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Mar 25

Do college degrees still matter?

Dear Recruiter,

I was wondering what your thoughts are on college degrees. There are so many schools and types of degrees, do degrees still matter?



Dear Steven,

Let me answer this question as if you were my nine-year-old daughter weighing out her eventual options for college. Because of this, you may get a little personal opinion interlaced with my words on professional ROI. Also, due to the numbers and types of degrees, I won’t be able to address all areas.

The answer depends on what you want to do in your career. If you are looking to be a skilled laborer of some sort, for example, a degree would be much less valuable than a trade specific certification.

If you would like to fulfill a professional function within a business (accounting, marketing, IT, engineering, communications, PR, etc.) a degree in that chosen field would assist you in gaining knowledge and experience that would aid your success. You could get into these fields without a degree and still be successful, but the path can be more challenging.

If you would like to be a lawyer, doctor, psychologist, etc., or anything that requires an advanced degree to be able to practice that trade, you must get that degree. And if you would have to run a practice of some sort, I’d encourage a business undergrad where possible as well.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Unless you’re looking to rise through the ranks at a Fortune 500 company, the name of the school on the degree doesn’t Your competency and experience do.
  • Get a degree that propels you towards a career field. Learn for the sake of learning when you don’t have to pay upwards of $20K-$50K+ per year to do so.
  • A good percentage of people earn an advanced degree because they still don’t know what they ultimately want to do for a career. Don’t pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to delay a decision that you’ll ultimately have to make Face that decision today.
  • An MBA does not qualify you to jump directly into management. I’ve spoken with many people through the years who feel like an MBA automatically qualifies them for their boss’s The skills they learn will help them get there, but the paper with those three letters doesn’t make it a given.


Above all else, avoid school debt like the plague. It’s challenging enough to exit school, enter “real life,” start a career, potentially move to a new state and maintain a household. Don’t drop the bomb of student loans on the top of that pile.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course. But as your best course of action, I believe that the advice I would give to my own daughter makes for the best possible decision-making backdrop I could also offer to you.