The Need for a College Degree

, 2009-08-24

I'm reading through Brad McGehee's How to Be an Exceptional DBA and in chapter 4 he talks about having the right skill set. Brad starts right out of the gate talking about formal education. To be a DBA breaking in may be more difficult without a computer-related four year degree, but it can be done. One of the things Brad talks about is that he knows quite a few DBAs who don't have a traditional computer science or information technology degree. I'm one of those. My degrees are in physics and mathematics. And while that may be considered closer than say anthropology or theology, the fact of the matter is that even a computer science degree doesn't strictly prepare one to be DBA.

However, the facts don't lie. Statistics published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the trend is towards more jobs requiring at least a four year college degree. As a junior high youth minister, these types of facts are of interest to me, because one of the things I want to make sure of is that my junior high schoolers know this sort of information so they'll be able to make good choices in high school and hopefully later on in college. If you look at the bottom of page 4, you can see that while the education cluster of "some college" doesn't change in projections from 2006 to 2016, the other two categories do. The number of jobs for high school graduates or less is expected to drop by 1.1% and that number ends up going to bachelor's degree or above. When you consider new jobs as well, though, it swings a bit more in favor of the college degree.

Then I weigh in the experience some of my colleagues without a college degree have had. In a couple of cases, they weren't hired because they missed that "checklist" item. In a couple of other cases, while they were gainfully employed, they were offered a smaller salary because they didn't have the degree. I know of one case where the difference was several thousand dollars a year. So putting these types of situations together with the projections, what can we say? Well, we can't say that you have to have a degree. But what we can say is that if you don't have a degree, it'll be harder, simply because it'll be harder in general. And even if one does get the job, not having the degree may cost one a tangible amount in actual salary.

So if you don't have a four year degree, should you care? I look at a degree much like I do certification: having it can help, but not having it doesn't automatically mean you fail. With that said, I know a couple of friends who, in their thirties, have embarked on the quest to complete their bachelor's degree. While they may be very good at what they do, they want the degree. It may not be for the job. It may be completely for them, to say they accomplished it. And I think that's a better attitude than believing you have to have the degree. If you're doing it for you, the classes mean more to you and you put more into them. When you're just trying to get through them to get the sheepskin, then you do enough to get the grade you want, but the class itself isn't very meaningful. I learned that especially as a dual major once I chose to take coursework outside of my majors. These were classes I wanted to take because I was interested in the subject, not classes I was required to take to complete one of my majors. And I found that I was more willing to put in the time to learn the material. Case in point: I think my favorite class after four years of college was abnormal psychology. Closely on its heels was cognitive psychology. Neither of those were required for graduation. So I lean more towards they why. Why are you doing it? That should be taken into serious consideration before beginning the journey to complete a college degree, whether at the bachelor's level or higher.






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