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Is a University Degree Important these Days?

Does success have anything to do with a university degree or any certificate at all? Is a university education beneficial at all? What road leads to success? With a college degree or with no college degree? Your choice.

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At almost every turn, new generation speakers are downplaying the importance of a university degree. It seems that in the 21st Century, there are more avenues to gain access to knowledge, skills, and opportunities that could enable one to become successful without necessarily delving into the world of academia. There are a lot of successful people out there that were able to make it to the peak of their business ventures and success without a college degree; however, there are still those who have also made it to the top with a college degree likewise. Because of this, we now have people asking the question—Does success have anything to do with a university degree or any certificate at all? Is a university education beneficial at all? What road leads to success? With a college degree or with no college degree?  Your choice.

Do I get a college degree? Do I not get a college degree? Your choice

Some people say being successful has almost nothing to do with the number of degrees one has. There is some element of truth in this—the number of degrees that you acquire does not necessarily translate into success or great wealth automatically. To bolster this, high school graduands in developed countries, see getting a job immediately after high school as fashionable. As though to validate this point, it has become glaring today, in an age of social media and generations XYZ millionaires and billionaires (e.g., Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Richard Schulze, etc.) who make their money from ventures that have nothing to do with their degrees or no degrees at all. Let us delve into this by asking ourselves the question, “Is a University degree essential to succeed these days?”

“You have to stay in school. You have to. You have to go to college. You have to get your degree. Because that’s the one thing people can’t take away from you is your education. And it is worth the investment.” — Michelle Obama”

University Degree = Success or Not? Yes or No?

Education? Yes or No? Let’s see what we will answer

The answer depends on who is asking. Albeit beneficial, having a college or a university degree does not always mean that it will translate to success or great opulence automatically. Some people acquire a college degree and eventually utilize the knowledge and expertise that they have gained to climb the corporate ladders of their organizations and become remarkably successful, and sometimes very wealthy. There are others who have a list of college degrees under their professional belt and end up being corporate slaves with their degrees—they get by in the rat-race entrapment, but not necessarily super-rich or super-successful—they are just okay. There are still some with college degrees who are not even able to make ends meet. Getting a college degree may make you book-smart; however, it may not necessarily make you street-smart. Dealing with real life is all about shrewdness about getting things done. You can be book-smart, but you struggle in getting things done substantively. Street-smarts is defined by a go-getter mentality—you get things done; you make things work to your profit. You make a transformative impact via innovative and disruptive ideas. Not everyone is book-smart, and not everyone is street-smart. However, there are those who are both book-smart and street-smart all the same—an applicable advantage to say the very least. It is entirely subjective on the individual and their approach to life.

Being Book Smart has its pros and cons.

The concept of acquiring a college degree is subjective. If you earn a degree in some field of study and become an expert at it, you could hit the success bank in that field. It is dependent on the field and location, location, location. For instance, a degree in Information Technology in the Silicon Valley area in California or the Greater Seattle, Washington area becomes a competitive advantage that could give you a lucrative career. A degree in Information Technology is highly sought after in those areas. Another instance is a college degree in nursing anywhere in the United States of America can also furnish you access to a very successful career. However, not all degrees are equal. It is also a game of chance, a roll of the dice in the probability of life. In other words, if you will tow the university educational path, you must be very strategic in making the right career choice when it comes to your field of study, or you might end up on the welfare line with a bag full of college diploma and accolades. Be wise and choose the right path of academic expertise to pursue in college.

Be a changemaker. Be street smart!

As I said earlier, “Book-smarts does not always translate to street-smarts.” The concept of street-smartness is an innovative state of mind that is intermingled with a go-getter and change-maker mentality. It is when someone has a sharp (i.e., shrewd) awareness of how to adapt, survive or succeed in any situation that life throws at them. It is the life experience that is gained outside of school. Someone who is street-smart is apt in the art of knowing how to get along with the human element—that is how to get along with people. They operate with a heightened level of commonsense mentality when it comes to knowing who you can lean on and who not to lean on. It is the art of self-defense in the game of life—knowing how to maneuver and win even when the odds are against you. It is the art of having a radar mentality to comprehend when people are trying to feed you a cartload of rubbish in other to make a fool of you and trick you. It is the art of knowing the right time in the art of the deal. To be street smart is to be a real-world survivor. In summary, it is the art of understanding and knowing how to get stuff done while thinking on your feet. 

Become a disruptor in your field!

A lot of people who have become super-successful and wealthy reached this status by being very street-smart and many at times book-smart also. They developed an idea, cultivated the idea, honed the idea, and are now reaping the benefits of their smartness. They are change-makers who use their ideas and witty-creativity to disrupt the market by doing something tangible with their designs—when the herd is going one way, they are going the other way—they swim upstream while others are going downstream.  They are relentless while facing real-life situations and they take the bull of their destiny by the horns in their journey of becoming vanguards via their life adventures. I read an article written by a Lucinda Shen on August 8, 2016, of the Fortune magazine, who established that “about three out of 10 billionaires—29.9%—around the world did not have at least a bachelor’s degree in 2015.” That is an incredible statement—people who are achieving a lot of success and wealth through their go-getter disposition and becoming high-fliers in the affairs of life are said to have some sort of college degree. Hence, won’t it be a double advantage if people are book-smart via the acquisition of a college degree and street-smart too? Won’t that be considered as a dual competitive advantage scenario? It sure will.

“That’s the value of a college education… I don’t know anywhere in the world where you can make an investment and make that kind of return.” — Gaston Caperton

5 Benefits of a College Degree

Education is the key to the future!

We have seen that street-smartness with a go-getter and change-maker mentality can usher you through the portals of unimaginable success and colossal wealth. However, won’t it be best if people acquired some education in addition to being street-smart likewise? For us to come to a point where we can make an informed decision about this, we need to survey some of the benefits of going to college and acquiring an education. An Alex Tabarrok once said that “Education is the key to the future: You’ve heard it a million times, and it’s not wrong. Educated people have higher wages and lower unemployment rates, and better-educated countries grow faster and innovate more than other countries. But going to college is not enough. You also have to study the right subjects.” His assertions are valid about the benefit of college education; however, the point of emphasis is being in the right field of study. For those who are wondering about the benefits of a university degree and its connection to success, let us dive in and explore some of them.

#1. It Is A Measure of Achievement

A university degree is essential and will always be important to people who value education. For most societies, a university achievement is a feat and a vital requirement for climbing that career ladder. Also, a university degree is also one of the yardsticks that are used in measuring the literacy rate of nations. The more college-educated the populace of a nation is, the higher the literacy rate of such a country. Many countries that have the highest literacy rates boasts of great innovation, development, and economic prowess because of the knowledge capital they have that supports the growth of their body politic (NB. Be sure to check out the article, “10 Most Literate Countries in the World”). A university education is a measure of success that shows expertise and specialization in a subject or field. The chosen profession is, however, the catch. As all fingers are not equal; so also, all career fields are not equal.

Education helps you specialize in a chosen career field

Some career fields are more lucrative than others. For instance, the career base pay for a Neurosurgeon, on many occasions, cannot be compared with the base compensation for a career chef working for an establishment that is not his or her own. However, this notion is all subjective. If a chef plays his or her cards well, the individual could become more successful than a neurosurgeon if he/she ventures to open his/her restaurant that turns out to be a mega-success. However, if you must succeed with a university education, then you must be very cautious and deliberate when choosing the right course of study. This will give you a fighting chance to make something out of your profession after college. Failure to do so might leave you squirming for dear life and struggling to survive. (NB. Last year, I stumbled over the video by the YouTube Channel, Alux, titled, Top 10 Degrees the Still Guarantee a Job,” and I feel it’s worthy of sharing here—see it below). Acquiring a university education is not an easy feat to say the very least—it requires endurance, commitment, and a lot of hard work. A university degree hones your potentials, builds your skill set and gives you the push needed to succeed.

“Education is an investment. Make the right investment by choosing the right course of study in college.”

#2. It Gives You A Competitive Advantage

A college education can give you a competitive boost above your peers

Earning a university degree gives you a competitive advantage in the job market—it gives you a head start over those in the rat race who do not possess a university degree. People with university degrees have a higher chance of being successful in places where their areas of specialization are in high demand. With the right university degree, things are not left to chance or passion. Application of all you have learned while obtaining your degree will come to play in the right career environment. In other words, the right career plus the right ambiance is equal to a successful career, ceteris paribus. An educated person with a university degree in most cases has a higher competitive edge over those who do not have one—it is that propellant that jet-set(s) you ahead of your competition. A university degree removes ceilings that can truncate professional growth and achievement in organizations. If you hope to push to the C-Suite and earn more money, then you might want to consider getting a degree! 

A college education helps you climb the corporate steps to greater accolades

The chances are slimmer for those who don’t have a university education—especially in a knowledge economy. The reason is that no employer is going to pay a high school graduate more than a university graduate, all things being equal. The only way this will happen is if the high school graduate has a specific self-taught sought-after skill that the college graduate does not possess. If you are not a geek with the latest technological invention, it is best you strive to get a degree! University degrees are relevant. It can be a channel to earn a living if push comes to shove. Unless you have a proprietary and revolutionary idea like “Facebook” or “Microsoft Windows” that would ensure you need not work a day in your life, then you could consider getting a university education as an option to guarantee earning potential. A recent research from Georgetown University establishes that university graduates earn $1 million more in earnings over their lifetime than those who do not have a college degree. As you can see, having a university degree can be an edge over those who do not have the same in the job sector.

#3. It Gives You A Chance for A Better Earning Potential

A college education can improve your chances of a better earning potential

Acquiring a university degree gives you a chance for a better-earning-potential. In other words, with more money comes the possibility of a better lifestyle and a step closer to the desired success. An increased earning power comes with an improved lifestyle, and this is only possible as you climb the ladder of success in a chosen career field. This shift in your earning potential may occur in the form of a promotion or added job responsibilities, and this opportunity is only reserved for those who have at least a first or bachelor’s degree from a university. A college degree creates an opportunity for planned and measured growth in earning capacities.  It also makes for an improved and sustained financial potential. 

#4. It Gives You Options

Don’t settle—Choose the job you love!

People who have a university degree have a wide range of jobs to choose from—again, this is subjective and dependent on the field of study that you choose. A degree serves as a steppingstone for future connections, network, opportunities, and learning. While those without degrees take on lesser paying jobs to make ends meet, those with university degrees are exposed to a broader pool of professional employment and comparable salaries to go with it. These jobs are suited to their qualifications, and further study makes it possible for graduates to have a fast career climb. Graduates enjoy the best job markets and the better skills and qualifications they possess, the better their chances of improved employment potentials. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This statement holds a lot of validity. Education gives you an option to be able to choose a job that you love.

#5. It Sharpens Your Skills

Improve your skills—It is critical to your professional growth!

A university degree goes a long way in helping the individual sharpen their skill sets. In this 21st Century and in the future, the following relevant skills sets amongst others will be essential for succeeding in the workplace. They are: (a). Critical thinking and problem solving; (b). Effective communication; (c). Collaboration and team building; and (d). Creativity and innovation.

First, a college degree hones your critical thinking and problem solving skill. The future of work will require a lot of people who are able to think reflexively or critically. Okay, I am going to be a little academic for a bit in defining critical thinking. According to the Foundation of Critical Thinking, it is “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” Critical thinking creates the opportunity to be able to use complex data to solve the problems of tomorrow. A college degree helps in preparing students for a future of reflexive thinking and problem-solving.   

A college degree hones your critical thinking skills

Second, a college degree helps you develop effective communication skills. We live in a day and age where the ease of communication says a lot about an individual. Effective communication is critical. Most of those who have taken the time to obtain degree possess better communication and written skills needed to thrive and survive in the corporate world. The rigor of college writing improves quality in communication. It hones the preciseness of written or verbal communication.

A college educations improves your communication skills

Third, a college degree helps you develop great team building skills. We live in an age of extensive collaboration and team building. The world has become a global village, and we now have organizations establishing virtual teams all over the world to handle global-scale projects. Having a college education helps to foster and grow this vital skill. College classes avail students the opportunity of learning how to collaborate with each other. It also allows them to build effective and efficient team building skills. This helps in preparing them for the workforce of the 21st Century and the future.

Teamwork makes the team work!

Fourth, a college degree makes you more creative and innovative. Acquiring a college degree is also a catalyst that fosters creativity and innovation. The world of academia under the right conditions does not truncate creativity and innovation but rather amplifies it. Universities remain a core hub for advanced research, innovation, and creativity. A college degree remains one for the most acceptable methods of hire especially for an employer who is particular about the skill set he wants his employees to have.

Innovation and creativity are at the nucleus of a college education

“When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world.” — Elon Musk

In the end, attending a university provides benefits that are beyond just a degree. Most graduates would agree that their time at the university was probably their most memorable and impactful. It creates the opportunity to form bonds of lasting camaraderie. University is where most people make lifelong friends and build relationships and networks that could be beneficial in the future. Nowhere else do young people of similar backgrounds gather to share experiences. It is a conglomeration of innovation, ideas, and a creative hub for knowledge capital generation. The acquired knowledge transcends way beyond the time spent in college acquiring them.

Formal tertiary education also puts young people through rigorous mental processes that they can apply in other situations when they venture into the workforce. This is not to say that all those who have a degree are certain to make it—that is a far cry from reality. Not everyone who has a college degree go on to become high-fliers in their chosen professions. While going to school itself does not guarantee automatic success, the skill set obtained in a university puts those with degrees ahead of those who don’t possess one—it gives them a competitive edge. Hence, it is better to have a college degree than not to have any at all. What have you got to lose?

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Ogbonnaya Agom-Eze is an entrepreneur and the Founder, CEO, Editor-In-Chief of Oaekpost, LLC, a U.S.-based online media company and the parent organization of www.oaekpost.com. He is a multi-niche writer with a wide range of interests in various genres. Agom-Eze is based in the Greater Seattle Area, Washington, and can be reached at ogb@oaekpost.com.

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