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Is a College Degree Necessary for a Good Job? Not Always.

Many young people think that a bachelor’s degree is the best way—perhaps the only way—to get a good job anymore. But is it still possible to get a good job without one?

The answer is yes. A recent interview with Google’s senior vice president for People Operations revealed that 14% of people at Google have never gone to college. Yet Google is one of the most successful, innovative and challenging companies in the whole world. How can that be?

The answer is that many of the computer engineers at Google have spent years outside of the classroom honing their skills at programming languages like C++, Java, Python and Ruby on Rails. Many of them began as amateurs, in their bedrooms, basements and middle school computer labs. With years of practice, they’ve developed enough skills that they don’t need a piece of paper to show that they can do the job. They’ve already proved it in the programs and applications they can create. And one of the biggest and most prestigious technology companies in the world pays them accordingly.

It’s time that more people explore options other than a four-year degree. According to a new report by the Brookings Institution, 1 in 10 jobs in the United States is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. Those jobs, on average, pay about $53,000 per year. They can be held with a community college degree or a certificate from any number of specialty schools that teach computer skills. According to the popular career website, the average salary in New York City for a junior developer of Ruby on Rails, currently a very popular programming language, is anywhere from $70,000-$100,000.

All this isn’t to say that a four-year college can’t be a good investment. The numbers show that college graduates have a higher employment rate and higher salaries. But the numbers also show that nearly 50% of people who start a bachelor’s degree never finish, and that the class of 2013 had average student loan debt of $30,000.

As college costs more than ever, it is important to consider what you will study, what school you will attend and how much you will borrow in order to make college a worthwhile investment. Many people have barely, if ever, considered these factors, and are now working in jobs they didn’t go to school for, or they are unemployed.

If computer science, or college, isn’t your forte, there are currently about 3 million “skilled labor” jobs nationwide that are going unfilled. These are jobs like plumbers, electricians, welders and construction managers. It is tempting to believe that these jobs don’t pay much, since they require a good bit of manual labor. But in reality, the labor supply for young, skilled workers in these professions is very low, and demand is very high. And most individuals who are well-trained in these trades are older than 50. Thus, talented workers in these fields can be making $100,000 per year or more by age 30.

For several generations, too many Americans bought into the idea that everyone should get a bachelor’s degree. Times have changed. What matters now, more than ever, is having the skills to do the job, not a piece of paper. A bachelor’s degree can still be a good investment, but it is possible to succeed in America without a four-year degree.

  • Jacky

    It is believed that going to college is the only way someone is going to succeed,
    which is not always the case. Nowadays
    if people work hard enough they can have a decent job, make a good amount of
    money, and be successful without having gone to college. Ever since a young age kids are raised being
    taught that if they go to college then success and a good career is guaranteed,
    as long as they attend. College is seen
    as the American dream; people want to feel good about them knowing that they
    are going to make something out of themselves by going to college. Sadly nowadays not everyone can afford to go
    to college and will not be able to get that opportunity on furthering their
    education. The problem is that people
    are attending college with the only mentality that they are going to make a lot
    of money once they graduate or that they are going to have their dream job and
    home. People need to understand that
    just because someone attends college that does not guarantee anything for them,
    except maybe being in debt for a long time.
    The mentality people should have when thinking about going to college is
    that they are going to keep expanding their knowledge on something they love,
    and will therefore use that outside in the real world. Many students attend college without knowing what
    they want to do and that is okay, but others just attend for the experience and
    without putting in the work and having the right mentality then going to
    college will just be a waste of time.
    The world around us is changing so fast that once someone graduates from
    college their degree could just be another piece of paper because of how
    advanced everything is getting and the change on demand for other jobs.

  • Claire

    Amazing stat on how 14% of people on Google didn’t go to college. WOW. TurtleWise also just did an awesome post on this. Check it out here:

  • Denis Ian

    College has become the Great American Lie. And it’s an expensive lie at that.

    Across America, lots and lots of high schoolers are being bamboozled into giving it the ol’ college try … and paying a steep price for being duped.

    But there’s now a growing trend … brought about by the economic realities of today … that actually bucks the Common Core mania that life without college is hardly worth living.

    Common Core’s imbecilic push has third grade teachers pounding the “college for everyone” nail into little skulls who are way more excited to conquer the monkey bars. These babies are barely out of diapers, but it’s time to warm ‘em up to the Great American Lie.

    Local high schools now measure their success not by lives well-lived, but by the number who dash off to college … even for a year or two … because, well, college-bound kids are the new snoot statistics and that data serves the Common Core bunk.

    But few mention the ugly underbelly to the ol’ college try. Nearly 50% try and fail. What business …. with a 50% failing rate … stays in business as long as a college?

    And keep in mind that folks spewing that college is an absolute must should mention that just 7% of the planet has a college degree.

    Lots of powerful and influential people bark the college mantra … from the president right on down to the local guidance counselor. And the loan sharks are there to make college dreams a nightmare … and profit from that misery.

    It’s nonsense that college is a “must”. Today, young trades-people seem to be the most contented segment of the newly employed … with secure futures of steady and rising incomes. And they’re in demand, too. We’d be in agonizing misery without tradesmen to fix our failed air conditioners or oil burners or attic fans … or our stopped toilets.

    These tradesmen have wonderful, successful lives … with vibrant families … whose children go to schools their taxes support. And you don’t find much regret among these successful folks because they passed on college.

    Lots of kids … cajoled by guidance counselors and Common Core pressures … buzz off to college unprepared and unsuited for what awaits them. And in a semester or two or three, they drop out. But the debt drops in.

    And our federal government is an accomplice to this misery because they make these loans super-easy to get … and impossible to renege on.

    That debt-money floated those colleges … and now those kids (or their families) are in high hock … and too many seem very okay with government-sanctioned loan sharks feasting on these vulnerable kids.

    This is wrong … extra wrong … because they were needlessly misled. It seems millennials have seen the light. Skilled workers are finding lucrative positions while their college-trained … and indebted … pals languish in low-paying service jobs with dim futures.

    The world has shifted once again … so look for the electrician who drives the Porsche.

    It’s time to shake hands with reality … and time for high schools to come clean and highlight all of the options available to young graduates. Snoot statistics don’t put food on the table.

    Denis Ian

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