Why Four-Year Degrees are Overrated


Young adults in previous generations viewed a college degree as the ticket to a secure career future. They could also pay for tuition and related expenses by working summer jobs and part-time throughout the school year. Today, the career opportunities for college graduates have dwindled and the idea of paying tuition from a part-time job is laughable. Despite evidence to the contrary, some still think college is necessary and no other paths to success exist. While it’s true that a college education can benefit certain individuals, there are a view big reasons the college degree is overrated.


Degrees are no longer distinguishing in the job market. More college graduates means more competition during the job search. A degree was once a distinguishing achievement, and would increase a candidate’s odds of landing a job and his or her starting salary. Now, employers can take their pick from a sea of graduates and don’t feel the need to offer competitive salaries or benefits.

You can’t get anywhere without experience. Colleges still don’t understand the importance of practical work experience. While shiny new sports facilities and luxury dorms are popping up on campuses across the country, career centers receive inadequate attention and resources. Students may enter college expecting a job in hand upon graduation, but they’re often left to fend for themselves when it comes to finding jobs and internships. Employers will pass over college degree holders in favor of candidates with more industry experience (and less formal education) because training even the most educated entry-level worker requires a huge resource investment.  As many graduates have discovered, putting education before experience is not a wise move.

Return on investment is not guaranteed. In-state public university students can expect to shell out over $40,000 over the course of their college tenure. Students at out-of-state colleges or private universities can expect to pay even more. Then there are books, fees, and living expenses to consider. With all of this money (and time) investment, shouldn’t young adults be more careful in evaluating their options? A four year degree isn’t always the practical choice.

Many high growth jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Some of the most high demand jobs don’t require a four-year degree and the booming healthcare field offers plenty of opportunities for two-year degree holders. An associate’s degree, apprenticeship or certification may make better financial sense.

The value of a four year degree depends heavily on a student’s specific circumstances. Just obtaining a degree is not enough, and may even be harmful to one’s financial and career future. A bachelor’s degree no longer offers the payoff that previous generations of college students experienced. This doesn’t mean a degree is bad, but that aspiring college students should carefully consider alternatives to the traditional four year degree before investing their time and money.