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Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

Is it better to skip college in favor of getting a job and working up?

Asked by Aesthetic_Mess (7857 points ) February 6th, 2012

Through what I’ve heard and seen thus far in my life, it does seem like experience is valued more than a degree.
I’m questioning whether to go to college for a skill like engineering or analyzing in terms of markets, finance, etc. Some people have told me that the degree or “piece of paper” won’t mean anything and won’t guarantee a job which I do know.
Is it better to just get a job out of high school as an assistant or something and work your way up?
I’m kind of at a loss

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14 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

People with degrees get paid more. They make significantly more than those without degrees. Each more advanced degree is worth even more in terms of annual salary. Over the course of a lifetime, a degree can add a million dollars or more to life time earnings. This is on average. Which means that there are individual cases where a person does well without a degree. But on average, people with degrees make significantly more.

Judi's avatar

Most entry level jobs that pay more than minimum wage require a degree.
It took me 20 years of working to finally make what I could have made directly out of college. I wish I would have had the patience to finish when I was young.
Not to mention that now, I would like to have the knowledge. I remember thinking when I hated college, “My mom would love this.” Now I would love it too.

lemming's avatar

It’s very easy to get stuck half way up the ladder…I think college is the safest and probably the easiest option too, usually.

digitalimpression's avatar

College is the best route… and I might add that those who take college seriously and complete it are far better off than the “Van Wilder” types.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I would disagree that each advanced degree adds more to your salary, but you should at least get an undergraduate degree. It will absolutely improve your salary (if not your employment chances), and you would be surprised at how it opens your mind about all kinds of things. Just the experience of meeting so many people from different backgrounds will change the person you are.

marinelife's avatar

People who have degrees earn more than people who don’t. You could find yourself working for someone with much less experience that you have who was promoted or hired over you because they had a degree.

It is not a good idea to skip college.

BosM's avatar

Much depends on what you want to do, but, in general those who complete college have roughly twice the lifetime earnings capacity of those who do not. According to the study,

” .... individuals with a bachelor’s degree now make 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with only a high school diploma, up from 75 percent in 1999. Today, bachelor’s degree holders can expect median lifetime earnings approaching $2.3 million. By comparison, workers with just a high school diploma average roughly $1.3 million,...”

Check out this article, it will help you work through this. Good Luck!

http://www.luminafoundation.org/newsroom/news_releases/2011-08-05.html

Esedess's avatar

1st) Just let me say, I’m not a very scholastic person. That doesn’t mean I’m unintelligent, or that I can’t do school. I’ve just always wanted to be out in the real world instead of a classroom. It took me a long time to realize it, but school just isn’t for everyone.

2nd) My mentality is that when you’ve worked your way up from the bottom, you are more qualified and deserving of whatever greatness you can achieve; when compared to those who substituted the hardships/experience of the climb up, for a book.

Since I know that 2nd one is going to stir up a lot of controversy left to itself, I’ll elaborate that point a little.
Without a degree, I do engineering work right now. I sit next to a guy my age, who also does engineering, but has a degree. The difference between us, is that while we both know how to engineer something, he doesn’t understand what tools and processes will be used for fabrication (which affects design), how long it should actually take to build, why certain design features are just too difficult or impossible to satisfy despite theory, or any of the positions surrounding/supporting his own. That is the difference between actually working through every area of manufacturing to arrive at engineering, and taking classes to arrive there.
___________________________________________________________________

That being said…
I’ve worked my way up and I’m making good money doing engineering work right now, without a degree. Not only that, but my work is constantly teaching me new skills through one-on-one training, seminars, and paying for classes when I want them to. Mind you, I had to work my way up over about 6–8 years. I started at the bottom position of a machine shop when I was about 16–17. 3.5 years later I was making enough to be out on my own stably (no roommates). 5 years after that 1st job I was making “good” money. And now I’m making more than all my fiends (but still not “a lot” in the grand scheme), however I’m only 25 and there’s still lots of room to advance.

Meanwhile, my friends with a degree, who have managed to find a job, are just now making about what I was 3ish years ago. But the list of friends with a degree and a good job is short. The majority of them are still living at home with their student bills, and can’t find a job period, let alone one making much more than what I was in my very 1st entry level position. It seems to me, that in the end, they’re going to have to work their way up just like I did anyways. If they get lucky, their degree will help them take 1 or 2 steps up the ladder from the get go, but that still puts them working up to a higher position from below where mine is now.

Lack of experience is a complete hindrance; no questions asked. Unless you’re going into the medical field, no resume looks good when you have JUST school on it. However, on the other hand, a resume with lots of pertinent experience and some or even no schooling still looks good in-and-of-itself… Ironically, I actually attribute my luck with finding and getting the good jobs I’ve had, to NOT having a degree. With the recent economy, companies seem much more appt to pay me less (although it’s still a lot as far as I’m concerned) than to fork out more for someone with less experience and a piece of paper.

Don’t get me wrong here… I see the value in a degree… However I think there is more value in experience. If I were a hiring manager, I would take someone with experience over a degree any day! Where I work now (SAIC), my boss, a lot of the electrical/mechanical/software/manufacturing engineers, and everyone in sales and purchasing don’t have degrees, and their all making good money (at least as much as my parents who both have masters degrees).

In terms of GETTING a job:
No one will question you when you tell them “I know I’m qualified because I’ve been doing this for years”. Everyone will question you when you tell them, “I know I’m qualified because I have a degree.”

To give you a straight answer…
My advice is to either, get your degree while you’re working in a pertinent field (entry level or otherwise); or, to get your degree after you’ve established some legitimate experience. That’s just how its worked out best for me.
Mind you, if you take the route of experience, there will come a time where you feel like you’re making sh*t and all anyone cares about is that stupid piece of paper. I was firmly set in that mindset for a few years… but thankfully I was proven wrong, and it all paid off. If you can work hard and stick it out experience will get you where you want to go.

JaneraSolomon's avatar

The real questions are 1) What do you really want to do, and 2) What is the most expedient way to get the skills to pursue what you really want to do? If you have no clue, you will be wasting your time and money in college. If you have a burning desire to become a lawyer, you MUST go through college to get there. On the other hand, if you really want to spend the rest of your life assembling HVAC ductwork, a Masters degree in philosophy will only slow you down.

Jeruba's avatar

Take a look at the starting salaries in the fields you’re interested in. Assuming regular promotions and raises—which is a pretty big assumption right now when layoffs are likelier than raises—would it take you more than four years to work your way up to the starting salary for a degreed person? Could you even get the same level of job at all without a degree? Seems like there’s your answer.

We do hear of whiz kids who get hired straight out of school—or even before they finish school—at some high-tech magic factory such as those in my part of the country (Silicon Valley). They may do better at first. But they will get left behind if they don’t have transferable skills or know how to do more than one thing. If they start work as a virtual juvenile they may never acquire management skills on their own—may not even be cut out for the task of overseeing others. And that’s the normal promotional path: people management and project management.

Even more important, in my opinion: they will have some amount of process knowledge but not knowledge for their lives—content knowledge, knowledge with substance, knowledge that teaches them how to live and gives them an inner life not dependent on the fortunes of the job marketplace. This is worth a lot more than a few years’ head start at wage earning.

GladysMensch's avatar

What do you want to do with your life? What kinds of careers interest you? Do those careers require a Bachelors degree or an Associates? Does your career require technical skills? Perhaps a technical college? In other words, figure out what you want to do, and then figure out what you need to do it.

There is much to be learned by attending University and doing the whole dorm thing and living on your own. However, that is an expensive exercise these days. Most people are leaving college with $20K+ in debt. That’s going to take a long time to pay off. I would advise against it, unless, or course, your career choice requires a Bachelors. If you choose a field which requires an Associates, then get that and get to work. You can always finish your Bachelors while working.

YARNLADY's avatar

No. The only time that works is when you come up with a really great idea that can make your company lots of money, or you are working in a family business where you will eventually become the owner. Even then the more education you have, the more valuable you will be as a worker.

auhsojsa's avatar

No no no no, unless you’re going to start your own business. Don’t do it. Go to college. I heard one too many stories where the HR department people would heckle, and chuckle at resumes with no college degree. They would just throw the resumes out the window.

ftp901's avatar

In my personal experience, things will be much easier for you if you have a degree. It will be very difficult to get a good wage without it.

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