There’s a lot of conflicting advice about whether going to college is necessary for success. Some people contend you must go to college, while others say you can be successful without earning a college degree. Honestly, both answers are true and it depends on the person and their goals. There have been people on both sides of the equation – those who’ve reached success with a college degree and those who’ve done it without.
Obviously, getting a college degree isn’t the only option, and you don’t usually need a college degree. There are several alternatives to getting a college degree, including going to the military, going straight into the workforce, over starting your own business. But as you think about your options outside going to college, you may realize that your success is tied to getting a college degree. Here are some situations when getting a college degree is necessary.
When you want to go to graduate school.
If you have dreams of going to graduate school – like business school, medical school, law school, etc. – you’ll have to get a college degree. I did a quick search at some graduate school program and didn’t find one that will accept your admission application if you haven’t earned or aren’t currently earning a Bachelor’s degree. It makes sense because a graduate degree builds on education you’ve already received at another, lower-level college. Though you may have life experience that trumps what you learn in a school, admission’s counselors need to see that degree.
To pursue a professional career.
Take a look through job listings at an online job board like CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com and you’ll see that most of them require a college degree. It’s true that a college degree is a prerequisite for many jobs, but you may be able to have that requirement waived if you can make up for not having a degree with something else, like work experience. But, that’s more of an exception rather than a rule. In general, if a job listing says you need to have a degree you’ll need to have a degree to be considered for the position.
If you’re debating about whether to get a degree, start thinking about what type of career you’d like to have. Look at some job listings that fall in that career and talk to some professionals who work in that field to get a feel for whether you need a degree to succeed.
To get a promotion.
In certain fields, advancement is tied to your level of education. You may be able to get your foot in the door without a college degree, but you might not be able to reach the top positions without one. Or, even if you have a Bachelor’s degree, you might need a Master’s to advance in that career field. Just like with getting into certain professional jobs, there may be some exceptions for employees with exceptional performance. But, if you decide to go into a field that requires a degree for a promotion, you have to accept that you may not advance without one even if you have a history of excellent performance.
To have a greater chance of financial security.
Statistics show that workers with a college degree earn more than those works who only have a high school diploma. Studies show that the average college graduate earns $1 million more than a high school graduate.
Simply having a college degree isn’t a 100% guarantee that you’ll always be financial stable, but you have an increased chance of earning a higher salary than if you didn’t have a degree at tall. Similarly, not having a college degree doesn’t mean you can’t earn just as much as (and even more than) someone who does have a degree.
Some of the nation’s richest business people don’t have a degree, like Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Inc., Michael Dell who started Dell Inc., and Milton Hershey. Keep in mind, most of these people had a unique business idea and worked hard to achieve their wealth.
When going to college defines success for you.
Everyone has their own definition of success. For you, going to college might be necessary to reach the success you desire in life. Society has taught us that we must have a college degree to have the ultimate success in life, but that’s not always true. Before you stake your future on going to college, make sure you realize the cost of a college education, the alternatives available, and the fact that you can be successful without a college degree.
Making it without a college degree.
Everyone’s road to success is different. Yours might need a college degree or, it might not. To figure out whether you must have a degree, you should first figure out where you ultimately want to be. Then, decide if it’s possible to get there without a college degree. If the answer’s yes, then there you have it, you need a college degree.
But, if you find that you don’t have to have a college degree to reach your goals, decide whether you’re willing to take the risk and do the work that’s necessary to get where you want to be without taking the college path.
To learn more about college, education and paying for your degree, check out the rest of the articles in our series How to Pay for College.