When you graduate from high school, you encounter the proverbial fork in the road. Go to college and pursue an advanced degree or move straight into the work force? For those who choose to go to college, your chosen field of study can say a tremendous amount about who you are and your outlook on life. For myself personally, I am a firm believer that any degree field should have an ROI (that’s return on investment for those of you not in business!). Let’s face it, college is extremely expensive these days. It places a large financial burden on both you and your parents. I highly doubt any parents want to spend $70-$80K for a college education and have their child study Western Civilization only to move back home and work in a coffee shop (although I hear Starbucks has great benefits!). I’m not saying everyone has to be a doctor or lawyer, I’m merely saying that your field of study should at least mirror your life’s aspirations. Because of my business background (thank you USC-Upstate), I have a hard time investing money into something that doesn’t pay a dividend, much less pay for itself at least.
There are non-traditional degrees as well. These typically include associate’s degrees along with specialized certifications. As a Technical and Engineering Recruiter, I routinely encounter candidates from both the traditional bachelor’s degree path as well as the more non-traditional associate’s degree path. Obviously the traditional degree holders are your engineering and management candidates. Those with associate degrees are typically CNC/CMM programmers, mechanical drafters, and designers. These are all highly specialized and sophisticated career fields. I’m not here to say that one path is better than the other, but I have always been impressed with the degree of knowledge/expertise that comes from some of our technical/vocational schools in the area. These candidates typically are currently working while going to school in the evening and possess a very strong work ethic. These people are taken very seriously and are admired by hiring managers. The same rings true with engineering candidates. Several universities across the Southeastern U.S. yield some of the very best engineering talent in the country, if not the world.
What does this say about people in the work force who do not hold a degree? From an early age, most of us were taught that you have to have a college degree to enjoy success and financial gains, yet many people continue to grow and thrive in the U.S. workforce without a degree. According to an article in Forbes, 68% of Americans 25 or older do not have a bachelor’s degree. Some of these include very powerful business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Mary Kay Ash, Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Rachael Ray, and Steve Jobs – just to name a few. So why is it that these individuals were able to thrive without any form of advanced degree? It can be argued that these people all started their own businesses and didn’t need degrees since they were entrepreneurs. Qualities they all possess include innovation, drive, and creativity to make their individual businesses successful. As someone that works with numerous companies across several industries, I’m starting to notice a trend. While companies publicly require a college degree, I believe that they secretly desire experience instead. Having both seals the deal!
Written by: Chad Hardin, Technical Recruiter