The Worthless College Degree
© 10.09.07 By D. Eric Williams
It's time that somebody said it loud and clear: a college degree is a waste of time. Remember, you heard it here first.
Everybody "knows" that people with a college degree make more money. The only problem with that fact is that it's false. It's easy to make it appear that a college degree will mean more money in your pocket when you balance the salaries of college educated folk against everyone else. That doesn't make any sense. The guy who doesn't have an interest in doing anything more challenging than flipping burgers shouldn't figure into this discussion. The better approach is to compare specific types of work. In other words, the question isn't whether college grads make more money than those without the sheepskin; the question is do biochemists (for instance), make more money than bricklayers? The answer happens to be no.
The average income for a senior biochemist is just over $59,000 per annum; a bricklayer can expect to earn a little over $54,000 a year. But that isn't the whole story. The biochemist will spend at least $50,000 to collect his BA from a state school and over $100,000 if he decides to attend a private school.1 After that he will need to finish a graduate degree and gain "at least 5 years of experience in the field or in a related area" before he can expect to achieve the national median income for his profession.2 The cost of the graduate degree will be in the neighborhood of an additional $100,000.
We also need to consider lost wages during the four to six years it takes to earn the BA (very few students complete their degree in the "normal" four year time frame). Figure that in and you are looking at an added loss of $60,000 to $160,000. This assumes the loss of a mere $7.50 an hour on the low end and $13 per hour on the high end - with no raises. (We'll give the biochemist the benefit of the doubt and ignore the fact that he would not be earning a market wage while he finished his graduate program. He may, however, be able to live on the stipends he receives as a grad student. For the sake of making this comparison easy let's ignore the graduate years and focus on the years spent acquiring the BA.)
In a nut shell the biochemist leaves college at least $110,000 behind the bricklayer. Meanwhile the bricklayer has been working as an apprentice (at a starting wage in the neighborhood of $10-$13 per hour)3, and if he is reasonably competent he will have achieved journeyman status about the time the biochemistry student collects his BA. This means that he will begin making the $54,000 yearly salary when the biochemist is starting his graduate program. The biochemist will not reach the median salary of a "biochemist III" for another five years or so. Bottom line, the bricklayer is $110,000 to $200,000 ahead of the biochemist - a head start that the biochemist will never be able to overcome.
"So what" you may say. "Comparing a biochemist and a bricklayer is arbitrary. It's no more relevant than comparing all college grads to non college grads." Perhaps: yet take a look at these examples chosen randomly from the Monster.com site.
When we consider professions requiring a degree we see that the median expected salary in the United States for a typical:
Biologist V is $88,625.
Staff Nurse - RN is $58,924.
Accountant III is $58,866.
Social Worker (MSW) is $48,845.
Engineer V is $102,298.
Activity Director - Nursing Home is $34,385
High School Teacher is $50,562.
Biochemist III is $59,100.
When we consider professions that do not require a degree we see that the median expected salary for a typical:
Electrician III is $48,739.
HVAC Mechanic III is $50,591
Carpenter III is $44,793.
Machinist III is $49,075.
Bricklayer, Sr. is $54,019.
Plumber III is $50,138.
Insurance Agent is $41,287.
Automotive Mechanic III is $49,563.4
In addition, "(b)usiness administration and economics/finance graduates" receive an average of $38,254 and $40,630" a year respectively upon graduation. "The average starting salary for marketing grads" is $34,712 and $41,058 for accounting majors. "Liberal arts graduates" earn $30,212, per year upon graduation. "Starting pay for English majors" is $31,113; "political science majors," $32,296 and "(p)sychology majors" enjoy(?) "entry-level salaries averaging $28,230."5 Meanwhile responsible working folk are already making twice as much after four years on the job.
As you can see most college degrees are an incredible waste of time and money. The exceptions are the professional degrees; law, medicine, engineering and the like. Even those occupations don't really require a formal degree but that's another article for another time. And remember, these figures do not address the cost of the degree and lost wages.
Moreover, the non-degree vocations are often more welcoming to an entrepreneurial spirit. The figures above reflect the circumstance of a skilled worker collecting a wage, not business owners who have the drive to write their own financial ticket. Truly the sky is the limit for a self employed plumber, electrician, mechanic or insurance agent who wants to build a business employing and managing others in order to boost his own bottom line. Those folks pull down six figure incomes. I am personally aquatinted with insurance agents and carpenters who were making well over $100,000 a year by their middle thirties. You typical biologist or engineer would still be trying to pay off their college dept at that age - while making substantially less money than the insurance agency owner or the building contractor.
The college degree is also a waste of time from an academic standpoint. Everything you are supposed learn at the university you can learn on your own if you really want to. But then, most people don't go to college to learn. A large percentage never graduate. Those who do are not really educated in the classical sense. Rather, they are trained to embrace the subservient, anti-intellectual, self-centered, godless worldview required to maintain the current bureaucratic state.
Honestly, college is for people who are unwilling or unable to face the responsibility of the real world. It is a place where people go to extend their childhood (and generally screw up their lives), using Daddy's money or tax dollars confiscated from the plumbers, bricklayers and insurance agents who are responsible enough to earn their own living.
The primary reason that our society places such a high premium on a college education is because people have been brainwashed into believing that you cannot make it in life without a degree. This fiction is pushed by big business and government because it allows more time for the establishment to dumb down the populace thus creating the sheep-like servants necessary to maintain the bureaucratic state.
The fact is anyone can acquire the education that is promised (but never delivered), by the system. All it requires is a library card and access to the inter-library loan system. You want a degree in history or literature or sociology (and so on)? Get yourself a reading list from a top university and then check out or buy the books you see on the list. But don't stop there; to be truly educated you need to move beyond the politically correct university curriculum. You want to learn to think critically so you need to read the classics and modern authors like Paul Johnson, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Michael Denton, Michael Behe, G. K. Chesterton, Otto Scott, Theodore Dalrymple and so on. If you need someone to direct you in the pursuit of knowledge, then buy or check out a guide to the discipline of choice (for instance the Politically Incorrect Guide To Literature). If you prefer a living, breathing guide then hire a tutor when necessary. If you want the system to "validate" your learning then take your knowledge to Excelsior College or Thomas Edison State College and test your way to an accredited Bachelor of Arts or Science.
If you are not able to do this then you obviously don't have the intellectual fire power or discipline to do much of anything in life so you may as well jump on the treadmill, complete your worthless degree and get a job pushing paper for "The Man."