Is College Worth It?

by irms

There’s a healthy debate going on in which youngish people are wondering if going to college is worth the money, the time, the effort, the … hustle.  In fact, coverage of this very thing can be found on this website, Nettuts, which is known for it’s tutorials and not so much for its articles (you’ll see why).  If you ask me, the go-to-college-vs-get-a-job debate is tired.  Historically, college graduates make more than non-graduates, but that gap is closing.  I, for one, think there are better reasons to go to college than your salary, but I digress.

Really, there are two things that I hear often enough to write about on account of their absurdity:

  1. “My friend so-and-so got her degree in [ something ] and hasn’t been able to find a job in [ a number of  ] years.”
  2. “My classes aren’t teaching me anything useful.  When am I ever going to need to know how to solve for ‘x’ in a word problem?”


Um, hi.  You’re being ridiculous. Getting a degree proves one thing:  you can finish what you start.

If you think you’re going to university to learn how to do a job, YOU’RE ALREADY EXPECTING THE WRONG DAMN THINGS.  College teaches you no such thing.  I mean, unless you’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer (and even those disciplines require years of ‘internship’ before one actually makes money doing said job) you’re going to be disappointed.

This is my argument:

  1. Most learning happens on the job.  Ask anyone that has one.
  2. School is supposed to help you learn how to think effectively.  If you want to get a job doing exactly what you’ve been taught to do, you might as well circle back and teach that class (but then good luck learning how to teach effectivley).  
  3. It will always be easier to simply not go to school and dive right in to a job instead.  This should be the first sign that it’s the wrong thing to do.
  4. It never hurts to be “good” at school.  Just like the most athletic person you know is probably also “good” at running, it certainly isn’t all he knows how to do, and learning to run well didn’t teach him to be good at sports.
  5. If you apply for a job that requires a resume, it’s noticable when there’s no mention of a degree.  (And you should know by now that resumes are really only good for finding reasons not to hire you.)
  6. All schooling is worth the time, but not all jobs are.


You’ll notice that I left off the trite, “Not getting a degree will put you at a disadvantage in the event that you’re competing for a job against someone who has exactly your qualifications, but has a degree, ” arguement.  This is true, and also unlikely.  It’s more likely that you’ll compete for a job against someone who is simply better than you are, but the point still worth a quick mention.  

Oh, and to address the girl/guy that got a degree and can’t find a job:  Jobs are gotten due to the extra stuff on your resume and/or the connections you have or aquire doing those extra things.  With rare exception, a degree alone isn’t going to do it.  You better learn to be impressive in other ways.


P.S. I know plenty of people that have gotten where they are without a degree and I find that each of them are consistently missing qualities that graduates tend to have, but who also retain an unflattering arrogance in the workplace, again, with rare exception.  “Successful People Without Degrees” is a topic for an entirely different post, but I concede that, of course, they exist.