Why an Education is NOT Overrated

For some strange reason I’ve noticed many personal finance or development blogs in the last year or so take jabs at the idea of getting a college degree. Apparently, a college degree isn’t always the best option. Lifestyle Design Bloggers love to bash a formal education. I guess there are better things to do at 19 years old then to go to college. Since 2011 was the year that I officially picked up my college degree I wanted to touch on this today.

Is an education really overrated?

I ran into an old friend recently. We both had a few minutes to spare so we started to catch up on life. I remember that he had found a well-paying full-time job a few years ago. Mark was living at home and making a bit less than forty grand per year. Any money that you make while living at home is amazing because you save most of it. He loved his job and was happy about the fact that he could save money to buy his own condo at such a young age.

Now fast forward a few years. Mark is still earning the same salary (it’s a unionized gig with no room for career advancement) and now he has more expenses. Mark now lives on his own. As you can imagine, his expenses have gone way through the roof. When you own a condo you pay your own utilities, mortgage, property taxes, food, and anything else that comes up. This is much different from living at home.

Mark is now struggling to cover his expenses. He wants a better job but can’t find one. He’s been looking for a second job to help him deal with his expenses.

The worst (or best?) part is that I know for a fact that Mark has the ability to get a college degree and find a much higher paying career. The only problem is that he didn’t go to college after high school and now he simply doesn’t have the time or money to go back to school. It’s a pretty awful situation to be in. Being stuck in a job that doesn’t pay much and knowing that you’re stuck is horrible.

Before you start to spew off traditional financial advice like “you can start a business” or “you can blog for money,” please keep in mind that this isn’t for everyone. Some want to be employees. Some prefer the hourly wage model of compensation.

Is an education really overrated?

Not in my opinion. With an education you have more options. You have a higher chance of landing a “better” job. You simply have a better starting point with a college degree than you do without one.

Also, please tell me what else you have to do in your early-20s? You need money for most options. Sitting around at home isn’t much fun. Working a minimum job can only work out if you’re living at home with next to none expenses.

If you don’t get a decent education or start a profitable business, you’re going to be stuck taking whatever work comes your way without much potential for growth. An education is definitely not overrated.

It’s not only about the education.

The whole college experience isn’t just about the piece of paper that you get in the end. Going away for college or staying in town (like I did) is by far the best experience in your 20s. You get to be careless, meet a ton of cool people, and do whatever you want to do.

On top of all of the fun stuff, there’s more to college.

I started a personal finance blog for young people because college opened my eyes up to how many of my peers were struggling with money. I would’ve never figured this out while sitting at home or working at some job that I hated. College for me was about meeting tons of cool people and starting my own finance site. College is different for everyone.

You’re not going to learn everything in your school.

I need to stress that you will NOT learn everything in school. Just because you took finance in school and graduated with tons of credit card debt it’s not the schools fault. I’m so annoyed of all of these finance experts claiming that schools need to teach us more about basics. That’s not their job. You shouldn’t expect to learn everything in college.

You will learn how to pass tests, interact with others, and get by. You won’t learn everything. You’ll learn enough to be a more rounded person.

When is an education not a good idea?

If you’re a genius like Mark Zuckerberg then you don’t need to worry about spending time in school. It’s only going delay your plan to be a millionaire before 25. If you have the entrepreneurial drive and ability to think of the next Facebook, then you don’t need college.

If you’re a normal person looking for a way to make money, then your best bet is to get that college degree after high school and then take it from there.

Do you still think that a college degree is overrated? Please explain because I would love to hear your input.

3 thoughts on “Why an Education is NOT Overrated”

  1. I would just say that a person needs to figure out what they want to do BEFORE going to college. For example, I was great in math. I distinctly remember sitting in some class my senior year and thinking I will never use this crap! I read a stat the other day that 80% of college grads – 10 years after graduating – are working in a field different from their college area of study. How much money has been wasted and how many times was the major field of study changed?

    I’m in favor of a college degree when it’s needed to do the work you love to do or it will really provide a great education in the area I love.

    In my opinion, there ought to be classes in high school helping kids to know their passion and letting them interact with bankers, engineers, construction workers, etc. so that college freshman have a much better idea of what they want to do.

  2. Edward Antrobus

    I definitely agree, with the caveat that college isn’t for everyone. There are still good jobs out there that don’t require a degree. Solid, well-paying, blue-collar jobs. The only one of my close high-school friends to not go to college got a job as a welder and has moved up the ladder to foreman where he makes more money than my wife and I combined. Then there are the people with learning or mental disabilities that barely made it through high school.

    @Brad, the problem is a lot of students aren’t able to figure out their “passion” (I’m not a big fan of the word, personally) at that age, either because they’ve built up stereotypes of certain work that experience isn’t yet capable of breaking through (that was me with agriculture) or because they never think of exploring it. I have a friend who loves his job at the municipal gas utility, but never in a million years would any of us thought of that job. At the end of the day, the kinds of jobs out there are too varied for this kind of program to have the necessary reach.

  3. To me a college or university education is great,provided that you’re able to apply it after graduating.
    I’ve heard too many cases of people majoring in political science,art,economics etc only to end up working as waiters or sales clerks in a department store.
    I’m thinking what’s wrong with this picture? Well if I wanted to work as a waiter or a sales clerk in a shopping mall why would I have wasted 4 years of my life and thousands of dollars on a college education?

    According to recent statistics from the Dept. of labor many of your college or university graduates end up employed in positions that don’t even require the degree that they possess.
    In other words they basically have a job that’s not even related to what they studied for!
    Some of these positions could have been filled by someone without a degree or any college education whatsoever.

    Yes I do believe that we overrated the value of a college or university education. There are plenty of cases of individuals on the other hand who have never graduated or even been to college who have gone on to become billionaires as entreprenuers.
    People like Mr. Branson founder of Virgin Airways and Steven Wozniak co-founder of Apple computers who admittedly was a college dropout.
    Such people are making far more of an income than many with a PHD can even dream of.

    As for your friend Mark all I can say is there are many university graduates struggling in the same situation.That is struggling to make ends meet.
    They’re stuck in a job not related even to what they studied for.
    Struggling to pay off debts (government loans) in addition to supporting themselves and family.
    Having a degree doesn’t make one immune to financial woes and many of them do struggle with that as much as those who have no degree or education.
    Chances are your friend Mark would not have been in a more enviable postion had he graduated from college with a degree.
    He would probably still be struggling to pay of his mortgage and his utility bills. In addition to that he would also have to pay off his student loans.
    That would be one more thing he would have to work his ass off to pay.

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