Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Does College Make Sense Anymore?

Do you think it's necessary to go to college to be a success and find a good job? College dropouts like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates would say differently, of course, but not everyone is cut out to be a whiz-bang entrepreneur.

If you just want to be employed by a good employer earning a decent paycheck and have some job security, do you have to go to college?

I think this often depends on who you ask. I decided to talk to someone who has been in the academic world about whether a college education makes sense anymore. I think you'll find what she says interesting. Here's the column I did for Gannett/USAToday....

It's often every parent's dream that a child go to college.

But as more young people graduate with degrees from four-year higher education institutions and can't find jobs, it may be a good time to rethink the idea that college is the only way to be happy and succeed, a former college professor says.

Amanda Krauss is a former Vanderbilt University assistant professor who taught cultural history, humor theory and Latin. As college educations often put students or their families in debt to the tune of $80,000 or more, she says it's worth considering other avenues for high school graduates.

  • That's especially true when a student isn't sure what profession he or she wants to pursue, she argues.

"There's nothing wrong with kicking around for a couple of years to decide what you want to do instead of spending all that money with no idea of what you want to do," she says.

Krauss taught her last class in 2010. Since then, she has become a Web developer and says she is happier than when she was a professor, often working 100-hour weeks and juggling many stressful demands. She says she remains supportive of her former colleagues and the work they do.

However, that doesn't mean she doesn't see room for improvement. For example, she says too many business classes rely on teaching theories, which doesn't provide any practical experience to attract an employer to a

any practical experience to attract an employer to a student upon graduation.

She sees no reason more professors can't lend a hand toward developing "real-world learning" that will help more students in the job market, such as asking them to develop portfolios of work that can be shown to employers.

"Personally, I'd be far more interested in hiring someone who shows me the website they made for a class on 19th-century Parisian poets," she says. "If nothing else, any professor can ask a student to do something that helps the person develop good presentation skills."

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that professional and business unemployment remains higher than manufacturing. Some employers are clamoring for skilled labor such as machinists and welders, especially as older workers with such skills retire and no one is available to take their places.

But young people often don't think to pursue trade or vocational schools, and parents may remain stubbornly affixed to the notion that a child must attend college for a professional degree to get a good job.

While more jobs do require college degrees, Krauss says other options exist to gain needed skills and education.

Do you think college is necessary to get a good job?



new supervisor training charlotte said...

Interesting article. I think it some professions education is most important, and in some industries experience is. Thanks for sharing!

Susan said...

It seems to me that as long as major companies keep demanding college graduates, then a college degree remains necessary. There are other good jobs that don't require college degrees, though.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on Susan. As well,college isn't just about getting a job. It's just as much about follow-through, tenacity, learning, building friendships, obtaining life skills.
That said, I still find myself loathing the emphasis so many employers put on having a degree. My degree doesn't even fit 94% of the jobs I've ever had. Instead I learned ON THE JOB without carrying a whole lotta info from college. OY.

Helping You Hire said...

As an executive recruiter, I believe that there are definitely some professions in which education is important; however, I do come across some positions where a degree is not needed. It really depends on the employee/company, but most prefer candidates to at least have a college degree (sometimes it may not even have to be in a related field). Nonetheless, it apparent to me that more education correlates with higher paying jobs.