College has always been considered the bona fide passport to success and high salaries. Still, it’s important to recognize that there are many paths to career advancement, which begs the question, is student loan debt worth it?
According to Julie Braun, a professional career consultant and founder and CEO of Super Purposes, “a college degree wins by a nose.” On average, college graduates have a real edge in lifetime earnings over people without degrees, but a diploma isn’t the only factor that can put someone ahead.
“These statistics don’t tell the thousands of underestimated people who learn how to get a job without going through the traditional door of filling out an online application,” Braun told Finurah. She explained college isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy that works for everyone, but it depends on an employer’s requirements.
The Traditional Route
“Most companies are sticking with the traditional criteria, ‘Must have a master’s degree and five years experience to apply,’ Braun said. “Other forward-thinking, cutting-edge companies are shaking up their recruiting strategies to attract the best people for the job. They do not focus solely on the degree or length of experience but instead on the individual’s ability to learn quickly.”
Based on your path, the type of college degree you pursue also holds a lot of weight. “Certain degrees, such as engineering or business, are likely to lead to higher earnings than degrees in the humanities or social sciences,” said Yusaf Khan, head of business development at StartupsAnonymous.
Student Loan Debt and Educational Pursuits
Khan explained that it might be more helpful to ensure the degree you get leads to a job that allows you to repay your student loans.
Debt is also a significant consideration. Recently, the Biden administration released a student loan relief plan that provides up to $20,000 in student loan debt relief for eligible borrowers. The average student loan debt in the United States is now over $37,000. It’s important to remember not all degrees lead to high-paying jobs. Doing your research beforehand can help you get a degree that will likely lead to a lucrative career, allowing you to repay your student loans.
“A lot of money is spent on education; sometimes, it’s more than you need,” Zachary A. Bachner, a certified financial planner, told FInurah. “You have to know your market and be confident that the degree you’re pursuing will help you get a higher salary when you graduate. If it doesn’t, there’s no point in going into debt over something that won’t pay off later.”
Can You Opt Out of College?
All in all, Braun explained that creating a new education or experiential path for yourself is critical in building a career path you’re content with. “Instead of waiting for the system to change, take matters into your own hands,” Braun said. “Choose your field of work that gives you a sense of purpose, and get an internship or experience by any means necessary. Take free or paid classes and get some education. Then decide where you want to work and develop relationships there so you will be the first person they call when a job opens, or they can create a position for you. It’s really up to you.”