Countless articles in the media site a correlation between higher degrees and higher income. This perceived higher earnings for having a 4-year degree has fueled a “college for all” philosophy; causing educators and parents to encourage going to the university – any university – to major in anything – in pursuit of future job security, social mobility, and financial prosperity. But with rising education costs and the oversaturation of some academic majors in the workforce, many of us know that that the university-bound pathway isn’t for everyone…at least not immediately after high school.
We know that only a quarter of those that initially enroll will complete a bachelor’s degree; and for many their career exploration process begins after graduation. It is here that many discover that their degree may not have prepared them for the world of work. They may be highly educated, but not every degree is direct preparation for employment (like my philosophy degree). This misalignment between degrees and job skills causes half of university graduates to be under-employed in what are called gray-collar jobs; taking positions that do not require the education they have received, at a cost that is more than they can afford. All while the income for the top individuals in a wide variety of skilled jobs that require an industry credential or 2-year degree is far higher than the average income for many occupations that claim to require a 4-year degree; and each of these technicians are in very high skilled areas that are in great demand. Well-intentioned attempts to send more and more students straight to the university will not change the types of jobs that dominate our economy, nor will a “college-for-all” mentality mask these labor market realities. This message needs to be significantly broadened to include career exploration and “a post-high school credential for all.”