Your degree might not be as valuable as you think

The ability to fail, to think critically and to learn from one’s mistakes aren’t generally taught in school

David Fuller

A wise person recently told me, “People don’t care what type of degree I have. They care what mistakes I have made and what I learned from them.”

There’s typically a correlation between rising unemployment and increased enrolment in colleges and universities.

But this year, due to the move towards closed campuses and increased online learning to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, many prospective students may do something other than go school.

It’s also commonly believed that there’s a link between post-secondary education and income.

A study titled Comparing the Returns to Education for Entrepreneurs and Employees, published by University of Amsterdam in 2004, found that advanced education led to an increase in income of between six and 10 per cent for employees and seven to 14 per cent for entrepreneurs.

That being said, many of the richest people I know who are coming to the end of their careers in industry have had little post-secondary education.

It could be true that there was less opportunity to obtain post-secondary education 40 or 50 years ago.

However, some of those entrepreneurs who have succeeded without formalized education have done so through a dedication to hard work and a determination to leave poverty behind.

What education fails to measure and give credence to is the ability and motivation shown by those achieving higher levels of income.

Post-secondary education has its place and it seems that it’s harder to find jobs other than those at entry level that don’t specify some degree of advanced training or education.

Yet many of those degrees and certificates would be useless unless the graduates apply themselves with grit and determination to finding work in their chosen fields.

Unfortunately, some university degrees fail to set their graduates up for success. They just don’t provide a firm foundation in the skills necessary to succeed beyond the walls of academia.

In 2013, after 25 years of running my own businesses, I returned to school to obtain an MBA that I thought would bring me certain opportunities outside of a small business. I slogged away for two years and graduated with three letters that I can now put after my name.

But I quickly discovered that this additional education was only the beginning. In order to make more of a difference in the world, I needed to further that education with more knowledge and continuous learning.

Advanced education can be much more valuable than the 10 per cent in additional income it’s said to provide. That value lies in the ability of the student to put that knowledge to use in improving their situation and that of their community. This takes hard work and dedication.

We must also acknowledge that there’s a lost opportunity cost of two to eight years of the extra income generated by those who choose to go right to work after finishing high school.

The ability to fail, to think critically and to learn from one’s mistakes aren’t generally taught in school. Those traits are learned through observation, contemplation, and trial and error.

That process is started by parents who teach their children to learn from their mistakes instead of making them think that everything they do is a “Good job!”

Without persistence, dedication to self-improvement, and efforts to contribute to the betterment of one’s family, community and ultimately to the world, people tend to stagnate.

No amount of formal education can fix a mindset that believes barriers can’t be overcome or that happiness is dependent on money.

Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Do you believe you’re the sum of your education? Email dave@pivotleader.com

Dave is a Troy Media Thought Leader. Why aren’t you?

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