Over-educated: Why a Post-Graduate Degree May not be Such a Good Idea

When I was a kid, the big question every adult posed was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The underlying assumption was that I would choose a profession, go to a University in pursuit of that profession, and work thirty-odd years as I climbed to the top of my profession’s ladder.

Kids my age wanted to be lawyers, doctors, teachers, and such. The only path to success was a solid education. The question was not if I would go to a University but where I would go and what I would study. Success was guaranteed to those who attained a Post-Graduate Degree, was possible (but not all that likely) for those with only an Undergraduate Degree, and impossible for virtually all others.

The concepts of working from home, being a consultant, or making millions on the Internet had not yet been birthed into existence. Unless you were born into a family business, working for yourself was an unheard of fantasy. Enter the information age, and everything changes.

These days, traditional job positions are difficult to fill. Potential employees expect to have the ability to telecommute (work from home), they require flexibility in work hours, they challenge the status quo. Slowly, employers are beginning to make some changes to accommodate this new generation of workers.

Ask a young person today what he or she wants to be when s/he grows up, and you may be surprised. You’ll hear words like “entrepreneur, athlete, artist, dot com millionaire, computer programmer, or consultant.” If you belong to this new generation, or if you have kids coming into this age, it may be time to let go of the traditional thinking that the only path to success is paved via higher education.

Here are three big reasons why a Post-Graduate degree may not be such a good idea.

I. Women

Half of the work force is no longer willing to sacrifice one dream in pursuit of another, and they’re changing the blueprint of traditional employment.

Not too many years ago, the women’s liberation movement insisted that, as equals, women should be afforded the same educational and career opportunities as men. Equality meant same. Now, equality means fair.

Women are inherently different than men, and are now realizing that being viewed as different is not an insult. Women these days want to have careers without sacrificing their dreams of having children. They are no longer willing to have their children raised in daycare centers and by nannies while they slave under the thumb of a 40 or 50 hour work week.

Today, fair treatment means having the ability to work around family. Employees and employers alike are recognizing this shift, and as such are changing what they look for. In order for our daughters to attain success in the workforce, we no longer have to insist that they pursue years upon years of higher education. They don’t want it, and many employers are no longer requiring it. (Granted, the requirements for physicians are unlikely to change. The thing is, your little girl doesn’t have to be a doctor when she grows up to be successful. Not anymore.)

II. Technology

En masse, employment seekers are discovering that there are different ways to make a fortune than spending half a lifetime in school.

Are Graduate Degrees worth it?If you were born before the 1990’s, you had the opportunity to see the Internet in its infancy. It was a strange concept, and not to be trusted. It was a fad that would ebb and flow like the popularity of bell-bottom jeans (which are on their way back in, in case you didn’t know). Career options were limited to three categories: professional, service, trades. Computers were simply a tool that the really successful career people used.

But the Internet stuck around, computers became indispensable, and technology grew in rapid fashion. A whole new world of careers opened up! Computers were being used in all sorts of professions and trades, and the need for people who understood their language grew exponentially. Technology has even made it’s way into the classroom through products like the Dell Interactive Whiteboard that aim to prepare students for their future in an electronics-heavy workforce.

The point is, you no longer need to go to University for eight years in order to have a hope of earning a six-figure salary. The world of independent consultants, computer technologists, web programmers, and telecommuters has cracked wide open.

III. Cost

Parents and students alike are rejecting the concept that one must pay out the nose in order to achieve success.

Have you looked into the cost of a University education these days? Across the board, tuition fees keep climbing, and textbook prices are out of control.

We used to be willing to invest in our education and that of our children for the sake of a higher goal – success, a lasting career, a high-paying salary. Because those goals are now attainable for many of us without that Post-Grad Degree, University tuition no longer seems like such a good investment.

Imagine that, at age 18, you begin your six to eight-year journey of higher education. For your Undergrad, you might be able to attend a nearby College and live at home, so let’s say your loans are only $10,000 per year. That Post-Grad Degree, though, it’s going to require that you move. Plus, your tuition fees will go up. It’s more likely you’ll need to borrow $20,000 per year. That’s at least $80,000…which goes into repayment about a year after you graduate (you’ll be 25). If you pay faithfully, those student loans will be gone around age 40.

It used to be that these years were the yellow bricks on the road to the Emerald City. Now, though, alternative options abound! Undergrads are working as consultants; Diplomas in computer sciences, web design, and the like guarantee a long and lucrative career; young entrepreneurs are attaining great success.

If your lifelong dream is to be a doctor, there’s no getting around it – you’ll have to buckle down for eight-plus years of higher education. If, however, your lifelong dream is to be wealthy and successful, becoming a doctor is no longer the only path. I’m not saying a Post-Grad Degree is the wrong path, I’m just saying it’s no longer the only path.

Which path will you choose (or encourage your kids to choose)?

About kriscate

Krisca Te is part of the team that manages http://www.australiancreditcards.com.au, a blog about personal finance based in Sydney, Australia. Before she joined ACC, she was an Associate in Deutsche Bank Group under Market and Instruments Control Services.

One Response to Over-educated: Why a Post-Graduate Degree May not be Such a Good Idea

  1. Leslie June 23, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    You are4 100% correct.. I have a Masters in Education, never got that opportunity to have my own classroom, working as a teacher undercontract. I work at a caregiver for the elderly and for families who have a strong need for a nanny to help with their children's commitements and activities.

Leave a Reply