing what he loves. That is the key, do something you care about, love or feel strongly about. I have a two year degree in Occupational Therapy at the assistant level. I loved that job. Of my children one has a Master’s, one an associates, the other three have some college but all are working. Thank you for raising this up. There is such value in an associates degree even in going on later for a BA/BS. Think money savings and value. Mostly we need to let our children pursue their dream and not ours.

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Buy Groceries Online April 29, 2010 at 8:50 am

The greatest value I got from college is that of the discipline of applied learning. You get out exactly what you put in.

If you want to be successful, learn from successful people and model what they do.

Invest in Jim Rohn’s “Challenge to Succeed” training and get ‘life skills’ that can be applied anywhere.

Invest in George S. Clason’s “The Richest Man In Babylon” to learn the basics of building wealth.

Read Robert Kiyosaki’s “Conspiracy of the Rich” to see what got us into this financial crisis, and to learn how to protect yourself and profit in the future.

Most of all, keep learning and growing… and teaching others what you’ve learned.

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Aaliyah Morris May 3, 2010 at 6:39 am

dis is da bom I love It

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Aaliyah May 3, 2010 at 6:44 am

My teater is getting on my nerves…………………………………..

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vga May 3, 2010 at 1:20 pm

A college education is often necessary to get you in the door.

I’ve got a friend who does IT work. He started back in the days before it was formalized with a college diploma, as such he never finished college. He is also very good at what he does and should have no problem landing a job.

Except for the fact that when you submit a resume it gets run though an automatic screener which boots out everyone who doesn’t meet certain minimum requirements. No BS degree means that the hiring manager will never even see his resume.

So either he networks his way to a job, or he isn’t getting one.

Even if you want a job that doesn’t require a degree it’s probably in your best interest to get the degree anyway. Even if it’s at a dumpy community college. You never know when you’re going to wind up needing it. And often when you need it, it’s too late to go ahead and get it.

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Kate Forgach May 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm

At 53, I found it nearly impossible to secure a PR or writing job, despite a hefty resume, strong references/network and glowing clips. Why? Because almost every job for which I applied required a minimum of a B.S.

Employers receive so many applications these days requiring a degree is an easy way to start whittling down the resumes.

I finally secured a job based on my qualifications. The boss didn’t even ask about a degree.

I’m not saying this is true across the board, but it sure is harder.

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Arsene Remy May 18, 2010 at 6:31 pm

It all starts with purpose. Why were you born. Your passion(s) are directly related to what you are here for. Problem is, the majority of people focus on how much they can make rather than how much can they serve their gift.

So we have people who were born to be a journalist stuck working in a bank just for the money. You have people in investments whose purpose was to be a landscape artist. What they both were never taught was that their fulfillment and prosperity lies within their passion(s). A landscape artist can make just as much and likely more than his journalism job if done at a level excellence. We know conceptually this idea has become cultural to not pursue your passion(s) in life.

You get paid for the problems you solve and the more rare you are, they more you get paid. There are countless highly successful people who with little to no extended education have prospered in the are of their purpose. If you desire to build and manage a tutoring company for kids, why are you perusing a degree in medicine?

“Some of the most depressed people in the world are the people who are have said no to purpose and yes to money. “

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ken July 2, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Going to a college or university is good but you should go to school to learn not thinking that you will get a job. Even if you do not get the job you will benefit in life better with a degree. I do not have a degree but, people that do have degrees are not necessarily smarter but they tend to follow through with things which employers tend to like.

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leigh July 15, 2010 at 7:52 am

I have done college and university recruiting. I went the traditional college route, got my degree, but watched my peers that didn’t do that, speed way ahead, no student loans, more experience than I had, and they got ojt and sometimes tuition assistance down the road. I think they did better financially than those of us did, getting a degree our way. I loved being a recruiter, but the pay wasn’t equal to having had gone to college, those that didn’t made the same as I did. And those I put into degree programs, mostly single parents trying to advance themselves would struggle through, get financial aid, and then when they finished they couldn’t get much more in pay than before and they had this huge student loan to pay back. So I didn’t see that I was helping them, just lining the pockets of the colleges, because they didn’t pay me for having a degree. Education is important but it has to be done the right way for it to pay off monetarily. Other jobs I had, they would promote those with no degrees faster and farther than those of us with degrees, as they said they “appreciated” the opportunity more. Yeah right, NOT. And most of my supervisors/mgrs in corporate America in many industries didn’t have a degree, it showed, but they made lots more than me and my peers. Looking back I wish I had invested the money on my degree on a franchise or something you could sell. I think that makes more sense. I have friends with Master’s working in fast food…so I know they feel stupid.

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Angie November 2, 2010 at 8:37 am

In the Dallas Market – people with 25 years experience and more in technology with stellar references and work HX are turned down for jobs and they are provide to recent college snot nose grads… with no experience or anything remotely looking like value add — but they got the paper. And no one cares what the paper is even in – just that you have it. What kind of a monster have we created?

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Olivia November 2, 2010 at 10:29 am

I suspect these newbies can be paid alot less, and though it makes little sense to hire guys with little practical experience, the lower costs look good on paper. The few experienced guys are called in to “fix” the difficult problems, while the young guys glory in their jobs, until newer young guys come on the scene.

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Juan December 15, 2013 at 7:04 am

I can rant on as long about the divisiveness in this country between generations and the racial divisiveness.

“Snot nose grads”. Wow, I want you to think back to the first time you got a decent job. How old were you and what did YOUR qualifications look like?

We are just so gifted at self-importance. Younger people are supposed to enter the work force and have decent jobs. That’s what is supposed to happen and that is something that most certainly happened in the past. In this country.

Bill Gates was a snot nosed college dropout… etc. And yeah, when companies have a budget and want to spend X, they’re going to try to find someone who isn’t just going to tolerate that income but be unreasonably excited about it.

I see that as a collective problem, but I don’t think we’re about to form a multi-national, multi-generational labor union any time soon. It sucks that we’re working down our incomes and competing by underselling ourselves.

And that is something that I believe this article points to. When you have a supply of jobs making $60k that require two easy years of preparation (I’ve taught College Calculus 3 for $8/hour so i get to decisively say that) and instead of going for them we bicker amongst ourselves about the “snot nosed kids” and all the unfairness in the world. More ridiculous yet is this idea of “serving our gifts” when really for many it comes down to basics and needs and you can always do so much more when you are financially solvent.

A friend of mine is a dental hygienist who definitely wanted to be married and have children. She got married to a med student, brought in a bunch of money while he finished up that they lived on and now he’ll be making a killing and eventually here she’ll be working entirely for the fun of it. And the experiences, the travel those guys do, the happy lifestyle. They are the nicest people too, and it takes money to be that well and that happy and generally unworried.

We have this ambivalence about money, like money is this awful thing that we should do everything to reject. Not do a single informed action about money or else your very soul will wilt. All the while we parade with honor our 3 jobs and the overtime we did, and the outsourcing and the snot-nosed-grads etc… when just following a path and plan would have led to more money and more wellness.

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V January 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm

All my four year degree got me is a massive HECS debt and a piece of paper. I graduated in 2008 and I’m still working in retail. I’ve done temp work, I’ve done voluntary work, I’ve walked into businesses with my resume, I’ve networked. Nothing. I can’t get a job because apparantly I need at least 12 months full-time paid experience.

So don’t waste your time and money doing a degree. Go and work and get some experience. Maybe then you can do a degree and actually get a job with it.

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Juan December 15, 2013 at 7:08 am

Did you read this article? Cause apparently you can go to school for 18months and make what I feel is a very good living. I bet once you’re doing that, (say working at a dentist’s office) you can pursue all manner of fancy education and plans and be more successful that the broke-arse “full time” students would. Employers just have a way of smelling the desperate on you. Getting a job that pays well, is one of the best ways to prepare yourself to get other jobs that pay well.

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Elly October 20, 2011 at 6:56 am

You don’t need a degree to get a great job. I’m a flight attendant and I have been one ever since I graduated high school. It’s really fun, the pay isn’t bad at all and you get to travel the world!

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GP January 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I make 145k a year, have only a GED. Work extremely hard and am very intelligent. I wish I did have a degree as feel I lose the benefit of the knowledge I suppose. But I find I’m more knowledgable and articulate than my peers and even my superiors. I never lied about it but let them assume. I found that when I set my sight on a goal, nothing stops me because I work through the obstacles without stopping short of my goal. I have great people around me. I grew up extremely poor and in a very dysfunctional family. I went through drugs and violence, the latter a matter of survival. I did jail time and am a felon. Was abused as an infant and until I left home at 15. But none of that follows me. I learned to let it go, that too for survival.

I think doing it the prescribed way is the best way though. I really would have gone to college if I wasn’t so busy surviving. I had to learn on the fly. I taught myself to do what I do after I said I can do what I do. Scary. Sometimes I feel guilty making the money I do but I do it for my family. I came to this sight looking for a way to fast track a degree. I would just do one of those fake ones because I think I know enough to meet the requirement. But that’s wrong and I only want to create good in my universe. I found it comes back to you and more.

I ramble. Thank you for the opportunity.

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Bazinga February 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Stumbled on this thread. I went to “college” for a few years and could not find my passion. I enjoyed journalism and broadcasting, until I found out how much those professions paid (my bad). So I decided to find my passion. 15 years later I’m making 250k a year in my passion job. Don’t be a lemming people. If a “recruiter” weeds you out because you don’t have a 4-year degree, guess what, you don’t want to work for them anyway.

Find your “happy place” and be crazy, like a fox. Don’t ever quit learning.

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Juan December 15, 2013 at 7:12 am

Very interesting Bazinga. Also very interesting GP.

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Lindsey Johnson April 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

i think you should post more jobs and how much they pay so people can see what the difference is.

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Tiffany :) :) April 6, 2012 at 4:34 am

I’m only 11 and I just wanted to know if I went to college, what degree I would get? I’m already saving up for a car for when I’m old enough to have a car. I’m a straight A / A+ student at the highest rated school in Washington and top 10 in the USA. So, please answer my question. My mom and dad have been divorced ever since I can remember, so I want to make them happy about me having a great life like they’ve always wanted me to have.

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Justin Beiber April 6, 2012 at 4:44 am

Kids stay in school. And when you graduate it’s a good idea to apply to more then one collage. And Tiffany :) :) I love how you’re already are saving up for a car, and how you’re so interested in collage at such a young age.
-Justin Beiber

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Nicolas Cage April 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm

People can always go back to school later if they want to.

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Juan December 15, 2013 at 7:12 am

Yes!

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Tigs January 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I am currently attending college, a trade school/community college actually and honestly I could have gotten into any college I wanted by testing in or writing a letter to them.
Actually I could have gotten into Northwestern University at 12, I didn’t for medical reasons but I digress.

I had a horrid time in high school, despite maintaining a 4.0 GPA my school refused to put me on the honor roll, allow me to receive a artistic achievement award, or take the SAT’s for fear that I would lower the schools scores.

Irony being when the standardized tests were held in my prior county/school district they thought the same thing, I ended up raising their districts scores by 15 points or more.

Again I ramble and digress, my point is I am highly intelligent I say it in truth and I could have gotten into any college I wanted easily but I chose a technical/trade college.

Why?
Cost, quality, and the fact that after years of severe and highly traumatic bullying due to a medical condition that is now gone I probably could not cope with a normal college.
But mostly cost, I did my research obsessively and found out that the college I currently attend stuffs four year degrees into two year degrees.

And for a much lower price than the local university, and with more hands on experience.

My major is Graphic Design, the employment rate at my school from that program is very high and the degree itself is highly adaptable and can be used for a variety of potential careers.
Currently I am leaning towards using the skills I have attained to work in Eco Design, Green City Redesigning, and Illustration style jobs.

And finishing one of 300 unfinished books I have started and illustrating it, preferably this year before the count rises to 350 unfinished books.

I am also going to use my natural skill with the reed pen and ink to try to create hand done posters and artwork emphasizing things that as a society we need to do something about or change.
Saving our planet, going green, changing the way we view others, and a special focus on raising epilepsy awareness and the challenges children and adults who have it and other lesser known conditions go through.

Oh and I also want to design green homes and futuristic self sustaining buildings, and redesign existing structures into potentially self sufficient complexes that could save energy and help decrease the cost of our human presence on the planet.

I do not want to go into web or advertising because most of my peers are going into that, and the field itself is crowded beyond reason. Besides why should I use a degree with such potential for what other people think it should be used for?
Also I should mention due to my obsession with scheduling and monetary budgeting I am going to graduate debt free.

I guess what I am trying to say in this wall of text is that a degree is great, whether it be a masters degree or a two year associates degree.
But what really matters is how you use it, are you a innovator or a drone?
Are you going to just let society stagnate and obsess over degrees or are you going to break out of line and show that just because you don’t have a masters doesn’t mean you aren’t a brilliant mind.

Are you going to let your peers tell you to go into advertising, or just technical support, just because that is the classic use of your degree or are you going to try to broaden what you can do with it and potentially change the world?

The world doesn’t need more college graduates, it needs more innovators, it needs more dreamers, and it needs people who have the capacity to stand up and make a change regardless of what others say.
It needs more people that think outside the box, more people who understand that not everything is black and white but a thousand shades of grey.
It needs people who think so differently, that others think there is no way their ideas could work (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Frank Loyd Wright, Edison, Tesla, Stephen Hawking) but in fact their ideas not only work but revolutionize the world.

Get the degree you want in the field you want, but do something new with it if you can. That is the only way you can get a job anymore, you have to stand out from the crowd and if that doesn’t work forge your own path.
Create your own business, make your mark in this world, it won’t be easy and in this economy you may fail but keep getting back up and trying.

Oh and to answer your question, no you do not need a four year degree to get a job, Graphic Design for example is more dependent on portfolio work and skill set/ how you stand out and differ from your peers than the degree itself.
Starting salaries vary depending on who hires you and what position you are in, or if you decide to freelance instead of working in a firm.

They also vary based on what kind of job you want to apply your skills to, and how over/under saturated that particular job market is.
Advertising for example is really over saturated with designers, while eco/green design a fairly new branch of design is almost untouched.

This is the same for all degrees, even law and medical degrees it all depends on what branch of your field you go into and how you use your degree.
Also read a few books, or in my case a few thousand, a degree is great but you should never stop learning and the more you know the more desirable you will be as a potential employee.

-Tigs out

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Olivia January 12, 2013 at 2:22 am

Hello Tigs,

I enjoyed your post, particularly because of our shared interest in graphic design and green housing. Are you familiar with the “tiny house movement” and the work of Jay Shafer?

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Oscar March 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm

People Go To School ,Get Your Diploma/G.E.D(That Way If You Do End Up Finding What You Love Doing Down The Road, You Can Start Looking At Colleges/Degrees And Not Your G.E.D/Diploma)If You Don`t Know What You Want To Do Right After Getting Your Diploma/G.E.D, RELAX!!!
Don`t Get Into College If Your Not Sure What Your`e Doing There In The First Place,(Take This Seriously People!!)
We Are Talking About Paying Back Large Amounts Of Money Here ,One Irresponsible Mistake Leads To A Huge Student Loan With Your Name Written All Over It.
It Will Take You Years To Pay Back That Loan,
And Don`t Think By Finishing College You Will Get That Dream Job And Get That Bigger Paycheck Because Your NOT The Only One Applying For That Job,
Their Are Hundreds Of People Applying For That Job WHILE Your In School And Their Will Be Hundreds More Applying Right After You Finish School
Is It Possible To Get That Job Right After You Finish School,Yes
But At What Cost??
Do You Really Want To Risk All That For A For A Job That Has Few Positions Open?
What If Your Not One Of Those Guys That Gets The Job?
What If You Find Out Your Four Year Degree Is NOT GOOD ENOUGH(BIG Slap In The Face Right??)
The Question You Should Ask Yourself Is Do I Really Want This?
Most Employers Prefer People With Experience Then Those With Only Just A Degree Alone,Because Everyone Is Out To Get It Or Has It ,
Of Course Education/Degree Does Look Good On Your Resume
But What`s The Point If You Don`t Know How To Use It To Your Advantage

So My Suggestion To Those Who Don`t Know Yet What They Are Really Passion About Is
Find A Job
Gain Experience
Save More Than What You Spend And Make
Live Within Your Means
Take Care Of Your Basic Surviving Needs First (IT`S A MUST ,ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF THIS FIRST ALWAYS)
BE HAPPY
Live Life ,You Don`t Need A Fancy Car, Have A Million Dollars To Enjoy Life,It`s Start From You
If Your Not Happy Right Now ,What Makes You Think You Will Ever Be
I Mean Seriously What Are You Waiting For?
If You Wait ,You Are Going To Be Waiting A Freaking Long Time For Something To Happen Because That`s Just It ,Nothing Will Happen,
Down The Road You Will Find Something That Your Passion About ,Maybe Not Now Or In A Couple Of Years But You Will Eventually,So Don`t Worry,YOU WILL
Educate Yourself ,Read Read Read Read ,Seriously Read,Experience New Things Everyday,Have Fun,Enjoy Life

For Those Who Know What They Really Want To Do ,Go To College,Get Your Degree, Follow Your Dreams Because It`s Not About The Money It`s About What You Want To Do With Your Life,
Yes, It Is Worth Every Penny If Your`re Going This Route
That Is How You Beat Your Competition For That Job ,By Doing What You Love ,You Will Find Ways To Standout From The Rest,The Challenges You Will Face Down The Road Wont Hit You As Hard As Others Because This Is Something You Care Deeply About Because THIS IS WHAT YOU LOVE DOING

You Don`t Need A Degree In Life To Be Successful
It`s Install In Us
We Just Don`t Know How To Bring It Out Naturally
We Are All Meant To Shine In Our Own Way(Yes It`s True)
I`m Not Saying Education Is Bad ,I Love Learning ,But What I Don`t Like Is The High Price Society Puts On Learning
There Are So Many Things I Want To Learn That I Just Cant Just Choose One Field
That`s The Only Reason Why I Love Education/Learning Because It`s Not About The Money ,Its About Opening Your Mind Up To New Things And The Best Thing About It,It Keeps You Wanting To Learn More And More
I Wish Education Wasn`t So Darn Expensive
But It Is What It Is
But I Do Believe Some Things That They Teach In School`s
One Can Learn On Their Own And From Other People`s Mistakes
So Live, Learn And Enjoy Life Guys

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smaquois March 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Air traffic control jobs are difficult to get. First, it’s a federal job, and second, they almost always want previous experience, which means military. Next, the sequester means shuttering a not insignificant number of control towers, so there’s going to be a surplus of atc’s. And 111k is not the average. That’s closer to the max.

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Richard March 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm

The initial purpose of going to university was to build critical thinking, effective communication, and leadership skills that were almost non-existent in the typical high school curriculum. I’m skeptical about the $26,500 price tag (average student loan debt) required to learn those things, but I do acknowledge that there are experiences present at university that rarely exist elsewhere (student organizations, study abroad, international exchange, undergraduate research, canvassing, volunteering, and leadership positions just to mention a few).

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GrimReaper May 24, 2013 at 11:55 am

Student loans are a cop-out. They are unnecessary. Their only purpose in the modern era is to over inflate tuition which they excel at. Avoid them. Go to a school you can afford to pay for while working simultaneously. Delay school a year or two if you have to in order to save some money up. Avoid car payments and other money pits like cable etc. whenever possible. Complete coursework you can transfer at a community college.

I completed a 2-year, 4-year, MBA, and graduate certificate all without ever borrowing a dime. Sure, its tough working and going to school and takes a little longer to complete degrees…but you get work experience and education at the same time which is exactly what you need to be successful in the long haul and you are debt free. Its all about commitment, discipline, planning, and spending within your means. All skills you will need throughout your life.

For the majority of folks, don’t waste time on a 4-year degree that is not STEM unless the degree is required for licensing in a career such as nursing that you are committing too. If you minor, minor in business related fields or another STEM to broaden your knowledge and thinking and establish a second core you can leverage and expand on. For instance, if your degree will be in biology then minor in business or chemistry.

Degrees in STEM will provide you a lot more opportunities for employment and higher education if you choose to engage in post-graduate work. For example, why waste 4 years on a degree in Teaching/Education when you can enter into education laterally with a STEM degree if you so choose later? It makes no sense to spend the same amount of time and money and limit your opportunities out of the gate. Maximize your value.

Remember, it is generally doable to move from STEM to other career fields if you find your life’s calling later but exceptionally difficult to move from others to STEM as the entry requirements are prohibitive.

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Juan December 15, 2013 at 7:25 am

Nice post. Real advice.

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alan July 28, 2014 at 8:47 am

Not only do you need a 4 year college degree, you need a Masters if you ever plan on getting out of middle class.

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