DailyDirt: Are College Degrees Useless Now?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

The education industry seems to be ripe for disruption. Although it’s undeniable that higher education and advanced technical skills are correlated with higher salaries, more and more parents and students are questioning the real value of college. If college is merely another step in the process towards applying for a job, some folks think colleges should be a bit better about actually being able to match employers with recent graduates. On the other hand, if college is more about making social connections and laying the foundations for a rewarding life, perhaps acquiring hefty student loans to do so isn’t the way to go for that. Here are just a few links on getting a college education.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Are College Degrees Useless Now?”

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23 Comments
doubledeej (profile) says:

Not for every career path

In my line of work, software development, college is more of a liability than an asset.

Of the people I’ve hired or interviewed for jobs, the ones that stand out and end up being the most valuable to the company aren’t the ones that went to college to study Computer Science or a related discipline. It’s those who were hacking away teaching themselves to code when they were young. If someone waits until college to begin learning how to code, they’re already well behind others, and it’s also a pretty strong sign that they don’t really have the passion for it.

In addition to that, in a fast-changing area like computing, texts and professors teaching are always several years out of date. College can give people an understanding of the science behind software, but as far as being able to write code, most graduates are basically worthless. College really doesn’t do anything for preparing someone to be a useful developer.

I suspect this is true in many other disciples as well.

Phoenix84 (profile) says:

Re: Not for every career path

I have to agree. I’m in software development, and both I and at least one other peer don’t have advanced college degrees. I only have an AS (in network admin), and he has none at all.
We do just fine.
Although I did get started by working at said company as an intern. College education may not be worthwhile, but internships most definitely are. Higher education should be focused more on that, IMO.

JBDragon says:

Re: Re: Not for every career path

Internships is nothing new. It’s been around forever. These days it may be to lern about plumbing or electrical, or Cars, and many other things. To many people these days think to just to Collage and then get a nice high paying job right out of graduating. When in reality it’s starting on the bottom with little pay and working yourself up as you learn and make yourself more valuable. Book smarts can only take you so far. To many people go to collage. It’s expected and pushed onto people these days. It’s now a whole industry. People go into great debt and learn dumb things in Collage. It’s one thing to go into Collage are learn to be a Doctor. It’s another to go and learn some dumb thing where there’s no practical use for it in the real world. Best use for being a teacher and continue to pass the junk along. You go to collage to learn something where in that market the PAY isn’t all that much. You have to now pay that collage loan back on the poor paying job that will never see high pay.

Learn by doing in the end for pretty much anything and everything is the only way. Even a Doctor has a long Internship after all the learning. Collage is good where it makes sense. It’s just such a huge industry now.

vegetaman (profile) says:

Re: Not for every career path

I have to disagree. Setting aside the fact that most places won’t look at your resume if you don’t have a degree, I do feel there is a balance of school vs. real world experience. I have seen bad programmers that are self taught and that came from colleges. The good programmers in college were the ones who mostly started on that course well before they got to college, and don’t just do programming for class, they also do it in their spare time for hobbies and tinkering and such.

I find that I have learned a lot in the past 5 years on the job, but I find that what I learned in college (especially the six semesters of advanced math and various data structures and algorithms and software engineering and networking and operating system courses) has been very critical to my success in the field. It’s all very subjective depending on what type of development you’re doing and how much of your time is spent writing code versus doing R&D or algorithm development or fine-tuning or anything of that nature.

Being a good developer is about more than just being able to sling code. (Almost) anybody can cut and hack a pile of shit together with some proverbial duct tape and baling wire. But there is also no substitute for real time, on the job training. It takes a very committed self taught person to follow good programming habits and procedures when tinkering by themselves versus the skillset of larger group collaboration efforts.

Tom says:

Re: Re: Not for every career path

It is expected that college graduates would disagree. They don’t want to appear to devalue the degrees they’ve invested so much in. But statistics tell another story. The numbers of college grads, even in the much-vaunted STEM disciplines, who are severely underemployed or wholly unemployed are exploding year after year as (a) more and more college graduates are produced and (b) corporations either send tech positions overseas where it’s cheap to operate OR hire cheap foreign technicians and specialists on H1B visas instead of expensive-to-hire US graduates.

But everyone keeps feeding the monster. Well, they can’t say they haven’t been warned.

Devonavar says:

Useless for what?

University degrees are useless for what? Career? Sure, always have been. Expanding your mind. That’s what universities have always been for.

It’s only in the last 30-40 years when a degree suddenly meant employability except in specialized fields (the “professions”). Except it never did mean employability. We’ve all been taken in by a combination of education salesmanship and corporations who thought they could offload their training costs onto the public dime.

Turns out, the corporations were wrong, good employees are trained, not hired ready-made. Universities never were designed for career skills.

Universities are designed to grow knowledge. And it’s only a small portion of the population that are suited / inclined towards this sort of life. For those who are suited, universities and the degrees they grant are incredibly useful. They form the backbone infrastructure of modern science.

But if you go in thinking you are going to be prepared for some other life, you’re going to be disappointed.

Spend 4+ years of your life doing *anything*, and you’ll be well prepared to do that thing. If you want a career, go get four years of work experience. If you want to think, get a degree. Both are useful options. The only “useless” thing about degrees is that people think they are intended as credentials rather than a mark of achievement.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Education?

Education provides knowledge. Knowledge, training, and experience provide skill. Skill is what you sell in the marketplace, whether to an employer or a customer. College does not provide either training or experience.

It might be better to decide on the careers you would like and then take the necessary program to accomplish those, but what does high school contribute to one determining what career one wants?

Yes I meant the plural careers. In today’s world one may not be enough.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Get your degree, or die frying...

Have seen this debate from another point of view, Chinese parents sending their children to American Universities. The reasoning is as stark as my parents back in the 1970s/1980s – no degree, no work that pays and longer stretches of unemployment:

http://blog.chinadaily.com.cn/blog-135031-8345.html

As for the comments about coding – lets not kid ourselves, they are the type of excuses used to outsource most coding work overseas, or to increase the number of H1-B visas.

Anonymous Coward says:

just get a degree

I’m sitting in a really well-paying job that is completely unrelated to the degree I got from the University. I know few people who are really good at their jobs that have a corresponding BS/BA in the same field.

Now, unfortunately lots of companies see the BS/BA as the minimum entrance requirement so spend the least amount of money as you can, get A degree, then go after your passion

Anonymous Coward says:

College has minimal value here is why...

It is the natural human condition to learn. Different people learn at various rates. Different people also have natural knowledge affinities or subjects they naturally do well in, which I believe is directly associated to personal interests.

Institutionalized Education is too cookie cutter to add significant value to most individuals. They do add some value, but not worth the expense of attending. Mix in the natural inclination of humans to add “indoctrination” to the courses and you basically find that you paid more money for brainwashing than information.

And single largest glaring flaw of all. The idea that a piece of paper has so much value that no matter how much Experience you have it cannot be replaced. Education should never be more than introductory, Experience trumps it greatly. And if you can add in good aptitude on top of that experience… well now you have an (actual) Expert. Far too few of these, and all to often downplayed or ridiculed by the very institutions purporting to create them.

And as far as I.T. goes… by the time you finish graduating 2 years later… technology has already started to become obsolete.

jon q. pubic says:

too many colleges and shools altogether

I say let the law of supply and demand prevail and close up them execss schools , the ones with worthless degrees.

STOP all government grants for worthless classes and bad degrees, now!!

companies want skilled workers let them train in house and totally free to the hired workers..

the out sourcing and the h1g visa must!! * stop .
tax the rich and let it trickly down to the workers .

dexter high q i do says:

some one needs to take the initive and start closing all those worhtless classes.
LAW OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND ??
got too many graduates and no jobs therefore close up them schools.

if them companies truly needed workers they will train on the job and pay for your time, anything less is a big lie..

stop the government subsities -grants for worthless classes.
non profite -for profit school its all the same ,close them worthless classes now.

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