As a woman not born into privilege, I realized early on that I would have to work harder than some to achieve my goals. My parents drummed in me the importance of education, and that I had to study hard and get a college degree to land a high-paying job. I didn’t doubt their advice, and I am thankful for it today. Academic exposure fostered my fascination with economics and passion for personal financial management.
I also recognize the fact that other people achieved success without ever getting a college degree. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell, for example, are the quintessential college dropouts who possessed boardroom clout and industry smarts. They left college yet went on to revolutionize the world and influence the lives of millions across the globe.
Speaking of influencers, YouTube vloggers (video bloggers) are another breed of successful individuals whose success didn’t depend on their college degree. Some of them are beauty and lifestyle vloggers, Zoella (Zoe Sugg), Jenna Marbles (Jenna Mourey), and Yuya (Mariand Castañeda), and gaming vlogger PewDiePie (Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg). They have millions of followers and earn millions a year on advertising and media deals.
The goal of this article isn’t to discourage young people from going to college. In fact, I encourage you to seek higher education. A degree can give you a career to fall back on if your business ventures don’t go as planned. It also justifies a high pay grade. College graduates earned 56% more than high school graduates in 2015, in fact, and the pay gap continues to grow. More importantly, a college degree is necessary if you want to pursue a STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math) career.
Your Dream Career Dictates the Education You Need
Suppose your dream is to become a surgeon, veterinarian, engineer, or astronaut. These are careers for which academic learning is a must. You can’t hope to become these professionals if you don’t get a degree and license.
For people who know what they want to do, their dream careers dictate whether or not they need to go to college. Some professions, like hair styling and cosmetology, require certification from a state-licensed school instead of a bachelor’s degree. Non-regulated trades, like furniture making and carpentry, don’t require college education at all. People in these industries give more importance to apprenticeship, experience, and skills than which university you graduated from.
It bears mentioning that colleges today offer courses for trade careers, too. Educators are starting to acknowledge the need for non-traditional curriculums, and many institutions now provide competency-based programs.
So, it’s not really a question of whether a person needs to be college-educated to succeed. Young people today need to be more concerned about getting the right kind of education that will give them the knowledge and skills to succeed in their chosen careers.
Ambition and Passion Can Offer a Different Road
Sometimes our passions can lead us to pursue a unique career path, one that’s not in the career pamphlets we get in high school.
For example, young men and women who aspire to become fashion runway models could train under a modeling agency even when they’re still in high school. Meanwhile, people who are fond of taking photos of people and nature could work as apprentices to photojournalists or professional event photographers.
Notice that these passion careers also require schooling, but of a different kind. While a degree would be advantageous, the lack of one won’t necessarily be a roadblock to success.
Yes and No
So, to answer our question: “Is a college degree necessary to achieve success?”
The answer depends on your career choice. If you want to be a STEM professional, a college degree is a must. If you’re going to pursue a skilled trade career, like carpentry and dressmaking, you may not have to. Still, a certification or license can give gravitas to your profession and validate your skills.
Whichever way you look at it, education and continued learning are crucial for success. If you could get the knowledge you need by going to college, then by all means, go and earn that degree.
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