Seven reasons not to get a university degree
You graduate high school, you go to university, you get a job. It’s how middle class North America has been doing things for decades. Maybe it’s time to switch things up.
In 2015, as a result of the millions of already held and constantly emerging bachelor’s degrees, more employers are looking for candidates with higher degrees. But it doesn’t make sense from a candidate’s point of view to keep raising the bar, as people dig themselves deeper into debt.
Here’s an idea: We could just start skipping the university degree. I did. I went to university, but I didn’t get a degree, and I turned out OK, for the most part.
Was there value in attending those classes? Absolutely. But I don’t feel like I’m missing anything for not having finished. My husband, a PhD candidate, and his father, a professor, might disagree. But I can’t understand their arguments anyway, so who cares?
Here are 7 reasons not to get a university degree.
They’re a waste of money. This is according to a study last year by Career Glider that found that a full third of workers across the U.S. said their college degrees were a “complete waste of time and money.” And, while you can always find counter arguments, like this one from the Council of Ontario Universities, The Financial Post reported in 2013 that the value of an education was “dropping fast.” Not for everyone. Engineering grads had “a 117% wage premium to high school graduates, even after paying for their degrees,” said the report. So, it depends on what you want to study.
You can do just fine without one. Here are 10 jobs that pay $60k-$100k without a degree. Many great positions can be obtained with a certificate program. Obviously this doesn’t wash with many fields. You’ll always need a university degree to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a biochemist. But for jobs in sales, administration, non-profit, software development, media, and many other areas, you probably don’t. Even if a job description claims to require it, they might not. Yes, every job posting that isn’t for a skilled trade lists a degree as a requirement. You know how many times I’ve ever had an interviewer or a hiring manager actually ask about a degree? Zero. They list it as a requirement because they have to put something in the job description. If you have the skills and experience they usually don’t care. And a lot of managers say they just put it in there to reduce the number of applicants, even if it’s not required. Our internal research shows that employers are far less interested in your education than in your skills and qualifications.
The world needs plumbers, general contractors, and EMTs. There are all sorts of in-demand positions out there that don’t require a degree. We need people to fix our faucets and drive us around in ambulances. We need people to renovate our houses. You know what we don’t need a ton of? Chaucer scholars. We need those. Just not as much as we need plumbers.
Working for a mark is weird. Learning to write to please one person – your professor – is a valuable lesson. It teaches you humility – how to suck it up when you really disagree with their assessment of your writing – and sharpens your intuition. But a year of it is more than enough. Four years is too much.
Exams are stupid. You spend hours – days, nights – cramming information into your poor exhausted brain in order to take five tests in three days, only to forget 75% of it by the time you’re drunk that weekend. It’s a totally inefficient and almost cruel way to do things. I still have nightmares about it. Nothing in real life is actually like that.
Academic writing is ridiculous. It’s not enough to learn, you have to pick a side about whatever you’ve learned and argue about it. I was told more than once that my papers didn’t have arguments. I was like “I don’t want to argue. I just want to learn stuff.” And I certainly don’t want to argue using words like “individualisationism” or “hegemonicality” or whatever. Again, nothing in real life is actually like that.
University isn’t the only way to learn. At one time the vast information repositories known as universities were treasure troves of otherwise difficult to access materials and information. These days you can access pretty much anything you want online. Universities offer MOOCs and you can probably audit an entire course through YouTube, then join a discussion forum to exchange ideas. If your goal is to learn, you can do it anywhere. I’m not suggesting you don’t learn. You have to educate yourself somehow or you’ll never get anywhere. I’m just suggesting the possibility of exchanging one form of education for another – be it MOOCs, online tutorials, books, trade school, in person auditing (yes, you can actually just go to school and sit in on a lecture, even if you’re not in a program), on the job training, or whatever you choose.
Again, I’m not suggesting that nobody needs a degree and that nobody should get one. Some jobs will always require them. But I think that as more opportunities for self-teaching arise through technology, other forms of education will become more valuable on the job market.
Whenever I discuss this, people point to studies that show university graduates out earning high school graduates. Fair enough. But I’m not sure, in this case, that the past is the best predictor of the future. The employment and economic landscape is shifting in untested directions. Where it goes from there is really anyone’s guess.
Have you seen this video? It’s pretty funny.