Today, a college degree has become critical for those entering a number of fields. College graduation rates have risen since the middle of the 20th century, and affordable options have made college accessible for more people than before. The benefits of a college degree, however, are not as clear as some suggest. Is a college degree worth the cost?
A college degree is necessary to enter certain fields. Those looking to work in information technology, for example, will have trouble finding a job without a college degree. Other fields require a college degree; it is impossible to work as a nurse without the right academic qualifications. Jobs that require college degrees tend to pay more than those that do not. By arming oneself with a college degree, someone entering the marketplace will have more job opportunities available.
College degrees do, however, cost money. While some can secure scholarships or have relatives who will pay the cost to attend college, others must rely on student loans. Those who attend private schools or who go out of state will likely have to take out large loans that may take years or decades to pay off. Those who attend medical school or law school sometimes do not pay off their loans until they enter middle age. Despite higher rates of pay, people with large amounts of student loans will find their financial flexibility limited.
There are, however, some alternatives to earning a college degree. By working as an apprentice, one can learn the skills needed to earn a good salary without spending years accruing debt. The Internet and libraries can give someone the skills needed to succeed on their own, and many entrepreneurs skipped college to focus on their businesses. For some fields, the knowledge learned in college only has a minimal impact on how well they will do when competing on the market.
What is the best choice?
Ultimately, people need to decide what they want to do with their lives. If a college degree is necessary to work in one’s dream field, it is worth the money involved. On the other hand, if one’s chosen field does not require a college degree, it might be best to find a job as quickly as possible to start learning about the industry and climbing the career ladder.
Colleges will remain important institutes that prepare people for the future, and government agencies will likely encourage more people to attend college. However, it is important to remember that college is optional, and many people are able to succeed in the workforce by working hard and honing their skills. Employers pay and promote based on how well employees produce and not what degrees they earned.