Solutions for Self-Reliance

Should I get an education or a degree?


I’m often asked by young people either on the cusp or already in college:  should I get a degree?   What’s the resilient choice?

That’s a tough question.

In 2008 some economists demonstrated that a college degree was typically worth $300,000 over a lifetime of work.

Unfortunately, 2008 was a lifetime ago.  In 2012, the big bureaucratic conveyor belt of industrial education that led to a lifetime of white collar employment is cooked.  Done.  Toast.  Dead.  Stick a fork in it if you don’t believe me!

This gets us back to the original question:  should I get a degree?

My answer?

  1. For those of you that want a bureaucratic job in some global company, agency or institution, pursue a degree.  The bureaucratic methods of hiring and promotion used by those organizations uses a degree as a gating factor.  However, you should be aware that there will be few of these jobs available (particularly for people that aren’t connected).
  2. For those of you that want to manufacture your own income:  you need an education and not a degree.
  3. For those of you that already have a degree, but want to move forward in a new direction:  you need an education.

Here’s the good news:  If education is your answer, your future is looking bright.  Resilient Education is already here and it is getting better, broader, and richer fast.  Best of all, it’s inexpensive (and in most cases, free).

Where can I find it?  There are lots of efforts underway, but the best is Khan Academy.  Take a look at the course catalog.   It’s rich.  Amazing.  Many of the people I know are already using Khan Academy for all of their continuing education.

Thing is, if life without the protection of a degree sounds scary, then you aren’t resilient.

How do you fix that?  To become resilient you need to:

  • Take responsibility for your education.  You are in charge of your own education.  It’s not “given” to you.
  • Treat education as a lifelong activity and not something you do only while you are young.  It’s continuous.
  • The final part is the most difficult to do.  The highest value of a degree is its use as a way to “signal” others that you are relatively smart and competent.   I’ll give you ways to signal that you are smart, competent, and trustworthy in this month’s newsletter.
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