Is A College Degree Necessary Anymore?

It’s been a few days fraught with dissension here at Chez Leeds. I firmly believe in finishing your college education and I have never wavered from it. Get your degree because that is something nobody can take away from you. That is how I raised my kids. The ex agreed with me even though he is not a college graduate and I knew that he regretted it. In fact, he never told our kids that he didn’t graduate college. He lied to them, but that’s another post for another day.

So now the younger kid who’s in the middle of his college career wants out of virtual classes for a semester. He needs a break. He’s questioning if anyone needs a degree in order to get a job. My kids found out that their dad never graduated (not from me) and even though the ex doesn’t know that the kids know, they do. But the ex has a good salary without a college degree.

Am I old fashioned to believe in a good college education as a cornerstone? Is that my outdated belief? Now that minimum wage is supposedly going up to $15 an hour, I know that there are a few first year teachers who are upset because that is similar to their salaries.

I have many friends who are not college educated who are doing well. While mostly they are women who were married, but now divorced, we are all finding our way slowly. And maybe because we’re #womenofacertainage it’s different for us.

What’s your take on the subject? May I ask if you have your degree? Or if you don’t, would you share how that’s impacted your career? Or if it hasn’t?

I am not meaning this to be a controversial post at all. I’m just trying to learn more so that I can help my kid who wants to drop out, maybe for good. Any and all help, advise, sharing of experience and wisdom is greatly appreciated.

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38 Responses to Is A College Degree Necessary Anymore?

  1. Having once been director/founder of a nonprofit that trained young people for living wage non college jobs in the maritime sector, I told some of them that it didn’t matter whether or not they were college bound or interested in it. But that wasn’t how I really felt or how I feel. If my son had told me he didn’t want to finish college, I can’t imagine my response but I would do all I could to encourage him to just get that degree and THEN decide what he wanted to do. It’s been ingrained in our family that education is key. I’m sorry your son is struggling with this new reality. My son teaches at the college level and he tries to make all of his classes so compelling that he retains his students. I’ve counseled kids about taking a year off, but once you leave, it’s so hard to go back and there might be huge regrets. Sending love.

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  2. petespringerauthor says:

    As a career educator, I may be a bit biased on this subject. I think getting a college education increases one’s opportunities to follow a dream and become what he/she wants to be. That said, it is not cut and dry for me. College is not for everyone, and there are plenty of people who do just fine without it. The amount of debt one can rack up in those years is something to consider. It can take some time to recoup that investment. COVID is part of the equation, as I think learning by distance is more challenging. The biggest question for me would be, “Is this a break or something more permanent?” Some people take a break that turns into the rest of their lives.

    I am the youngest of four boys, and all of my brothers attended college. There was a certain family expectation that I would do the same. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and the first year out of high school, I attended a JC mainly to keep my parents off my back—not a very good reason to attend school. The following year I decided that I wasn’t going back. My parents gave me an ultimatum. (They were just trying to get me off my butt.) If I dropped out and continued to live at home, I needed to work full-time and start paying rent. They were right, but I didn’t want to live at home. I moved out of the area and got an apartment with a buddy. That was one of the most valuable years of my life. I had to fall on my face with crappy jobs for me to decide I didn’t want that to be my future. The next year I began working as a teacher’s aide in schools and went back to college with a real goal (to teach). For me, it was the right decision. I have no regrets about any of it. By the way, while beginning teachers don’t make much money, I know of no one that gets paid only $15 per hour to teach.

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    • janieleeds says:

      Thank you Pete. I have told him that if he wants time off and wants to work then he will have to take over his car payment/insurance etc. I think he’s got to choose (as you did) in order to learn, to grow and to figure out his life path. Like your parents, I am just trying to get him off his butt….LOL
      I bet you were an awesome teacher and because of your life experiences, you were able to relate to the kids even more! Thank you for sharing…

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  3. Dwight Hyde says:

    As the saying goes, I think it depends on the field they are interested in. Back in 2001, I got a Masters in Computer Science and it definitely helped my career. Fast forward to 2018 where we hired 2 junior developers and only required they had the knowledge for the job and we tested them with different scenarios. Neither had degrees or certifications and I believe they started at $60,000. Obviously this is just one specific field. I will say I do feel having some education to include electives in letters, arts, and science do help a person become more “rounded” and ultimately allows them further growth.

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    • janieleeds says:

      Thanks for sharing Dwight! I feel it’s important to finish what you start (when you can) and I do think that becoming more ’rounded’ as you pointed out is a gift for we never know when an elective can spur our growth in ways we never thought possible.
      Perhaps he just needs to grow and have some wings. I’m willing to help launch. It’s the lack of motivation that worries me. Thanks for sharing. Congrats to you on the Masters! Wow!

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  4. traceyr1984 says:

    I have my degree and it did allow me access to more jobs. But it really depends on what you want to do. If you don’t know then by all means get a degree. It will give you more options. But if you do know what you want to work at then getting skills and experience can be just as useful as a college degree depending on the occupation.

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    • janieleeds says:

      Thanks Tracey. He doesn’t know what he wants to do so that’s why I thought university was best because he can learn about many things since he doesn’t seem to have a singular interest. I hope he finds his way and even if he tries different fields, that’s fine with me. Not all of us know what we want to be when we grow up at an early age…thanks for sharing!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ainsobriety says:

    I’m kind of surprised he never asked about his dads schooling before…is it a secret he never went to college? If he is successful why does it matter? Some of my most affluent friends never got a degree. In fact, one didn’t even finish high school and she runs a multi million dollar business.

    I have 3 degrees (BA English, BSc chemical engineering and an MBA). I have worked in my field for 24 years and am very well compensated. I moved to a remote area to work after university and have stayed here since. Working near the oil provides job security.

    That said, I work with many tradespeople. While their work may be physically harder, it is no less important, and they are paid handsomely. Trades are in demand and so portable.

    My son is in grade 12. He has been accepted into engineering at university. He is very much like me (and my dad, who is also an engineer). Many of his friends are considering trades. Maybe it is living in an industrial city…

    My second kid…who knows. She is super smart, but not schoolish. I think there are many opportunities out there that we forget about. She is in grade 10, so we will see.

    I think the cost of a degree can sometime hinder a person. There are other opportunities. If he needs a break, perhaps he knows best. In the end, it is his path to travel!

    Anne

    Liked by 1 person

    • janieleeds says:

      Hi Anne. His dad and I attended the same university and his dad was a year older. It was always assumed his dad graduated before me, and I never felt it was my place to correct everyone’s assumption. But the ex lied when the kids asked what his degree was in etc. and then later found out that he didn’t graduate. It’s always been a sore spot for their dad because he didn’t finish what he started.

      I am at ease with my kid changing course and if technical or trade interests him then I back him completely. What I am worrying about is that he has no motivation to finish school and no motivation to ‘find a job’ as he’s telling me he wants to do.
      Your family is impressive! I love to hear what people do since there’s an entire world of opportunity out there that we forget about and I’m grateful for your reminder and your success stories! Impressive!!!
      And yes, it is his path to travel…I agree wholeheartedly.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. scr4pl80 says:

    I told my kids that while I insisted they finish high school, I was in no way going to fight with them every day to go to college. Only 1 of the three (the youngest) went to college and got a degree in Psychology. She is now an assistant teacher and making about $25 an hour. She is 24 but not really using her degree, although the school did credit her with a year’s experience for having it. The other two, both in their 30’s now, did not go to college. Our oldest is working for a friend of hers who owns a construction company. She does a myriad of jobs for them and is doing very well. We were afraid she wasn’t going to make it through high school. Our middle child, a son, just recently got a job in an eye surgeon’s office as a sterilization technician making $25 an hour. He had no training at all. True, it took the older two until their late 20’s – early 30’s to get their jobs but sometimes college can take that long too. I only had a year of junior collage but then took a medical assistant course and after working my way up from medical assistant to office manager over the course of about 20 years, I started my own transcription service and have been working from home for the last 22 years. I think a lot has to do with drive and determination. I also think that we need technicians and tradespeople as well. A good union job can be very well paying too. My hubby never went to college either but had a good union job and now that he is retired, has a pension that is a welcome addition to Social Security. We are not extremely wealthy but we also live in the SF Bay Area which is a kind of expensive part of the state.

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    • janieleeds says:

      I love to hear success stories so thank you for sharing your family’s successes! Perhaps it’s the motivation, drive and determination that he’s lacking that makes me worry. Well, that and the fact that we’re in a strange world now with covid restrictions and jobs aren’t really aplenty at the moment.
      I admire you and your amazing family. Thank you. And I’m fine if he wanted to go to vocational school to learn a trade or be a technician. We’ve become friendly with the plumber (another post for another day) and his workers are my kids’ age and they’re great friends. We all talk when they are here working and we’ve had that conversation as well. I appreciate your taking the time to write. So happy for all of you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • scr4pl80 says:

        It’s a struggle for the older ones and maybe the younger one could see that (there is 10 years difference between the oldest and youngest), although she was determined to be a psychologist from about the 5th grade. You are right, these times certainly make things even more difficult. Good luck to you guys!

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      • janieleeds says:

        Thank you! Same to you Janet! xo

        Liked by 1 person

  7. i tried university at 18 and again at 21. It just did not stick with me. I am very lucky in that I have a well paying job. A few years ago when I stepped down from management they did not reduce my wage. I work in customer service and have run a department of 50 people maybe a bit more. All without a degree. While there are some careers that require degrees given their expertise there are also careers that happen in the least expected places. I never thought that a grocery store would be the place that I would end up. Between wage, insurance and paid holidays I do well. My ex husband never graduated high school yet has become a red seal millwright. I imagine it depends on the individual.
    Have a great day. 🙂

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    • janieleeds says:

      Jay-lyn congrats to you and to your ex! Such awesome success stories!! I didn’t mean to put anyone down who didn’t have their degree so I’m hoping that you knew that…and I think you did. I want him to be happy and to find success so that he feels good about himself. That’s my hope and dream and intent for him.
      Hope you have a great day too!! Thank you so much for sharing! You’re inspiring!

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  8. LA says:

    Ok. I don’t think you need a college degree to be successful and/or employed. However, some things you do need a college degree for. You can’t be an accountant without one for example. I think there are alternate paths and everyone has to find one. The thing is, college does open doors to an extent…will they look at someone with a degree ahead of someone without one? My daughter was looking for a virtual internship. She sent out thirty resumes and got one interview. However you look at it, getting a job is hard. But if he wants to take off, let him explore his possibilities. Maybe he needs a gap years till he finds what he wants to do

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  9. Janie, this brings up so many issues for you, I have no doubt. I was set to go to University in South Africa (called college in the USA), as we lived in Rhodesia, as it was then. The war there escalated and my family returned to the UK. I elected to move down to SA, but had to support myself and have worked ever since. Our world is changing and none of us knows the outcomes yet. I am surmising now, but my perspective is, that folk of our generation have life experiences to fall back on in these times. Our youngsters have had a life, as they knew it, with all the possibilities of travel, learning to drive, hanging out with friends, playing team sports and even starting a business, put on hold. No-one truly knows for how long either. I have noticed a malaise of ‘What’s the point’ amongst older teenagers and that is understandable. He may need some time out and also, a re-think on what matters to him among all this uncertainty. His Dad not having a degree is a trigger for you and I feel your youngest may be using this as a validation for his choices, as he hasn’t had time out in the world to gain experience to use other validations. It feels like a red-herring in this discussion. If your son is gifted the time now to find a way that inspires him, it will teach him many life skills. I can feel you sifting through this in your heart. Wrapping you all in much love. ❤ XXx

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    • janieleeds says:

      Jane I appreciate your wisdom. Indeed there is a malaise here as well. And yes, the trigger of not finishing what he started (and remembering how awful the ex felt when the subject came up) pulled at my heartstrings. I remember when things were good with his dad and how much he regretted it. I didn’t want that for our son.
      I would love for my son to be inspired and truthfully I fully support him and believe in him. But I see that lack of motivation as a difficulty to surmount. I don’t think he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps as an excuse. Instead, he just doesn’t want to go to school. In his mind, he thinks that one doesn’t need a degree which perhaps he’s right. I think it depends on what career path you’re on. I’m ok with technical training or vocational school as well. He loves philosophy and history which are more academic so that’s why I wanted him to stay in college.
      I wholeheartedly thank you for wrapping us in love. It is truly appreciated as we try to navigate these uncertain times. I can’t imagine how difficult an escalating war had to have been for you. I am inspired by you. xxx 💗

      Liked by 1 person

      • I so appreciate your reply and I feel for you. I truly do. On the topic of lack of motivation, I hope I can make a suggestion. An ex.Navy SEAL Commander, Rich Diviny, has written a book called The Attributes. I have seen him interviewed on Lewis Howes channel on YouTube. Fascinating stuff and all about attributes, rather than skills. I have read the first chapter and it’s written in a way I think your son would appreciate. It’s due for release on 26 Jan and it may just be the practical help you need right now. Rich has also put together an attributes assessment, available online and free, and that’s at http://www.attributes.com, so if your son feels inclined, that’s another practical tool. More ❤ flowing to you all. ❤ Xxx

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  10. TJ Fox says:

    While you can get a decent job without a degree, it is extremely rare. So many places won’t even consider you for an interview if you don’t have one. There are other options out there like trade schools and job specific condensed educational programs (thinking things like nursing programs) that aren’t a full 4 year kind of program. Outside of those things though, you will find it nearly impossible to get a decent paying job without a degree. I say this with some experience. I don’t have a degree. I have a pretty decent amount of on the job experience in a lot of areas (though that is exceptionally dated now as I haven’t worked in 20 years), too many places won’t even consider experience as a college equivalent for a huge chunk of jobs. I think this is where you will see most older adults with jobs falling anymore because that “or equivalent experience” used to be an okay substitute, but there really aren’t a lot of jobs that will accept that anymore. So a younger person trying to follow that kind of track isn’t going to fare as well as an older adult could have. There are options, but they are few and may not be in an area that you want.

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  11. OmniRunner says:

    I think a degree makes a huge difference.
    The rule of thumb is to go to the best school you can afford.
    Too many people go a school they can only “afford ” by going into massive debt. To me it makes no sense to spend $50k a year when a state school gives equivalent education for half.
    I went to a state college and got my MBA via University of Phoenix. That mail order MBA helped me get my last 2 jobs. So I’d say it was worth it.

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  12. In all honesty, I ask myself this every day:/ In the end, I just feel like it depends on where you want to see yourself 10 years down the road and how hard you’ll work to get there.

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  13. Erica says:

    I suppose it depends on what you wish to do. I’m 37 and trying to pursue a degree while raising a hyperactive 7 year old. When she was 6 months old the company I had worked at for 8 years sold us. I lost all benefits, seniority, but got to keep my measly hourly rate. The value of a job is not just wages per hour. And it’s a huge hit when medical benefits go from $30 bucks a month to $1000 in less than a decade. I may be rambling. But I kept getting stuck in my position, if I wanted to move up I needed that piece of paper. But I guess it all depends on what he does with his free time. One should always learn and grow. After a few years in a position there’s not much new to learn and if can’t go up it becomes about discipline when boredom sets in.

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