The Conundrum: Sheepskin or Real-World Experience

The Conundrum: Sheepskin or Real-World Experience

This may come as a surprise to the new generation of learners, but not all high-profile, technical and/or well-paying careers require a college education.

Of course, a bachelor’s diploma has historically made a rather large difference in wages. In 2014, the Economic Policy Institute found that college graduates earned 98 percent more per hour than non-college grads.

But there’s a price. First and foremost, it’s not all that unusual for a college graduate to carry a debt of $100,000 or more into his or her first job search. There’s another little-considered factor: while the college student spends four years or more to earn the diploma, another person might enter the workplace immediately out of high school and gain valuable real-world experience while the aforementioned college student is focused entirely on earning the best grades possible in the academic world.

There’s no denying that when you have zero experience, a degree is going to help you have a little more clout. Still, that doesn’t mean every young job-seeker needs a degree. In many cases, what might be more important are (1) ambition and (2) a creative way to genuinely build a personal brand.

Let’s face it, 18-year-olds might have life plans, but they also might lack the knowledge of how to best attain their life goals. It that point, college may be the most obvious option — but it’s not the only one.

“For many traditional students, college is a time to ‘figure it all out,” wrote Pratik Dholakiya, co-founder of E2M and MoveoApps in a recent edition of Entrepreneur magazine. “Some incredible social learning and personal growth takes place here — but that will likely be true at this age no matter what. And if you make an effort to challenge yourself, delve into new circles and simply ‘get out there?’ It’s a guarantee.”

Here’s the option to a college education.

1) Identify what you love. It’s often what you’re good at.

2) Identify how to become more proficient at it than the people who will ultimately become your competitors.

3) Start right away to identify the possible markets in which you will be competing, and then investigate and choose the entry-level position that will give you the most experience as you work toward your goal.

“You likely already know if your ideal career path — even if it’s fuzzy — requires a degree or not,” notes Dholakiya. “Many times, it doesn’t. If that’s the case, why spend those four or more precious years getting into debt, taking courses you don’t need and being stagnant?”

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