In this time of increasing tuition fees, high unemployment rates, and the need for higher income, is a college degree still worth pursuing? This year and the coming years, access to higher education and job security will surely be a challenge. What if one day, a crisis happens again and your company decided to lower their expenses, increase productivity, push for automation, and lays you off. How will you earn money then?
THE COLLEGE DEGREE DILEMMA
If you’re a millennial like me, chances are you’ve also always been told by older generations to get in a university/college, study hard, finish that degree, and then get employed. After 4 to 5 years of grinding in your college life, you are finally a college graduate. Excited to be a part of the workforce, you apply for your dream job. Then suddenly, you get rejected several times for not having the skill or the number of experiences that they are looking for. When all hope is lost and you desperately need an income, you finally accept a job not related to your degree just to survive.
Well, this is only one scenario, but do you get the irony?
In this digital age, a lot of new skills and opportunities have been created with the help of the internet. Everything is changing and it is changing fast. These are the times when having a certain skill set is far more important to companies than having a college degree. With a phone or a laptop, an internet connection, and the right skill set, vast opportunities will open for you. From Content Creators, Social Media Managers, Graphics/UX Designers, Software Developers, to AI Engineers. These areas of expertise can be accumulated by learning a skill online or by taking Micro-Credentials (certification-style qualifications that individuals choose to study to improve a skill found in a particular industry). These are like taking specific subjects to expand the skillset that you can use in a particular industry. A college degree will take you half a million or more and 4 to 5 years to finish. In contrast, Micro-credentials will only cost you P50,000 or less and a period of less than 1 year. Sometimes, these opportunities even give you more income, opportunities, and flexibility. If you can’t have a micro-credential, you can learn elsewhere. Information is everywhere — on Youtube, blogs, webinars, and e-learning websites like Udacity, Udemy, and Skillshare. Some of them are free and some are not, but definitely cost much cheaper than being enrolled in a university. These things are not what we were used to but they are way cheaper, faster, and more effective to have.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the unforgettable experiences I’ve had in college–the connections and learnings I’ve had from my professors, memories of late-night grinds, and especially for the bond of friendship with my college friends. But the times are changing. There is a crisis and a new industrial revolution is coming. With the rise of automation, AI, and robotics, a lot of jobs will disappear. This pandemic has become a catalyst and accelerator for new ways of doing things.
Your decision to drop college still depends on what career path you see yourself taking for the rest of your life. If you want to be a professional like a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or an engineer that requires a degree for you to take the licensure exams, then aim for a College Degree. But, if you see yourself doing a different kind of job or career path, like the ones I’ve mentioned above, go for the nano-degrees (Micro-credentials), e-learnings, seminars/webinars, and certifications. If you can do both, the better.
It’s true that companies still look at your educational background, but after this pandemic, a lot of things will change. These changes will break the traditional way of things. From how we handle our finances, our shopping, and even how we learn. Right now, the education system has shifted from face to face discussions to online learnings. With this change, the education we knew evolved.
Having a college degree or not, your future still depends on YOU. The world is changing fast and there will be a lot of challenges. What’s important is having the right mindset and attitude and the never-ending curiosity for new learnings. Whatever path you take, take courage, and always have that thirst for new knowledge. Cheers!