A Worthless Degree …

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With all of the talk by the New York Times about how rough it is for those with a degree attempting to be a lawyer, business school graduates, and now film school graduates to get work one has to wonder if any degree is worth obtaining.  What one has to remember, is that it is not the degree that makes the individual, is their resolve and determination to get ahead that sets them aside from the rest of the pack, and what makes them employable.  Too often those who did not finish school, like myself, want to tell everyone not to finish school.  But my path is different than that of the usual college student. 

I was into writing while I was trying to finish up a computer science degree.  Since my heart was not in computer science, I should have went ahead and got a degree in journalism so at the very least I could have gotten a low paying job at a television station and worked my way ahead.  Instead I ended up dropping out of school, out of boredom, and out of frustration over math classes I was having trouble finishing, and still ended up in low paying jobs. 

This is how it works.  You go to school and you pay anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a hundred thousand dollars or more to get your education.  You are looking to get a job in your field, and you think you’re special until you realize that twenty thousand other applicants have the exact same degree that you have.  You think that you are worth at least a fraction of what you paid for your education, but you’re not.  You do not want to run errands and work the copier machine, but if you do not have any skills and do not know anything coming out of college, that is exactly what you are going to end up doing.

So you end up taking a job that pays $25,000 a year because it is better than working at McDonald’s.  But you aren’t making that much more than the kids who work there do.  I may have been around a bit longer than some of you graduates have.  If you can get paid a lot of money to make coffee or run the copier machine go ahead and take that job.  Get in on the bottom floor and work your way up.  My own generation that graduated back in the nineties; the entitlement of being a college graduate and getting that comfortable job where you do not have to work with the public and can be a loner ended with us.  Anyone that has graduated over the last decade or so has had to work their butts off to get ahead.  People are not paying high salaries like they used to, and you do not work for your employer, you work for yourself.  On paper, you may work for that employer, but in reality you are a contractor and you need to make your next move carefully, because that can be the difference between another $5,000 in pay, or mediocrity.

Graduates today will not have the comfortable retirement plans and will not have the perks and privileges that used to come with a college education.  The degrees they have are glorified high school diplomas.  If you are not going to go to school you need to invest the four years you would have spent on your education on a plan to put into action.  Do not waste those four years working at Kinko’s, figure out what you are going to do with your life and get on with it already.  I am 38 years old and am still sort of meandering around trying to figure things out.  I had a lot of jobs, some easy, some difficult, that I squandered.  Even though I did not get the diploma, I could have been in a much, much, much better position than I am in now.

The floor dropped and the rug was pulled out from underneath me and I found out the hard way that the nineties are over and the money is scarce.  I fell hard, and I fell for a minute.  If you can afford a degree, if you can work hard and get someone else to pay for that degree by all means go ahead and do so.  If you have to take out loans you should realize that there is a very strong possibly that you will die with those loans unless you want to live far, far, below your means to pay them off.  This means you may have to stay at home for another 15 years, so take into consideration whether you and your parents can stand to be at other’s throat for that long. 

School is expensive, and it is a luxury, not a right, in America.  It isn’t a pair of designer jeans, and it isn’t a fancy automobile, it is tens of thousands of dollars, and it may be hundreds of thousands of dollars for a kid that is born this year by the time they graduate high school just to attend a public school that no one cares about.  Some people get lucky and they come into several thousand dollars while they are in school and they drop out and start a business.  The chances of that happening to you are like a million to one.  For every Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates there are like 50 million technical support representatives working for 15 dollars an hour.  It isn’t nice, and it isn’t pretty, but you should be prepared for what to expect.  If you want to be a computer scientist, then be a computer scientist; develop new programming languages, write code extensively develop a new process or way of doing things.  No one cares that you are a computer scientist, because there are 5th graders that write computer programs. 

The problem is not the degree, the problem is not the cost of the degree the problem is that America does not develop the initiative, resolve, and determination in her students to get ahead.  They go out into the workforce, they cannot get a job so they get depressed and slit their wrists and hang themselves from a ceiling fan.  College is meant to prepare you for life, not just for employment.  If you cannot get a job then you had better find a way to create one for yourself.  You have to ask yourself why you spent $50,000 to go to parties hosted by fraternities, sororities, and secret societies when you could have learned something.  Then you find yourself networking with people, but you cannot honestly do anything for those people, it is a sad sight indeed …


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