When I was in high school, my parents always told me that the only way I was ever going to do anything in life is if I went to college. NOT going wasn’t even discussed. You had to go to college if you wanted a job. If you wanted to work at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart forever, then fine, you could skip out on college – but everyone knows (at least according to my parents back then) that working at Wal-Mart wasn’t really a job as much as it was a sentence to the worst life ever.
Well, I went to college, and I even did my parents one better and went to graduate school. Armed with both a BA and MFA, I was certain I could pretty much get any job I applied for, and would get paid 35K at the minimum.
Ha. Ha. Ha. And I’m not alone. Not only have most of my friends with MFAs scrambled to find anything to pay the bills post graduation (working at Borders, in a file room…with freaking MFAs!!), but it seems like degrees in general are losing the battle to inflation.
According to this really long and slightly boring article from the Wall Street Journal, college degrees no longer carry a promise that you’ll immediately grab a job and get paid in awesome wages.
“What employers want from workers nowadays is more narrow, more abstract and less easily learned in college.
To be sure, the average American with a college diploma still earns about 75% more than a worker with a high-school diploma and is less likely to be unemployed. Yet while that so-called college premium is up from 40% in 1979, it is little changed from 2001, according to data compiled by Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank.”
So yes, going to college is better than not going to college, but your diploma just ain’t worth what it used to be worth — especially in today’s economy. What it comes down to in 2008 is a small group of skills that sets you apart from other applicants, not just the fact that you have 4 years of psychology classes under your belt.
The moral of the story? If you know what you want to do once you graduate, get real world experience now. Internships and extracurriculars have never been more important, and fostering relationships with people who might hire you in the future is a great way to be sure you won’t be working minimum wage with four years of a good, quality school under your belt.
(image source: businessweek.com)