Is University education always the best choice for developing career skills?
Some thoughts after completing two degrees in U.K. Universities.
In my immediate family I am the only one to have gone to University. It was drummed into me that I had to get a degree to achieve anything in life and when my sister decided not to follow the academic path that I did my parents were very disappointed. Years later I have not one but two degrees and something like £50,000 worth of debt to pay back should I ever start earning a reasonable amount. My sister took college qualifications where funding would now be less available to me if I wanted to change my current career choice and is on the path to a management role.
The problem with seeing University as a means to a career
In the U.K. more and more people are entering higher education which is great but competition for academic jobs is high. Unless you make sure that you properly research the career market before picking a degree that is more likely to get you the job that you want and that demand for graduates in that sector is there. You may also have to consider that additional experience beyond University that many of these jobs require and how you might gain this experience during or after University. If you don’t properly research careers before chooseing a degree you may find that the career that you end up with doesn’t meet the expectations that you had upon entering higher education. You may graduate and find yourself in a position where actually you are behind your peers who didn’t go into University as far as job prospects and careers go.
Skills and Trades
People with skills are pretty useful and usually in high demand. Being educated will usually put you in a better position than not taking any education but is University the right education for you? There are lots of courses you can take after school or college that can help you develop a career as a trades person and when you’ve completed a degree many of these opportunities nolonger offer funding to you. To put that in perspective I sometimes need to pay trades people for jobs such as wielding and in my current retail position; with my local trades people that requires me to save an entire days work in exchange for one hour of time and materials.
Should you go to University?
University does have a lot of value both to develop you socially, expose you to a lot of new ideas, provides you with a lot of learning resources and the opportunity to get a decent qualification. What it isn’t always through is a ticket to success which is what was sold to me by various family members. Completing a degree doesn’t actually guarantee “making it” in the world or separate you from those on lower wages (many of my retail work colleagues have or are working on degrees). To get a higher paid job all you really need is a skill or a trade that you can sell. There is no doubt that University does provide you with the opportunity to reach into higher paid jobs but often those jobs also require specific job experience too as well as taking the right degree. If you want to reach into a career where you earn more than the minimum wage in the U.K. then I wouldn’t discount trade qualifications such as apprenticeships.
I do not regret my University experience as I got to study a subject that really interested me and do still aim to use my qualifications however having experienced University education from the age of 19 to 25 I do think that people neglect to empathise the value of alternative education routes and over value the worth of degree when it comes to “winning” financially in life. It took me a while to actually financially recover from the costs of undertaking my Master’s degree even with part-time work because of housing and living costs. I also wonder if making such a huge decision like “just which higher education course should I take?” is often made at too young an age as when you are 18 or around that age do you really know exactly what you want to do in life to get into that much debt to achieve it?