By Brett Farmiloe
Is a college degree truly necessary in order to have a successful future in business? Here business professionals discuss the pros and cons.
Do you need a college degree to become successful in business?
1. College isn’t necessary, but it can teach useful skills
“College isn’t necessary for a successful future in terms of credentials and training. However, the real benefit comes from making industry connections and having a prestigious institution on your resume. College won’t necessarily make you a more competent professional—that’s almost entirely up to you.
“College teaches a person to be more independent. Transitioning from the structure of high school to a place where there is a lack of supervision and hand-holding can be difficult, but college provides preparation for the workplace. When you have college assignments, no one is constantly reminding you to get them done.
“For someone who already has a drive to learn, is organized, and is able to follow through on tasks, they are already ahead of most college students. They should instead find a mentor and determine what credentials are essential for their industry—THEN, college may be necessary depending on the vocation.”
2. The internet has brought education to the masses
“I’m a college dropout and have become successful in programming. With the rise of the internet, college is no longer the only place to learn valuable life skills. You can follow courses from prestigious universities in places like Coursera. Not only are these courses free, but they’re probably better than what you’d be getting at your local college.
“After two years in college, I dropped out and got a low-level programmer job. I learned a lot and quickly advanced, and by the time my friends finished college, I could land higher-level jobs than them.”
3. A successful future requires education, not college
“As an educator and community builder, I teach at several universities, where I add my experience and stories to the curriculum, hoping to encourage, inspire, and motivate my students. I’ve noticed that as students reach higher, discover related disciplines, and learn, they define and achieve short and long-term dreams of success. These successes build on one another, creating fulfilling futures.
“For some, that process requires a traditional or online college or university setting where an organized chapter-by-chapter approach builds on existing knowledge. For others, starting a business, raising a family, traveling, or pursuing trade-specific skills means success. And for many, it’s a mix of approaches and continuous learning that delivers lifelong success, which may or may not include college.”
4. College may not be necessary if you have high potential
“While many folks will agree you should go to college for a better future, college is not necessary to succeed. We have many successful folks in our society who have dropped out or did not bother attending college. An example is Paul Allen, a college dropout who later became a billion-dollar NFL owner. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs also dropped out of college and ended up becoming successful business and media moguls.
“Nevertheless, this does not mean college is useless. Through college, you can build expertise, gain more knowledge, and even build social connections that will help you in the outside world. The point is that those who dropped out or did not go to college equally have a chance to succeed. In these cases, a college diploma, although an added advantage, is not a prerequisite for success.”
5. Securing a trade is a fine choice
“I work with teams and leaders, so I often hear from employees that a high school counselor steered them away from seeking a career in the trades. They were people smart and got good grades, so counselors assumed they were college material. And now they want to earn licenses in the trades with union protections and perhaps lead their own construction, plumbing, electric car, and wind generator repair companies as general contractors. Desk jobs ultimately bored them and were not life-affirming. These trades come with licenses and certifications that often serve people better than a four-year college generalist degree—and at perhaps a tenth of the cost or more.”
6. College improves your earning potential and networking
“I firmly believe that college is essential for a prosperous future. According to the APLU (Association of Public & Land Grant Universities), a college education improves a person’s job prospects and earning potential. Bachelor’s degree holders are half as likely as to be unemployed as high school diploma holders, and they earn $1.2 million more over their lifetime.
“However, it is not only your earnings that rise. Attending college allows you to learn alongside like-minded people, allowing you to make lifelong friends while also gaining a wealth of knowledge. I don’t think I would have been as open-minded as I am today if I hadn’t shared my education with such diverse people.
“People believe that college is pointless if you are not looking for a nine-to-five job, but as a travel blogger, I got to learn more about the world through the diverse people I met, which inspired me to learn more.”
7. Employers view college as a wise investment
“The chance to impact your community and boost professional stability and satisfaction are just two of the many benefits of attending college. It’s also normal to find ‘bachelor’s degree required’ or mentioned as a recommended qualification on job descriptions. According to the Association of American Colleges, employers value a college degree; 87% of employers polled said college was “definitely” or “probably” worth the investment of time and money.
“A bachelor’s or associate’s degree program in undergraduate studies combines general education requirements with specialized training in a field of study that appeals to you. With these degrees, you’ll acquire both general knowledge and expertise in your chosen profession.”
8. Only certain career paths require a degree today
“It’s no secret there has been a significant shift in how higher education is viewed. When evaluating the ROI for college, prospective students must believe they will end up with a bigger salary or increased professional opportunities if they commit to attending and earning a degree.
“While there are several career paths that require a specific degree such as engineering, medicine, and law, many no longer do. The internet age has allowed for other ways to learn and earn a great financial living. Boot camps, other work experience, and simply learning from other online sources have proven to work for professionals in areas like communications and marketing. There’s also a huge need for people in trades, which offers significant opportunities to be successful.”
9. College makes you competitive
“Yes, college is important in a very competitive job market. A college degree significantly improves a candidate’s chances of getting a job. Having a degree can mean the difference between a good paying and a bad paying job. And many employers now require a master’s degree for associate degree-level jobs. Having a college degree will give you an advantage in the job market over a candidate who does not have a degree.”
About the Author
Post by: Brett Farmiloe
Brett Farmiloe is the founder and CEO of Terkel, a Q&A site that converts insights from small business owners into high-quality articles for brands.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.