Most of us have probably heard some variation of this advice before: “Get a good education so you can get a good job and have a successful career”. It’s been a standard approach for years, where many well-meaning parents and other elders encourage younger people to build their foundation with a solid education. In other words, get an education to increase wealth down the line.
However, the tried and true advice about getting a good education has been questioned of late. We discussed this in a post on college vs. entrepreneurship, debating the notion that college might not be worth it these days, it’s not for everyone, and that many people could be fine without it in this current environment.
Clearly, based on what I wrote in that post, I don’t agree that college has become less necessary. Rather, I believe that a good, solid formal education has become more important than ever, and included it as one of the top ways to grow and protect your net worth.
Sure, some people are entrepreneurs that strike it rich based on risk taking and innate business sense. And yes, some people do burden themselves by going to unnecessarily expensive schools that offer a poor potential for high ROI. Nevertheless, I think its great advice for a young person by recommending they focus on getting a good formal education.
Here are 5 reasons I came up with to support the notion that a good, formal education is worth investing in:
- College graduates make more money. This has been documented over the years. Over a lifetime, this can truly add up to a substantial difference in net worth.
- A college degree is required for many jobs. Many white-collar, professional jobs simply require an undergraduate degree as a minimum screening criterion. If a person doesn’t have a degree, they probably won’t get a chance to enter certain fields at all. Often, the requirement is to have a graduate degree as well. If you don’t have a degree, you might not get a chance to play the game – and might hit an early, low plateau even if you do get an entry-level chance.
- A college degree helps shape your personal brand. Where you go to school can – for better or worse – play a role in getting into graduate school, getting certain jobs, and connecting with other people. It helps tell a story about you, and gives people a base level of confidence in your ability to show ambition and hustle.
- A formal education teaches you how to critically think. Often times, the specific skills we learn in school are never used, but we develop the skills of critical thinking and learning how to keep on learning. I had a former college friends mother ask me, years ago after I graduated, if I was using the specifics I learned in college in my first job. I said no, maybe 5% of the skills carried over, but I’m so glad I had the education. She looked at me puzzled, like I was crazy, and asked me how I could be glad for the education if I don’t use the skills I learned. I told her that I wasn’t applying very many skills I learned directly in college, and learned most things new on the job. However, without my college education – even though there was minimal transfer of skills from my degree and stuff was all new – I never would have been able to be prepared to do this job without my degree and education. She didn’t get it, as she clearly didn’t understand the concept of learning to learn and having intellectual context.
- You form a network of other professionals. It doesn’t matter what you do, nor does it matter if you aspire to make a lot of money. The bottom line is that the people you meet in school, as well as other alumni from your school, can help open opportunities to network, learn, bounce ideas off each other, and possibly find work.
Overall, the way I see it, it’s important to convey to younger people that a good, solid, formal education can help put them in a better position to grow their net worth over the course of their lives.
My Questions for You:
Do you agree with the notion that a formal education is truly necessary in this day and age?
Do you think that those who dismiss college for entrepreneurship are being shortsighted and caught up in get rich quick hype, or do you think that things are changing?
How has your level of education impacted your career, income, or other aspects of your financial life?