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Can You Really Fall Back On Your Degree?

As you grew up, I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Get a degree so you'll always have something to fall back on". This is implying that a degree will somehow be your saving grace from failure. It is also implying that a degree was a secondary direction than a primary direction. So why has getting a degree become our primary direction and why is it not our saving grace?

Going to college has become for many people a symbol of success and perhaps a way out of a lifestyle. For many that can be true, for the majority that isn't the case. We all need to acknowledge that colleges and universities are businesses. In the last 10 years many new online colleges and universities have popped up and crowded the airwaves and commercials, because this type of business is PROFITABLE. This is one of the reasons you will go through LOTS of required classes that have nothing to do with your degree or direction. It's all about getting what they can from you before they send you on your way. Our society used to be ran by tradesmen, where you could learn a skill from another master craftsman and start your own career, your own business, your own security. Now our society is choosing to go through a system to become well rounded and having the ultimate goal of getting a piece of paper to hang on their wall instead of learning a skill.

Now our society thinks that getting into debt, spending thousands of dollars, sacrificing four to five years of our life, with no work or practical experience, but receiving a well rounded piece of paper is somehow worth it. Now, I'm not referring to those who learn, medicine, engineering, accounting or some other specific trade. I'm talking about degrees that don't offer any skill sets that you can take hold of. These feel good degrees are meant for you to learn how to be a great employee, and feel a false sense of accomplishment and security.

Here is the problem with the saying "Fall Back On Your Degree." There is a true saying that is "If You Don't Use It You Lose It." I know of someone who got their Electrical Engineering Degree. Her priority in life was to be a house wife, raise her kids and look after the home. I respect that and I think that's a great desire to have. After school she got married and never ended up working in that field. She never desired to work, but she was taught that it's good to just get "something" so you can fall back on it later. Twenty-five years go by and her husband gets laid off from his job. He looks for work but to no avail. The thought is the wife with an Electrical Engineering Degree could step up, pick up the slack and take care of the family for a little bit. Here is the problem. It's been twenty-five years! Technology has changed and she doesn't know the industry. She has forgotten most of what she had learned in school, since she hadn't given it much thought except to help her kids with their math homework. She also been used to working in the garden and tending the animals at home, so to move into the corporate world is a huge step outside the comfort zone. She tries to do odd jobs but has a hard time being away from home and can't help her husband in time of need. Her degree that is proudly displayed on the wall of her home, to show her kids the model to follow, has failed her and her family. The idea that you will be able to fall back on a degree has also failed.

We can see the truth of this example all around us affecting everyone. Today's show like "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader", "Jay Leno", "Letterman" and many more, prove as they do interviews on the streets, that if you don't use it, you lose it. So if you go to school and spend time learning something that you have no plans in using or end up realizing that you rather work in something else, chances are that you will lose that knowledge and it might come out to be a waste of time. Many will chalk it up as a good experiences or growth opportunities which is fine, but with $30-50k spent on a degree I tend to look at it as an investment and return on investment.

Plan where you want to go in your life or what type of lifestyle you'd like to have before you invest so much time and money into something that you might have not needed to. Keep your mind open to trade schools and other certifications or licenses that can get you to your goals faster and cheaper.

Colleges and Universities are businesses and will do what they can to paint the pie in the sky to get you to sign up. They will claim that they will prepare you for the world but they lack some of the most essential classes to become successful. In this world it's so important to know vital information like, Salesmanship (we are always selling ourselves), negotiations (we will need to negotiate salary, incentives, deals, etc), communications (We progress by those who we associate with so learning proper etiquette is quite important), Finance (Society is riddled with debt because nobody is teaching how to balance a check book and to save for things.)

If colleges were really out there for your well being, they would make these classes requirements. The university I went to made me take two health classes, where one made sure I got some exercise, and the other was just class time learning how not to get fat. Heaven forbid I get fat or else I won't succeed in life. I spent 6 months of my life in those classes... Ridiculous. Those that hold colleges and universities to a holy order, can't see that these are fluff classes that produce revenue. They will argue, "Well, isn't it good to learn about your health?" Sure it is, but NOT when your goals have nothing to do with those classes. NOT when you are sacrificing time away from your family in hopes to learn something that can help your family survive, and NOT if you are going to have to have a mountain of debt after school. The goal here is to learn how to make a LIVING. If I'm interested in getting in shape, then I'll get a trainer down the road.

All schools have their procedures, so make sure you look at them very carefully before signing up. For instances, Brigham Young University is a great school but doesn't have an Associate Degree program. Every student that starts at that school is almost stuck or obligated to having to finish their four year degree there. If students don't, they will lose lots of credits (many only recognized by BYU) on the transfer and will have to pretty much start over. Quite a good business strategy I'd say.

I used to be an Employment/Welfare Specialist for my church and in one of the meetings we had the statistics the church showed was that 85% of all jobs out there don't require a degree to get. Those individuals that were in need of employment, that were thinking of going back to school for a degree, I counseled to try a trade school, community classes or on the job training. They needed something that could give them tools fast, and could start bettering their lives in a few months to a year, instead of 4 years. (80% of all graduates will NOT work in the field they got their degree in.) I also counseled against the burden of debt and to have a solid plan before going after something that will not help you in the end.

The key to this is that EDUCATION is important, NOT necessarily the degree. There are so many ways to get educated than going the degree route. There are many routes that can make you a very good living, in a shorter time, with a lot less debt.

I recently talked to someone who is attending college and when I asked her and her husband how much time they have until they graduate they said "At least 4 more years... but it will be worth it."

Worth it? This is another myth that is out there that people take hold of and repeat like a parrot. For some it can be, but for most it won't benefit them as much as they think. Will it be worth having $40,000 - $80,000 combined in debt after graduating only to make $30k a year (Avg starting salary with a degree)? Also is it worth having the debt if the wife doesn't plan on working because of house wife duties? Will it be worth it when you decided a short time later that you like a different field? (Degree-> time-> money wasted)

Most will say that they go to school because of the security. This is another myth that is believed by the masses. There is no security. You can lose your job at anytime and many are now realizing that in this economy. Many people who have worked in a company for 20-30 years are getting the boot. Only way to be secure is if you create it by first learning three vital topics in sales, negotiations, and communications. Then by learning how to save money, investing, allowing your money to work for you, starting businesses and having multiple streams of income, and NOT being afraid of risk taking.

Don't expect that just by getting a degree you will be a success. Also if school is not for you, then don't worry because you can still achieve success. There are many things you have to learn and become to achieve the success you are looking for. Success is in the mind. If success for you is only making $30k a year then do yourself a favor and go work as a waiter and make that money without the debt of school.

I've meet several millionaires and people who are financially independent. They succeeded by reading books that taught them how to grow themselves and their business. Also they say another big part of their success is their work experience. Many college students don't work the 4-5 years in school, then they expect to jump into their dream job or make a lot of money with that piece of paper. It's not going to happen. Don't depend on that piece of paper. You need to become the right person for society or go after your dreams by planning your life instead of thinking everything will fall into your lap after graduation.

The frustrating thing that students do, is find the easiest degree to get, BS all their papers, barely pass the classes, drink and party every weekend, then when they finally are able to skim by and graduate, they now think they are entitled to a job and deserve the big bucks! And our society thinks these people should be held up on a pedestal! Luckily, our society is changing and employers are finding that experience weighs more than that degree, as well as other skill sets. They are opening up many senior level job opportunities to those who have what it takes not just that piece of paper.

Kenny Crandell

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