With the promise of loan forgiveness unfulfilled and wages stagnant, many are looking more severely at their degrees. Many professions that require a degree don’t pay more than some entry level jobs in retail. With the average student loan debt being $32,731 many are asking, is it worth it?
Short answer? It depends on your goals.
If your goals are specifically to become a doctor, lawyer, a college professor, or another profession that requires a degree, then yes. If your goal is more about having a certain lifestyle, then no. You can save lives without being a doctor. You can help people in a tough spot without being a lawyer and you can certainly teach people without a degree.
Most of the better jobs I’ve had over the years didn’t require a college education. They did require certifications or licensures. I’m talking about my jobs as a group fitness instructor, lifeguard instructor and even being a licensed massage therapist. I didn’t need college for any of that and now I’m a writer. Another career that doesn’t require a degree.
My advice is if you can do it without a degree, explore the degree free route first.
My degree in Athletic training made me wildly overqualified for my jobs in health and fitness. This helped me get the jobs but it also means I gave myself that financial burden. I could have worked less if my financial stress had been less. The pay difference was basically zero between employees with a degree and those without. In fact, in most cases there wasn’t a difference at all.
A college degree isn’t the only education you can get after college. Becoming certified as a lifeguard instructor was an education. That education was done over a long weekend and cost hundreds of dollars compared to a degree that takes years and tens of thousands of dollars. That certification got me jobs for years and plumped up my resume for years more even after it had expired. The pay for being a lifeguard instructor was great. It opened doors to management positions and gave me leadership experience.
When thinking about things that look good on a resume remember this: experience almost always trumps education.
If you have a certification in personal training but have never stepped foot in a gym nor have any sales experience, you are going to lose to the person that does. Go for experience first. This will not only make your resume impressive, it will also direct you towards the things you actually want to pursue. You may want to work in pediatrics but after working at a daycare realize you love more one on one time. This could lead you into tutoring or physical therapy, things that allow for relationships and growth.
The sad truth is, most of the time a college degree isn’t worth it financially. Degrees do not guarantee a job that pays well. However, if you have a goal, go for it. You know yourself better than anyone and if what you want to do requires a degree, get it. My advice is pay off as much as you can as you go. Having a job and pursuing a degree is difficult but you will thank yourself when your payments are cut in half. At one point I had 5 jobs and was going to college. That only lasted about 3 weeks and was a logistical nightmare but I don’t regret it. Having 3 jobs over the summer seemed like a walk in the park after that.
All in all I’d say, take time to really know yourself. Get honest about what it is you really want. Do you want to be a librarian or do you just really like books? You could work at a bookstore or work as an editor.
Is there a similar job that requires trade school or a certification? Is there a way to accomplish your dreams without a degree? Try that first. After all, college isn’t going anywhere.