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The College Myth: A College Degree Insures Higher Income

Updated on April 6, 2012

Well, prior to the 1980's, it was true basically. Going to college and getting a degree usually meant earning more income than those who did not. As my dad use to say, "It's the ticket on the train". The train to higher income and prosperity. For those earning degrees back then it was true, but like many things, it is no longer the real case.

A long time it use to be that having a High School diploma meant something, as the baby boomers aged and became college educated, it use to mean that having a BA or BS degree in any field was that "ticket" on the train. That ticket still has some value of getting into an interview depending on the requirements. Of course, today, the colleges are flooded with those starting, those finishing and those graduated and trying to get a Masters.

The job market always has dictated requirements. When unemployment is low, it is a job searchers market and recruiters are hunting for qualified people, when it is high, like today, it is an employer market and they are picky. They want the most for less pay. They want skills you really don't need for the job because they actually want you to do more than one job.

A degree in many fields today means the same as a High School diploma to an employer-most of the applicants have it. The only sure fields for rapid progress are those in the medical, software and hardware engineering, and other related IT fields. Yet, you still are not guaranteed that higher income.

The student debt for colleges is near one trillion dollars. Many loans are not being paid. Many grads are not working in their areas. Spending $50000 for your child to graduate from UCLA with a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies is a waste generally. Ditto for psychology. Ditto to being a teacher. Ditto for history. Colleges offer too many degrees that may be interesting but will never provide prosperity.

The market in 2012 will remain bad. The fight for even low level jobs is fierce between a wide range of potential candidates-early 20's to 60's. Think about that. An unemployed parent of 50 may be competing for a job with their son or daughter, both need income. Both may be educated and qualified. That is where the word "discrimination" enters. That, subtle technique of saying, " it's just not a good fit", or, "we are a start-up". Those are code words for age discrimination.

Soon, the medical fields will be inundated with qualified people with degrees and from two-year programs. The medical field is one of the better bets, but even there, you face similar issues: many applicants for a few jobs and lower pay, even if you have a degree. Now, employers use the "bilingual" discrimination to weed out applicants. You may be the perfect candidate yet don't speak Spanish (usually). That job might go to someone with less skills but for being bilingual. Happens all the time. Software and Hardware engineers face their own competition but generally these degrees are MUCH safer bets.

Bottom line is that a college degree does not mean you will earn more than someone with or without a HS diploma. It varies depending on the degree and job market. Statistics saying that have a college degree means higher income is simply a myth. Spinning it on the law of averages. In the real world, experience usually beats education to an employer, depending on the field and job.This is most common in jobs in the middle to low areas of pay. With 12 million+ looking for work, any job to make money, to pay bills, there are many overly qualified people looking in those precise areas.


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    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Right. "Degree inflation". At the last place I worked, they started floating that phrase around, as in other corporations, to get everyone used to the idea. Upper management parrots the idea that masters degrees are the new bachelor degrees. With kids going into debt to get those degrees, companies will have an employee pool filled with people who can't afford to be out of work-- not that that would stop a company from disposing of anyone when the number crunchers come calling.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I like peoplepower73's comment on supply and demand, it's a true fact. I believe these days a master's degree is a must in seeking a higher income, but experience is priceless. If you couple these two together -- you have the makings for a very marketable person. It's sad that in today's world, regardless of degree or not, we are facing a bleak future in the pursuit of a career.

    • peoplepower73 profile image

      Mike Russo 

      6 years ago from Placentia California

      It's a matter of supply and demand. They don't pay for knowledge unless your knowledge is in demand. They do pay for what is in demand. I was a technical writer for 30 plus years. I just received an email from an agency called Pro-Edit and they have openings for 16 people in the technical communications field across the country. Here is the link to their email if anybody is interested:

      By the way, I have some college, but I don't have a degree, but what I do have is a heavy technical background. I was able to earn a comfortable living and stay employed through out my career. Thanks for SHARING, voted up and useful.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Great comments and insights. I know many with degrees collecting dust.

    • kschang profile image


      6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      Education inflation. :) As more people get educated, the "minimum" standard is raised to fit the bell curve.

      Still, there are crucial skills needed, such as computers, Internet, keyboard, and so on, as well as normal critical thinking and problem solving skills. Some of these can be taught, some must be learned.

    • flacoinohio profile image


      6 years ago from Ohio

      I agree, my degree is worthless without a masters degree with independent licensure. Most jobs within my area of expertise only required an associates degree and some common sense three years ago. Today everyone has to be a masters degree or higher for a job that a highschool student can do with a few months training. On another note, when I worked at the University of Akron I watched people sign up for classes, collect refund money after getting the maximum loan money they could receive from a government loan and within a week or so would drop all or most of their classes to get a full tuition refund. They would do this until they reached their loan cap, around $53K. It takes about two, two and a half years to use the maximum allowance. Then the person has a six months to a year grace period after they stop taking classes through the use of deferments before they have to start repaying their school loan debts. Allowing acccess to education loans without a grade requirement and paying refunds to the student directly is part of the reason that trillion dollars in education loan debt will not be repaid.


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