College is overrated. There, I said something you’ve probably suspected since you were in high school and may have confirmed several years after you entered the workforce. You probably know many people who excelled in college and can barely string together a cohesive thought. And you probably know many successful people who never went to college, barely made it through college, or work in a field unrelated to their degree.
Why is that? How can some people struggle when they have a degree from a quality institution, while others can be successful without a college degree or in a field unrelated to their degree? In my opinion, it’s because a college education doesn’t guarantee success. Success is up to many other factors – factors that colleges often don’t teach.
You Don’t Need a College Degree
A college degree is simply a certification. In basic terms, a degree is simply a piece of paper certifying you met a certain level of scholastic achievement. But what happens in the class room doesn’t always translate into the real world.
College degrees don’t always pay well or guarantee a job. There are many high paying degrees. But for every high paying degree, there are two low paying degrees. There are also degrees that have a limited market. Simply having a college degree doesn’t guarantee a job, nor should it. Employees need to bring marketable skills to the table, as well as the ability to continue learning, growing, and providing value for their employer.
I am not saying people who choose low paying degrees aren’t successful – far from it. Many people choose degrees based on what makes them happy, and it is easy to admire someone who chooses happiness over wealth.
The truth many people aren’t willing to admit is you don’t need a college degree to be successful. But you do need an education, along with a desire to continue to learn, work hard, and adapt.
You Need an Education and You Need Marketable Skills
An education is different from a degree. An education can be formal, informal, self-directed, on the job training, professional licenses and certifications, or any other form of education.
There are hundreds of careers which don’t require a degree. And they all share one thing in common: They require results, and in many cases, require years of hard work and study to achieve success.
It’s easy to discount athletes, musicians, actors, and others who don’t go through a traditional four year degree program. But the amount of hard work, training, practice, and study they go through to achieve their success often equals or far exceeds the amount of effort put into an average 4 year degree. But let’s look beyond those careers, which are far too rare to be a practical vocation for most people to aspire to.
A more realistic example. I’ll use a friend of mine as an example. He is in his 40’s and is by most measures, a successful man. How successful? He brings in a quarter million a year as a small business owner.
“Oh, one of those…”
Yes, one of those. Want to know what he does? It’s not sexy, but it’s a great career. He is an electrician… or, I should say he owns a small business focusing on residential and small commercial electric installation and repair jobs. He built his business from the ground up in a manner that almost anyone can do if they want to. His story is along the lines of the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race. It just takes time, hard work, and a continuing desire to learn and improve.
He started as an electrician’s apprentice out of high school, achieved his license, and eventually started his own business. He now employs a couple people who are following in his footsteps. The best part is his job will never go away. People will always need electricians. And plumbers, and landscapers, and mechanics, and dozens of other jobs which don’t require a degree. But these jobs require an education and hard work. These folks have marketable skills and provide services people need. Many of these jobs also require licenses and certifications which require study and continuing education.
A College Degree is Beneficial, but Not Always Required
I am not against college degrees. I have one, and recommend college for many people. But some people are better off not going to college because it doesn’t align with their skills or career aspirations.
Success doesn’t rely on a piece of paper. And it shouldn’t. Success is the actions you take to achieve your dreams and goals in life. If that means attending college to receive a traditional 4 year degree, then awesome. And if that means doing on the job training and studying at night to get a license or certification, then that’s great too.
There is a lot of emphasis put on achieving a college degree, but it’s not the right choice for everyone. And it shouldn’t be. Choose the career path which makes you happy, work hard, continue to learn and provide value, and success will follow.
image credit: Our Lady of Disgrace