Real World Careers

In 10 Things I Wish I had Never Believed – I said I wished I had never believed a person couldn’t be successful without a college degree and went on to post the follow up 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position Without a College Degree.

A new book on this subject was released this month – Real World Careers – Why College is NOT the Only Path to Becoming Rich by Betsy Cummings.

I read the 180 page book in single evening (easy read). The first half of it is excellent, but after that, some of it seemed like filler. The author could have condensed this to 90-100 pages without losing anything. But I would still recommend the book to anyone that is considering skipping college and jumping directly into a job or entrepreneurship.

Here is an excerpt from page 15:

Studies do show that college graduates can generally expect higher earnings – as much as twice what nongraduates may make, according to the latest census figures. But what those numbers don’t take into account are the people who saw college as an obstacle in their career paths. These go-getters avoided the experiences of their friends who graduated in four to six years, got out, and found themselves in low-paying entry-level jobs, often with huge student loans to pay back. Believe it. It happens. Far too many sad stories have been told of college graduates doing menial jobs. For every grad who lands a high five-figure job on Wall Street, there are many more who end up waiting tables at Chili’s or ringing up Chino’s at J.Crew.

More to the point, too many high school students are being oversold on the notion that college is the only way to professional success. That’s a disservice to students when you consider that only half of those who enroll will actually attain a four-year degree.

The book has several excellent questionnaires you can use to find out if college is right for you, and if it isn’t, what direction to take after deciding to skip college.

Betsy Cummings offers inspirational stories about people who have succeeded without ever setting foot in college. The examples include traditional corporate careers and entrepreneurial avenues.

These stories and statistics are not from 1960 – they are from 2004-2006.

A few stats from the book:

  • 50% of students that enroll in college will not earn a four year degree, many of whom will incur five to six figures of high interest debt
  • Over 60% of students that do graduate will take over six years to earn a degree
  • 4 out of 10 people working in computer and math sciences do not have a four-year degree
  • 2 out of 10 engineers do not have a four-year degree
  • 1 out of 14 people working in life sciences do not have a four-year degree
  • 1 out of 10 people working in social sciences do not have a four-year degree
  • Only 34% of Registered Nurses have a four year degree – (I know this one is hard to believe – but the source cited is the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses 2004)

For those of you that can’t afford college or are hesitant to borrow large amounts to pay for college, this book is a great place to start.

I wouldn’t call this a great book, but it is worth the price if you are having second thoughts about college.

12 thoughts on “Real World Careers”

  1. A degree is only one of the bi-products of a college education and a de facto meal ticket.

    Life lessons in a more controlled environment for starters. Dealing with other people and living with other people. 90% of college is the experiences not the classes. Society benefits as a whole the more people that attain degrees.

  2. Jeff,
    It simply isn’t true that that college is a defacto meal ticket. I personally know people that have doctorates that are in horrible financial shape. The defacto meal ticket is what both Christine and I call the “Greatest Working Class Lie Ever Told.” I personally know degreed people buried in student debt, working jobs they hate for 35K a year. I know other people that never went to college that have millions in net worth. Does the average college graduate make more than the average non-grad? Yes. But those are just averages.

    The claim that society benefits as a whole the more people that earn degrees is unprovable. There is no evidence to suggest such a thing. In fact too many people going to college may just water down the entire institution and make it worth even less. Read this The Decline and Fall of the British University.

    College is great choice for some people and very poor choice for others. It’s a sweeping generalization to say that everybody is “College Material.” Charles Murray just did a strong piece on this subject in the Wall Street Journal. Money magazine has even said that as college gets more and more expensive the return on investment will decrease. Many experts are recommending that private colleges are already a poor investment for most people.

    If 90% of college is the experiences, not the classes, why is it so expensive?

    There’s a business idea…
    Charge 50% of the price of college and offer all the experiences, minus the classes. That’d be a good deal huh? 🙂

  3. Jeff,
    One more thing…
    If current trends hold, 82% of the current school age children will never attain a college degree.

    So if we keep repeating the platitude “College is the only way to financial success”, and the 82% believe us, what have we done? Created a huge recipe for social disaster. We had better start telling these people that they CAN be successful. We need to encourage them to be successful at whatever they decide to do and stop all this social engineering. We need to tell them to happy with themselves and what they have and stop telling them what they don’t have or what they can’t have.

    I think it would be much more productive to motivate these folks with encouragement than frightening them with consequences we don’t even know will occur. I believe people are far more powerful than they realize and we need to tell them that they can exercise that power wether they have a degree or not.

    Has it ever occured to anyone that maybe the reason so many non-grads earn less than grads is because they believe they should earn less? Maybe we should work on that belief? That seems a whole lot easier and cheaper than trying to get them to go to college using shame, guilt, and fear.

  4. I whole heartedly agree that college is not for everyone. It’s a statistically proven route to financial success which is likely why guidance counselors and parents push it so fiercely on students. Nothing is a 100% guarantee of financial success, but there is a lot more to life than money, which is another message that should take a front seat to society endorsing the message of college is the way to go.

    One of the concepts I liked from the Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance is the concept of educational institutions doing away with grades and letting the people willing to learn progress and as time passes the people that can’t or don’t want to continue learning eventually weed themselves out. No one fails, no one passes, the cream just rises to the top.

  5. I’d be interesting to know how many of the worlds 600+ billionaires have college degrees. And of those people that do have a degree, how many actually use what they learned today?

  6. You are reminding me of what I have known instinctually my whole life. I don’t need to read a book to understand this concept. I never thought college was important to making a success of myself. However, reality dictated that if I didn’t further my education I would never get a good paying job. Which also reminds me (bummer…) that I probably was never smart enough to (or have the where-with-all) to figure out how to get money to start a business. I have always thought I could start a business–but I am/was always stuck with “how do I get the money??” Where do I begin? So maybe I took the easy way out. But for a middle class stiff like me, I didn’t really think I had a choice. (Especially after making $7 an hour for awhile). Doesn’t it take money to make money?

    I guess my logic dictates to me that I make some money first, and then figure out what success really is. If that includes starting a business, or creating something and making a lot of money–so be it.

    I also have a lot to say about some of the comments.
    Josh–I want to know how many of the 600+ billionaires were millionaires to begin with.
    Steve Olson–in my field, you have no choice but to believe that you aren’t as good without the degree and no one without a degree can get “too far” ahead. It seems (and I am sure there are exceptions but very few) that everyone has to be the smartest, the most competitive, and you only prove yourself in those 2 areas, if you have a degree, the pinnacle of that being a Ph.D. This I don’t agree with AT ALL, but it just seems to be the way it is. (I have some comments about that too, but I will save that for one of your educational blogs..LOL)

  7. I would love for my son not to go to college. And not because of the money. There is so much time and effort waisted during those years. At the moment, it’s rare to be “socially accepted” if you don’t have a degree. By that i mean that even if you’re a young, bright, smart, good person and you don’t have a degree, people will think less of you. And it will be hard to find a job.

    That’s a real shame but I hope society has gotten rid of this attitude by the time my son is 15-20 years old.

    Nice weekend


  8. In my opinion, the college degree should not make any difference between people, yet the vast majority think it does. I am having an engineering college degree, but I do not think that my wife that does not have one is less intelligent or less performant than I am. Maybe she is not as good as me in mathematics, physics, and computers, but she is smarter in many other aspects. In fact, I believe that only 10% of what I have learned over the years is coming from school. I finished the college as a great enemy of the computers, I have never attended any kind of computer course, yet I am nowadays an IT Consultant in the ERP business. I have learned English (I am not from US, nor from an Anglo-Saxon country) mostly by myself, because I needed to. And so on. Then, is coming the question “why did I have to waste 17 years to learn so little?”

    Still, I have to admit that the masterate I got helped me much more in my career, as it gave me the opportunity to show up and to prove how efficient I am. Meanwhile, the lack of college studies blocked my wife’s career. It is definitely not fair, but it is as it is.

    Eventually, I am not sure if the lady to whom you gave the advices from “10 Tips to Secure a Management Position Without a College Degree” was not right about the tips 5 to 8. Although all tips are good and really helpful, I think that these ones are having some degree of hypocrisia in them. Or I may be wrong.

  9. Thanks for all the great comments everyone!

    I’m not sure I understand what you meant about steps 5-8. What did you mean? Most people don’t want to take steps 5-8 because they consider it corporate butt kissing and it is very hard work. But I’m telling you that it works. Getting a degree opens a lot of doors for you. If you don’t have one, you are going to have break your back to be noticed. Is it fair? No. Is it reality? In most work places it is.

    I know a woman that started in the mailroom (1990) of a major finanicial corporation at 18 years old without a day of college. She used these tips and today she is an executive. Was it hard? You bet it was. Was it worth it? For her it was.

    It all depends on what you want, I guess.

  10. Steve,
    I wanted to suggest these steps can be considered “corporate butt kissing”, without exactely using these words. Otherway, I fully agree these tips are working great. Some butt kissing is always useful, either you have or not a college degree or not. That piss me off, as I do not like that. I do not have anything against hard work.

    I may be wrong, but I think that the managers, after long periods of butt kissing, are expecting some attention to be paid by their subordinates to their butt too.

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