Reimagine Your Future

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  • March 13, 2019

As I was scrolling down my Facebook feed recently, I came across this article and the title was alarming; “I have a Bachelor’s degree and I still work 4 jobs to make ends meet”. Wait, this can’t be right… A bachelor’s degree means you are successful, you made it, and you are guaranteed a high paying job, right? In reality, those assumptions may not be true. This author, a woman with a bachelor’s degree, goes on to describe her story of how she went from pointless job to pointless job. Her story, this story, has a very familiar theme that we are seeing more and more in our society. Here is a quote from the article that is telling of the experience many are going through, “My degree sits mainly untouched and forgotten since I earned it in 2010. It’s hardly the topic of any conversation and it’s certainly not a point of pride.” That says a lot to the value of the time spent achieving this degree. And so it poses the question, is a 4-year degree worth it?

The 4-year option

Okay, let me play devil’s advocate for a second. You a have a few options straight out of high school, a 2-year degree, 4-year degree, employment, take a gap year (for people who can afford it) and there is also trade school. Let’s say you take the traditional route and get yourself a 6-year… whoops, I mean a 4-year degree. Okay, now you have your degree and you’re ready to take on the world! You apply for jobs, full of hope and confident you will land a job. But the job never comes, you are consistently met with “not enough experience” or “we’re looking for someone with 2-3 years with experience”. Of course, the commonly felt counter-argument is, “well, I need someone to give me the experience to get experience”. Meanwhile, those student loans are starting to kick in and that Caribou Coffee gig is no longer a viable income. What do you do? You do like many recent college graduates do, move back home. Not exactly the game plan.

The problem with a 4-year college is that it’s been sold as the dream since day one, “go to college, make something of yourself”. But in a job environment saturated with bachelor’s degree holders without job experience or a market for their skills, is this always true? In fact, the Institute of Education Statistics estimates that 40% of attendees at a four-year college drop out before completing their degree. If you find yourself part of that 40 percent, not only have you incurred some of the expense of college, but you left without receiving a degree. For the 60 percent that do complete their degree, a whopping 64 percent take longer than four years to graduate, costing themselves nearly $70,000 in lost wages and educational expenses per year, according to U.S. News. So I’ll ask the question again, is this path always worth it?

Trade School

The 2-year option

There is the 2-year degree route as well. There are many high paying jobs that only require a 2-year degree. Fun fact: Summit Academy offers training for some traditionally acknowledged 2-year degree jobs. Yet, our training is only 20 weeks and will cost you nothing out-of-pocket. There is an obvious cost benefit to a 2-year degree. Deciding on a 2-year degree over a 4-year degree will save you significant money in the long run. 

A potential downfall is falling in a trap commonly experienced with 4-year degree seekers: not knowing exactly what you want to do, taking basic elective courses to get into the program of choice (which increases school time), or simply taking your “generals” with the sole intention of getting into a 4-year college.

Get a job

Who remembers this quote? “Craig go out today and look for a job, the word today is job, J-O-B”. One of the more famous lines from the 1995 film, Friday. But those words still hold true today for some parents. When college doesn’t work out or the child doesn’t want to go to school, all that’s left is finding a job. Afterall, a job is better than watching Netflix all day. A pro here is the instant income to put some money in your pocket. However, the income can vary greatly; it all depends on the industry and one’s skill level. But there is the obvious downfall: without an employable skill, the odds may not be looking good in the long run. You are probably looking at retail, factory, or hospitality work. Let me be the first to say there is nothing wrong with these choices: I gave the hospitality field 8 years of my life. But the problem here is that these jobs are just that — jobs — there are no clear career trajectories.

With automation becoming more and more of a factor these days, the future does not bode well for the sustainability of these jobs. So I ask the question again, is it worth it? Does getting a job straight from high school make sense?

Vocational training

What if I told you that you could get a stable career in a shorter time than a 2-year or 4-year degree, at a fraction of the cost? Would you do it? If you said yes, then trade school, vocational school or a trade job is the route for you. In as little as 6 months (20 weeks at Summit Academy), you could be out the door in a skilled trade making a living. There are countless articles about the benefits of attending Trade School vs. College and this one is no different. If you want to start making money and have an actual skill that you can use, and you don’t want mountains of student debt, then the choice is obvious. It’s vocational training.

When it comes to salaries, trade school graduates aren’t making much less than traditional college counterparts. The median salary of entry-level positions of trade jobs is $35,720. Bachelor’s degree holders, when they begin working, only make around $11,000 more annually than those who received trade school diplomas, and that’s assuming they can even find a job in their chosen field. That may seem like a lot, but consider that every month they are paying an average of $200-$350, or around $3,000 annually, on their student loans. That brings the salary down rather quickly. Also, keep in mind that you, coming out of trade school, will be in the workforce an average of two years longer than traditional college students. You’ll be bringing home the bacon that much longer. So, on average, you’ll have made more than $75,000 before the person with the bachelor’s degree even starts job searching.

Final thoughts

This is just a small bit of info for you to think about. I also want you to think about the title of this blog, “I have a Bachelor’s degree and I still work 4 jobs to make ends meet”. Does that sound good to you? Is a 2-year degree or 4-year degree something one should strive for? Ultimately, base your decision on your particular situation and what is best for you. Before you make your final decision ask yourself, “Is this worth it?”


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