The vast majority of people have been told throughout their childhood that earning a college degree and education in general is the key to a good, rewarding life. Your parents have probably told you how the most important thing was to study constantly and earn good marks so that you could later enjoy your life.
This concept is deeply embroidered into our brains, as well as the brains of our parents and grandparents. After all, back in the day, college degrees meant a lot. That is, it seems like they were more valuable than they are now.
However, there have been some important changes in the recent decade. The cost of attending a college is continually rising and innovations across various industries outweigh the relevance of academic education, which is making everyone doubt the old concept.
So, have the tables turned? Or is education still more important than experience in today’s world?
Why you should attend a college
Let’s just say that you aren’t making a wrong decision no matter what you choose from the two options. However, each option brings with it its specific pros and cons.
Obviously, a college (four-year education) with a good reputation can bring you a number of opportunities. Decent colleges have career fairs where many employers come to take a look at talented students. Of course, students visit these fairs to see what the future holds for them.
Additionally, most colleges have alumni networks and these networks, along with valuable social connections, can help out a student when it comes to employment.
On the other hand, choosing a college that is not reputable, a college that no one has heard of, or even acquiring a degree that is almost obsolete, can really leave you with detrimental effects.
The truth is that more and more people can get a college degree nowadays, so you have to find a way to stand out from the crowd. And, this can happen only when you earn a specific degree that not many people earn or acquire certain skills that not many possess.
Why you should attend a vocational/certification program
Contrary to university education, attending a two-year vocational school or certification program makes you focus on a specific skill set. It is a narrowly defined education which is the exact opposite of all-round college education.
Logically, this kind of education is cheaper than a college education. For instance, the average trade school degree costs around $33,000, but a bachelor’s degree would most certainly set you back for at least around $132,000. Yes, the difference in costs is hefty.
Something to keep in mind is that nowadays employers want relevant experience. So, if you start working right away after high school or attend a vocational school, you will earn valuable experience.
This relevant experience can come from a combination of knowledge acquired during a two-year school program and work, or you can start right after high school and amass 4 to 6 years of experience.
In the end, it all comes down to how your experience is related to the job you are looking for. Yes, it is possible to work and study at the same time, but in most cases, it is really difficult. However, if you succeed, you will have both the necessary experience and education.
Obviously, combining both is a sure way to stand out.
Option 1: The college way (the traditional path)
Let’s try to depict a path a young adult takes upon deciding to attend a college.
A young person graduates from high school and decides to attend college to pursue a four-year BA degree. The obvious benefits here are that he or she will have a chance to get a wide-ranging education.
However, there will be less focus on specific careers. Therefore, it would be wise to invest more effort and time into certain subjects over the course of these four years.
Considering that college tuition is only getting more expensive, one has to be prepared before enrolling. That is, a certain budget plan has to be set up if the aim is to successfully complete and pay off the tuition. Many, however, turn to student loans that they pay off after they get a degree.
In defense of college education, a college student always has numerous internship opportunities available. Their purpose is to acquire valuable experience, and many employers prefer candidates who have earned experience through internships.
After college, a graduate enters the job market looking for work. If the attended college is a reputable one, there is no doubt that many good opportunities are waiting. Unfortunately, there is a danger of variable degree value.
Bachelor’s degrees with the highest unemployment rate include:
- studio arts
- human services
- fine arts
- clinical psychology
Finally, many graduates face the same big problem after college. They have to pay back student loans that oftentimes amount to more than $40,000.
To be precise, an average student loan debt for college graduates stands at around $37,000.
Option 2: Experience (the skills-over-education way)
The logical path of a person who chooses to acquire skills and experience after graduating from high school is pretty straightforward.
Following the end of high school, one can either attend a two-year program or start looking for apprenticeships right away. This is great in the sense that focusing on specific applications is possible right away.
But, as it was mentioned earlier, this kind of path forces a person to acquire a narrowly defined education. Of course, this path is way cheaper since the average cost of vocational school stands at around $33,000.
When it comes to internships, everyone who takes this path has to look for their own opportunities. There are no fairs of placement networks available in this case.
Now, after two years of hands-on work (or training), it is time to enter the job market. This is better compared to the traditional path due to the shorter matriculation. And to make this path even better, a lot of employers look for technical skills on a candidate’s resume.
Landing the first job may be difficult, but the money starts coming in right away.
Industries that value specific skills over credentials include:
- computer support
- data analysis
- digital marketing
- multimedia art
- web development
- information technology
And there’s one big thing – there are no loan debts to pay off. A person taking this path can focus on life’s other demands, which is a clear advantage compared to the traditional way.
There is no doubt that both education and specific skills have their own perks. And, there is also no doubt that no matter which path you take, further professional development is crucial if you want to advance your career.
The skills and knowledge you have may be enough at the moment, but you should never stop developing.
The bottom line is that choosing a formal degree is more expensive, but it comes with certain benefits such as networking. On the other hand, focusing on hands-on experience can lead to more specific opportunities and it offers freedom from student debt.
But keep in mind that, regardless of your choice, you need to continue educating yourself to advance your career.
For more detailed information about college degrees click here.
For more detailed information about skills vs credentials click here.