Is a college degree still worth it?

According to Money Magazine…

College costs are rising twice as fast as inflation and salaries for people with B.A.s are falling.

I know for myself, after finishing my degree, I decided to stay with the Fortune 500 company I was working with, assuming there would be a lot of opportunity for advancement. After a couple weeks of applying for internal jobs, the value of experience began to become very apparent to me. I had my degree, but most positions that would have been available to a recent college grad without experience had lower starting salaries than what I was getting without my degree.

The general nature of my Business Administration degree added to the challenge – I am sure. Regardless, it was the first time in my life that I asked myself if it was worth all the time, energy, and money (loans).

From the statistics I read, the averages still suggest that workers with degrees still earn considerably more than those who don’t have degrees.

What do you think? Has your degree been a worthwhile investment? Has not getting a degree been worth it?

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  1. PG

    I’m not sure about the Business Administration part, but a college degree is still worth it. I got my 4-yr B.S. in Engineering in 1986 and have not gone back to college after that. Yet, even now when I go for a job interview, I am asked questions about what I did and what I know and that is the experience factor. It seems no one even cared that I do not have a Masters or any certification in my field of software. The basic Bachelor’s is still a requirement though.

  2. bob

    It seems that for certain specific fields of study, it is not an option not to have one. I know in the business world the MBA seems to be carrying the weight that a BSBA carried a decade ago…

  3. G Holmes

    Good quesiton for discussion. I pursued a BS in Buisness and eventual CPA license as a road to riches. Not rich but do make a decent living. Pursing a degree based soley on monetary reasons will leave you empty regardless how much you make. Find someone working with a purpose and you will find a successful person regardless of how much they make or can make

    • Grace Spence

      I agree with you fully as long as you can live on what you make doing what you love and having a purpose. It is worth much more than gold.

  4. PT

    My degree, and probably more important, my college experience, at a State school, was most definitely worth. I love my student loan debt and consider college the greatest learning experience of my life. I would not do it any different…except maybe take more time and enjoy it even more.

    I got an accounting degree and enough grad level hours to sit for the CPA. Both have served me well and I would recommend Accounting to anyone who’s serious about getting a job right out of college and never worrying about layoffs, economy, etc.

    As for rising costs…I’m sure some of it is warranted. I just hate when they use private or elite East Coast schools as examples. I don’t feel sorry for people who complain about college costs and the job market that go to Holy Cross for a history degree. C’mon, wise up kids.

    • joe gofo

      i got fired, and i am a CPA. my job was outsourced ti India

  5. Matt

    I think it really depends on your field. In the design world (what I’m familiar with), your portfolio counts much much more than your degree does. If you’re good, you’re good school doesn’t matter, but this is a much more subjective/grey area sort of field.

    I’m not sure my degree was necessarily worth it. What I got out of school I think could have been condensed into two years of study and I would have come out about the same. It’s probably different for everyone though. Knowing what I know now I’d do it differently.

  6. bob

    This is turning into an interesting discussion – thanks to everyone for commenting… PT, and the others with (walk out of college and get a job degrees) it really seems to be a different thing when you have a broad or more generic degree. The upside is that it may be relevant to more jobs, putting you in the running for more, but the downside obviously is that the degree doesn’t make you a shoe-in for any job.

    I have had a similar experience – while I did work and learn in college and graduated with 3.7 GPA, I feel like the majority of my “valuable” knowledge has come from my learning after graduating. The books, seminars, magazines I read etc…

  7. Ferdinand

    My degree has absolutely been worth it. All I could find for work before I went to college were telemarketing and manual labor. I have much better quality jobs and better paychecks. I would be making more if I had experience, but I would be doing a lot worse without that degree.

  8. Sarah

    The subject that I majored in for my B.A. has not helped me in the least. My associate’s degree has been more useful. But because I have a degree at all has allowed me to start at a higher pay level at every job I have taken. Not a whole lot higher, but any bit helps, right? 🙂
    I think the EXPERIENCE you gain at college–interpersonal skills, listening skills, creativity, etc.–is worth much more than the actual degree. I am a different (and much better) person because of attending and finishing college. Now, this may be because I attended a small Christian college and had different kinds of experiences than some….but regardless, I would not trade my (5) 🙂 years of college for anything.

  9. Martin

    I think it depends on the field – in some areas, a degree is required, while in others, it’s not as much of a requirement.
    In engineering, there are many jobs that you cannot get without an engineering degree. That said, the actual experience that you have is more important than the degree when applying for jobs – but you still need the degree.

  10. bob

    From my experience, I agree with those comments that college is more about the skills developed than the info learned. Clearly that isn’t the case for many degrees – they actually take most of what they learn and begin using it in their first job, but it definitely is for some. I also think that my most valuable lessons from college were more like learning how to learn, learning how to stand on my own two feet, learning how to get things done under pressure, etc…

  11. Success Professor

    Ok, I am obviously a little biased here, but I am certain that a college degree is worth it. This is true financially but more than just financially.

    Now you need to be wise about your college degree – where to go etc. – and be wise in how you get money to go to college. Personally, I recommend going to school in Canada! 🙂

  12. Francois Viljoen

    My degree was worth it, but only because I really had a good time at university.

    I think I would have been better off financially if I started working and saving straight away.

    University cost me 4 years of:
    – living expenses, accommodation, food, fuel, etc.
    – university and book fees
    – potential income, which could have gone to savings

    Four years can make a BIG difference.

  13. Matt

    @bob wrote: “I also think that my most valuable lessons from college were more like learning how to learn, learning how to stand on my own two feet, learning how to get things done under pressure, etc…”

    Why isn’t this sort of thing being taught in our High Schools? I think it ought to be.

  14. Cat Callahan

    As an undergraduate I originally had a journalism scholarship, but foreign language was my downfall. Nobody told me it would be required for a J-School degree so I switched to education and got rid of the language requirement. But I am no teacher! Went back to graduate school, took what I needed to get a journalism job(about 20+ hours) and got one! Employers were impressed I had graduate work-LOL! I finally did find journalism work and have now written 30 books! My advice? Check requirements-and schools. Some don’t require languages!

  15. Ed


    Your response is right on the mark. If you graduated from high school then you should know how to learn, how to think and, more importantly, how to interact with other people.

    Most of what is taught in college is fluff anyway.Why would anyone pay for electives that will be of no use to them? Why won’t colleges let you take the required electives at a community college? Most of the professors at the community colleges in my area hold degrees from 4-year universities. The reason – money.

    Unless you are training for a highly specialized profession (doctor, etc.), attending a community college for the first two years, and then transferring to a 4-year school is the way to go. Your wallet will thank you.

  16. John

    College is not worth the time.
    1. Space is Infinite and vast. Humans timeline is short on the billion years. Earth is just a sandcorn nd all we build are small erections of homes made out of wood. Youtube Michio Kaku.
    2. human Life is 80 years avg. 40 years is spend with sleeping and a HD diploma takes 20 years.
    3. Robert Kurosaki: Tiger Woods, Princess Diana, GAtes, Steve Jobs, Britney spears, donald trump, Harry potter JK rowling are married to non PHD, or have no PHD in their field, yet are the most strongest on earth.
    3. If you have a PHD in life and you die one day how is score ranked. well.
    Most spend too much time for school. Scenario: 1- 10. 10 is best
    Education: 10 ; Gas station owned: 0; Number of commercial properties owned: 0 oil fields: 0, diamond business: 0 ( we have millions of districts in US that u never own or it will a lifetime to even accumulating some of it . including trump towers in hongkong china . new york district.
    4. Money vs education. listen to robert kurosaki about money works for u passive income rather than work whole life and be dependent on state for even less money. Create assets .
    5. who do u impress with PHD. girls go for money. IF a poor guy from Kongo has to decide who to rescue he rescue his mom, not the PHD guy.
    many people u do not know and they would never vote for u, because family and thier friends first. You impress only one girl and her older parents who are non competitive.
    6. GEttings kids: one guy he was 18 started to get 20 kids, his power go strong they marry have kids.. while a PHD only make small family
    7. 360 days per year, 20 years if u only date u have like 6000 girls known, but the worls has billions of people u NEVER MEET like hot CHINA girls
    8. even u have a PHD, 20 of your family members not, so u suck too, if its for score.

    End scenario: Focus on money at an early age, no college debt ( coz u do nt not plan to work whole life or study the UNi library until death.
    Even PHD, there knowledge is small. I can take them to the library and open any book of millions and ask questioin a prof would not know. Prof do not have hot girls not are famous for money.
    create businesses, buy then when u own it, u learn so much more like lex luther. rather being a scientist. have a company people work for u ( a guy or bill gates can own 100 salons and then invests 20% in top aids company.

  17. Lauren

    @ John up there:

    I think I know what you are trying to say, however, your numbers are very inaccurate. I am also assuming you are from China, or somewhere around there (i.e. ” hot CHINA girls!”) where ways of living and obtaining wealth are very different (yet probably more simple and fulfilling) then here in the Western world.

    I appreciate your perspective though, & your humor : )

  18. vanessa

    I dont have a college degree and im earning in the high 50k and im only 27 yrs old. I did attend some college but i dropped out and just started working. I didnt feel like college was for me but now im definitely thinking about going back.

  19. Squib

    If you learn anything at college is beside the point. What is the point is that it is a strong starting point for a career. Jobs that do not require an college degree, often are very low paying or have no room for advancement. Yes there are some trades where you can earn a descent living. For example a Dental Hygienist can make on average $50,000 year. But there’s no room for advancement you’re stuck as a Dental Hygienist, unless you pay to go to med school and be a Dentist. And that’s on the high end of things. Lets say you wanted to be a Vet Tech you’ll spend 2 years of your life training to be a vet tech only to make 12-15 bucks an hour with no room for advancement. Well you can make that working at Denny’s.
    The point that Gates, Woods or who ever is a millionaire and didn’t go to college is completely moot. The chance of anyone becoming a millionaire is very very low. Something like 4-5% (or less I can’t find good numbers right now) of the population are actually millionaires.
    I was paying my way though college till my state cut funding for high education, combined with the federal slashing of finical aid funding, at the same time as tuition was being raised, left me with a huge gap which I couldn’t afford.
    So here I am no degree and really only bartending experience. Its soul crushing.

  20. Eyre

    I think it depends on what matters to you. A degree in engineering is not worth it if you’re planning to be a musician.

    As for me. One should study to learn and not to earn.
    Earning money should be considered separate from one’s studies, otherwise both earning and learning is not maximized.

    So, if what you want is to be a mathematician, just to discover and explore the depths of mathematics. I think a degree is worth it. Learning from a book by yourself would be very difficult.
    If you want to earn money, go get a job. Sell whatever skills you have.. Save up… Start a business…

  21. trieu hoang

    I m can make 60k to 90k and I don’t have a BA but I have to work a lot of over time to make that much. I would go back to school and get my degree in a career if I could. It very frustrating to have to work 7 daysand 10 hours a day to make a decent living and uncle same takes most of it anyways.

  22. Darren

    I think it depends completely on the field you are trying to get into, the jobs within that you are trying to get. If you trying to become some type of specialized professional such as: a lawyer, doctor or engineer, then a degree is a must. On the other hand, the average starting pay for fresh college grads hovers around $40k-$50k. Yet there are tons of current and future opportunities with 2 yr degress/certificates that can lead to jobs that can pull in the same amount of money or more. One job posting on my city’s website is paying $79k for someone to repair and maintain city trafficlights/lamposts. Of course that is if its only amount of money. You wouldn’t spend 6-8 years of your life studying to become a teacher or pastor if you only cared about the money. I graduated high school in 2007 and am working on a political science degree. I’m not sure about the type of work I’d want to do but it would sure suck to put in all the effort and time into a degree only to find out that there are either too few opportunities or if my time were better spent elsewhere. College is definitely more about learning and much less about better earning. The costs are rising fast. For every child born this year and beyond, college costs for these kids are projected to be triple what it is now. Then, I’m sure people will question its value. All I know is that every year spent in college is a year lost not saving for my future and building my independence and there’s no guarantee. I’m considering taking a certificate program to be a medical lab technician while continuing my degree just in case I can’t find anything after college.

  23. Dana

    I got a B.S. in Mechanical Eng Technolgy in 2006. I live in the high cost of living of DC metro area. Was my degree worthwhile investment? Heck yeah! It helped me establish myself in the professional world (Despite having to pay back about $17,000 in student loans). Especially, once the recession hit. I think the value of a degree depends on what you get it in and how you use it. In my opinion, it’s just a resource to get your foot in the door not a free pass.
    I’m currently pursuing my dreams of being a freelance photographer and possible writer. Having a degree in engineering led to earning a good salary with somewhat stable employment (did I mention I loathe my profession??). Now, I can pursue what I really want. I just wish it hadn’t taken me this long to figure out what I really wanted to do. Go figure!

  24. Joe

    I went to law school and it was the biggest waste of time. Not only was it grueling but it did not pay off. I wish I knew, but that is life. For me, I think an undergraduate degree is good, but I wish I had stopped. I think I was/am clueless about life. Maybe one day I will figure it out.

  25. Marie

    In my twenties, my secretarial skills served me quite well for jobs. Since so many college graduates end up as adminstrative assistants anyway, why don’t we teach those skills anymore in short-term certificate programs? Do today’s administrative assistants need to be able to quote Shakespeare or Chaucer and do calculus?

    Besides, many college graduates cannot do these things anyway. Many are poor spellers and writers because standards have plummeted. Despite requirements for cultural enrichment, few, after graduating, take in a night at the theater or opera or ballet. Some don’t even read books.

  26. educated

    I guess I was naive. I attended college for the education I would receive. My father paid for it. I studied what I liked and interested me. That was fine with him.

    But when I graduated, it was another story. Suddenly, he expected me to snag a great job. I was never very career-oriented and lacked confidence to enter the working world. But I still love to read and write and play piano and teach music lessons. I always knew what I liked; it just never translated into “big real-world success.” Plus, any job I tried was never good enough for him. So I realized that he wanted me to attend college so I’d get some high-paying job, which is what society tells people to do.

  27. TB

    I dropped out of college before earning my degree in information systems and have been working ever since. I’ve been working for the past 5 years or so and now make decent money in the $50-$60 range. my dilemma is that I’m miserable at my job. In applying for other jobs, I wonder if I’m selling myself short by not having a degree or if there are other factors that come into play. I don’t particularly care about money because currently I’m comfortable with what I make, but I want something that is fulfilling and has room for advancement. I believe my troubles are due to the economy and not so much my education, as my experience is very good for someone my age having had such a head start in my career, plus my references are excellent as well. I often contemplate going back to school but I’m unsure if it is worth the time/money at this point. I know so many people with degrees who are the same or worse off than I am plus have student loans to pay.

  28. Matt

    TB, obviously I can’t make a decision for you but I’d recommend not going to college unless you want to completely change your career. If you’re already competent in your field (and it sounds like you are) a degree is unlikely to make you more competent.

    If you do want to change your career then a college degree in the field you want to get into might be useful, it depends on the field though.

  29. Josie

    Honestly it seems unless you’re going for a high-paying career, a college degree is worth less and less.

    I have an MFA in film (go ahead, laugh!). I honestly could have gotten the jobs I got without my degree. As it is I’m 30 and still have 65k worth of debt from college.

    I would say right off the bat that any art degree isn’t worth the schooling. Take community college courses at most in the specific art you’re interested in, but the degree won’t help you much.

    For the health, business, engineering, law, etc industries – yes it’s worth it – because the knowledge you get and the salary for starting jobs and the growth salary you can end up with are great money.

    Then there are the grey areas -psychology, political science, education, etc – a lot of these jobs if you look at the medium salary range its not a ton more than other careers you can work your way up in without a college degree. It’s sad that some of these careers make about the same as a fast food service career. I was shocked to find out how much EMTs, teachers, pilots and other careers that are so important to society make.

    I do however think that college gives you lots of broad knowledge and a certain life experience and maturity that you don’t get elsewhere mostly.

    The bottom line is to do what you love, and take a look at the salary range and ask yourself if its worth the 4 years, debt and career delay start to get the degree. If the job you want requires it when you browse ads, then you have to get it.

  30. Ton

    I’m thinking about going back to school. I’m 33 and I make about $110K per year just about every year. I’m a software sales professional. I’ve been in the business for 13 years. I was earning 65K annually at 21. You’d think I’d be comfy…but I’m not. I’m simply weary of being rejected for job interviews that would allow me to actually earn more (250K annually in many cases) simply because I do not have a degree. I work in inside sales for one of the worlds largest software companies and I’m as smart or smarter than half the men that they hire in outside sales and I’m working just as diligently. Many times…I’m doing most of the work when I’m partnered up with Field reps, as is often the model, and they’re earning the larger commission check on a shared quota of 4-5 million. I’m training them on all the systems, I’m doing all the prospecting, I’m doing all the technical selling…they’re taking them to lunch. Now how is that fair? I love selling and I’m very good at it. I love customers, influence, and problem solving and I have a tremendous track record of success. However, in my industry…no matter how good I am…if I don’t have the degree it will always come back to bite me in the tail.

  31. J


    I served in the military w/ honorable discharge right out of H.S.
    I lived in Japan for 6 months, lived in the middle east, etc.
    I seen the world more than most people.
    I started college 3 months after separation from the military.
    I earned my bachelor degree in business in 3 yrs taking as much as 22 units a quarter.

    I graduated 2009.
    I am making $11.50/hr doing H.S. dropout type work.
    I cannot find a better job.
    I look for a job everyday, as much as someone log on to facebook.
    I am mad as hell w/ my qualifications and cannot find a better job.
    I want to go back to the military as an officer making 70K instantly,
    but I remind myself why I got out in the first place.
    I am hired by the fed. gov. w/ a very good paying position, but did not start the job yet due to “budgets”.
    I owe a lot of money for college loans.
    I know a good friend from middle school that dropped out of h.s. in the 9th grade and is currently making over 30$/hr.
    Why am I stuck at an $11.50/hr job.

  32. David

    I graduated from college 20 years ago into a recession, similiar to what there is now, and I have since felt that I never quite felt it was worth it. I wasn’t cut out for engineering courses, went to business instead, but the university accepts only so many into the business school, so I fell into what I call the “liberal arts trap”. Jobs that hired me for my degree during the early 90’s were low paying and offered little growth, even though they required a degree. To put it in a nutshell, I got some technical education in telecommunications, which helped for awhile, then relocated to be wife my wife, but those skills were not in demand after relocation largely due to another recession (early 2000’s), and took more responsibilities of taking care of the family while upgrading my credentials.

    I’ve found in recent years that finding a career job is no easy task with the red tape and not quite having exactly what the position calls for. Most jobs I’ve seen open are unskilled general labor jobs. I’ve decided not to depend of companies and job trends and do into business myself, and although things progress slowly, I don’t back.

    If I were to do things again, I’d get some vocational/technical trainng and perhaps work for a degree on a PT basis in addition to working with skills learned (assuming such trainng would have paid off) instead of getting my BA on a FT basis and hope that would get into a good career field. It does benefit most people in the long run,and maybe my case is an exception, and I’m not writing this to be negative, but I thing getting a college education should come with warning labels. However, i do recognize skill learned while going to college, and I can say they do help even when I’m not self-employed.

  33. joe gofo

    college is not worth the money anymore, there are no jobs and everythimg is being outsource to other countries, so dont go to college.

  34. GB

    comming out of high school I believed I was not ready for colledge so I took vocational traning which landed a job with a living wage for a twenty year old. From there on out it was up to me to get to the six figure job I have today. It took me twenty four years to get there. In hinde site, If I would have studied for a degree in anything while working I would have been able to increase my income sooner. I have lost four jobs to downsizing, takeovers and so on as dictated by economic issues that this country faces but I have never been out of work for more than one week. I have worked jobs that I did not want but they still put food on the table. The bottom line is anyone who wants to will suceed. Colledge is helpful but not the key to success. Attitude is king.

  35. Me

    I’m content with what I do now–it has nothing to do with my degree, but having it might have given me an edge over someone not having it. My only complaint is I wish I’d done it sooner. A lot of times, people but the cart before the horse, thinking that they will “figure it out” of “get hit by something” when they are in college. I think a lot of it depends on your values and your personality. I found the worst thing about college is that you have to fit in/conform–just like high school. Voc-ed is better than college b/c the competition for jobs isn’t as severe, and you could still make a decent, honest living.