How Valuable Is That Degree?

Posted on August 8, 2011 by


From the Atlantic:

“Do police officers really need a four-year degree to do their job well? How about plumbers? Certainly, that course in Italian literature won’t do either much good. Neither will that anthropology class. Heck, even basic high school writing and math skills will probably be more than they’ll ever need on-the-job.

But let’s push this analysis further. What about more academic-oriented careers? Don’t Wall Street bankers need college-level math? Don’t journalists need an immersion in college-level writing? Even here, college probably isn’t necessary. Few on Wall Street ever use math deeper than what they learned in high school algebra. And if you have adequate high school writing instruction, then news writing style is easily adopted on-the-job as a journalist.

To be sure, there are some trades where a college-level education is necessary. Engineering comes to mind. Some graduate-level degrees are also likely necessary, in careers like law and medicine. But most college majors have little applicability in the workforce.”

Of course, the answer is that college degrees are valuable because employers desire applicants with college degrees. However, as this Atlantic article notes, this is really just lazy hiring practice by HR people not willing to look deeper. Where will this trend lead? (if the education bubble doesn’t soon burst):

“…a college degree has become a proxy for determining whether a job applicant has a minimum level of intelligence necessary to perform a job. But with many private college educations exceeding $120,000 these days, that’s a pretty expensive means for identifying adequate intelligence.

Unfortunately, this may describe all a college degree has become. There was a time when a high school degree served this purpose. But when high school standards declined and college became more popular, some applicants stood out above others as being more educated and potentially smarter than those with only a high school diploma. If the trend keeps up, however, a time will come when a college degree isn’t enough either: masters degrees will be commonly sought, as the value of college degrees fall to be worth as little high school degrees are today, since so many applicants will have them. If this trend keeps up forever, perhaps we’ll one day have locksmiths with PhD’s.”

h/t: Sheila

Posted in: Education