Is a college degree worthless?

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technofox
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Is a college degree worthless?

Post by technofox »

Hi All,

I found this article interesting http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Co ... spx?page=1 and wondered what you all think of it.

From my perspective, I have a lot of debt (~$67,000 of student loans) and I sometimes wonder if I should have reconsidered the choice that I have made. I have earned a Master degree and earn roughly $50,000/yr, and from my perspective I am very fortunate to earn just that.

I have seen collegemates from undergrad school who earn more than me (either through less debt or by taking a test for a higher pay grade) and its quite upsetting to see that the extra effort I had put into a graduate degree is not paying off (compared to those who haven't). The only good thing is that I can eventually become a college professor for an undergraduate university (a goal in life).

I have been struggling on not getting upset by the choice that I have made, but it did help me get into the information security profession. How do you guys/gals deal with this kind of thinking or dillemma?
bombcar
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Post by bombcar »

From a purely financial standpoint a college degree from a private university may not be worth it (compared to similar degrees from a state university, or no degree at all).

However, it can be worth it for other reasons. I will say that the rise of college costs have no real connection with reality, though.
atomiclightbulb
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Post by atomiclightbulb »

You're not doing too badly. I know a lot of people who would like to be in your shoes right now.

I have friends who are $150,000 in debt from law school, and earning $43,000/year or less if they are lucky enough to be employed. They feel they wasted $150,000 and 3 years of earnings for a semi-worthless degree in an over-saturated profession.

Scientific, technical, and business related degrees are worth money. A lot of other degrees, by themselves, are not worth much in terms of economic benefit.
Last edited by atomiclightbulb on Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Rodc
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Post by Rodc »

As to the article:

In part it depends on how smart you are about things. One can get a fine college education for less money by starting out in the local community college, working part time, etc.

His example of the high school only worker saving more over time by starting early only works if you are smart enough to actually start early.

A lot really depends on what you want to do: can't really be a research scientist with just a high school degree, but if painting houses is your thing it works out fine. (My best friend paints houses and makes as much money as I do which is plenty. College for him would have been a waste).

If you go to a top priced private school, take out loans to pay for it, and get a degree in fine arts or sociology (a perfectly fine profession, but tends not to pay well), likely that was not very smart. But that is hardly the only way to go about things.

In end, the decision is about a lot more than money.

As to your situation: it is water under the bridge. If you like your job, well, it sure could have been a lot worse, so cheer up!
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.
livesoft
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Post by livesoft »

Some college degrees are worthless. Some are not. The idea is to get one of the ones that is not worthless. Generally, if you are smart enough to get into college, you are smart enough to figure out which degrees are worthless and to avoid them.
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Post by livesoft »

Rodc wrote:...
A lot really depends on what you want to do: can't really be a research scientist with just a high school degree, but if painting houses is your thing it works out fine. (My best friend paints houses and makes as much money as I do which is plenty. College for him would have been a waste).
Years ago in Houston there was the "Three Philosophers Painting Company" which did house painting. The principals were 3 guys with PhDs who couldn't get jobs in their degreed fields.
Rodc
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Post by Rodc »

livesoft wrote:
Rodc wrote:...
A lot really depends on what you want to do: can't really be a research scientist with just a high school degree, but if painting houses is your thing it works out fine. (My best friend paints houses and makes as much money as I do which is plenty. College for him would have been a waste).
Years ago in Houston there was the "Three Philosophers Painting Company" which did house painting. The principals were 3 guys with PhDs who couldn't get jobs in their degreed fields.
Yeah, my father in years before Kinkos took over the copy business used to use a small shop run by a very bitter PhD philosopher. But a girl friend of years past used to work for another PhD philosopher who started his own small software company (support to insurance companies); he was reasonably happy.

So, to some degree (pun intended) I guess it depends on how good you are at making lemonade out of lemons. :)
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.
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Tall Grass
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Post by Tall Grass »

College degrees help to open doors, and of course tend to offer more opportunities to those with them, than those without them.

In my own experience, I have witnessed that a degree(s) makes only a marginal difference in success when compared to individual initiative and creativity.

And they seem to bear no higher relationship to an individual's level of common sense or decency to others than those without them...
Last edited by Tall Grass on Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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technofox
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Post by technofox »

Rodc wrote:As to the article:

In part it depends on how smart you are about things. One can get a fine college education for less money by starting out in the local community college, working part time, etc.

His example of the high school only worker saving more over time by starting early only works if you are smart enough to actually start early.

A lot really depends on what you want to do: can't really be a research scientist with just a high school degree, but if painting houses is your thing it works out fine. (My best friend paints houses and makes as much money as I do which is plenty. College for him would have been a waste).

If you go to a top priced private school, take out loans to pay for it, and get a degree in fine arts or sociology (a perfectly fine profession, but tends not to pay well), likely that was not very smart. But that is hardly the only way to go about things.

In end, the decision is about a lot more than money.

As to your situation: it is water under the bridge. If you like your job, well, it sure could have been a lot worse, so cheer up!
Yeah, I do like my current job, but it gets to me sometimes. When you work for the government, it seems that you have to be at the right place at the right time to take a test to get a bump in pay; I prefer pay based on merit and the three faucets of IT/Security (education, training, and experience). I have to remind myself at times that I am working for the government to serve the public good. I just find it hard to remain motivated to see that there is no reward for performance or any other form of merit. My boss has had the same feelings, but he still chugs along giving 110% despite being just as jaded by the system. Oh, well I guess all that matters is what you have said, it could have been a lot worse.

I feel bad for teachers though here in NY, especially that they are required to have a graduate degree just to teach kidnegarden all the way to high school. I heard of a woman who graduated from a private university to become a teacher and she can't even make enough to live on her own. I find the cost of college education becoming revolting, even though I believe (dependent on major) its worth while.
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Opponent Process
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Re: Is a college degree worthless?

Post by Opponent Process »

technofox wrote:How do you guys/gals deal with this kind of thinking or dillemma?
I'm an absurdist. Embrace the absurdity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absurdism
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Bored5000
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Post by Bored5000 »

I mean no disrespect whatsoever to the original poster, but why didn't you pursue cheaper options such as state schools (that amount of debt makes it fairly clear the OP did not attend a state school)? I guess I have an Boglehead philosophy when it comes to higher education. I mean, $67,000 in student loans seems like a crushing amount. Unless you are going to an Ivy League school or a school with a similar reputation, the prospect of being in debt for many years upon graduating just doesn't seem to make sense when there are more affordable alternatives.
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technofox
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Re: Is a college degree worthless?

Post by technofox »

Opponent Process wrote:
technofox wrote:How do you guys/gals deal with this kind of thinking or dillemma?
I'm an absurdist. Embrace the absurdity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absurdism
LOL :lol:

That's true. It is absurd to think of my situation as a dillemma; I guess I just feel let down that I went for higher education and expected to be rewarded for it. Well that's not totally true, I did get hired into my field of study just a month after graduation, can't beat that I guess; I just hate the additional debt load for the same pay as some of my peers who choose not to go to grad school. Maybe I should just see as a long term investment with great dividends at the end :wink:
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Post by LadyGeek »

If you work for a US government contractor (or the government itself), you need to have a college degree from an accredited school to be called an engineer. I guess it's the easiest way for the government to guarantee that you are competent to hold the position. Other than that, there's not much else you need in terms of advanced degrees.

There are always exceptions. You could find a position that does a lot of advanced research where you might put an advanced degree to work. It's not saying that you can't do the work, but it's a huge cultural environment where everyone is either MS or PhD.
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Post by WheatThin »

Undergrad: Worth the money, I'd never have been interviewed for my job without it.
Grad school that results in debt: Rarely worth it unless from an ultra-elite school.
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technofox
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Post by technofox »

Bored5000 wrote:I mean no disrespect whatsoever to the original poster, but why didn't you pursue cheaper options such as state schools (that amount of debt makes it fairly clear the OP did not attend a state school)? I guess I have an Boglehead philosophy when it comes to higher education. I mean, $67,000 in student loans seems like a crushing amount. Unless you are going to an Ivy League school or a school with a similar reputation, the prospect of being in debt for many years upon graduating just doesn't seem to make sense when there are more affordable alternatives.
I would agree with you at first; however, my major, Information Systems Security, was only offered at 4 universities back in 2005. Unfortunately, each university was marginally different in pricing (~$22k and up). Not this is an excuse, but I was not financially astute until 2006 and then began following the bogleheads philosophy.

As for the debt it is a crushing amount and holds me back from saving towards a house and other endeavours (except emergency fund and retirement). Being married hasn't helped either, but overall my wife and I our doing pretty well considering our debt load. I am focusing right now to pay off our credit cards and then paying down the personal loan, and finally pay off her car loan. I have saved about ~$18k-20k for retirement (depends on market fluxation), excluding pension contributions. After my recent post for deciding to pay down debt or conitnue to save, I have decided from what others here have suggested to pay down my debts.
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Post by alec »

technofox,

look at the total compensation you're getting vs what you could be getting outside your gov't job. by total comp i mean pay plus bennies.

my wife works for the gov't and there were loads and loads of techies that worked for the gov't for a couple of years and then went contractor - i.e. get to know the systems and how the gov't works, then go exploit it. hey, if the gov't is going to treat you so bad, treat it bad. public service, my eye. I have never, ever met anyone that works for the fed gov't that is there b/c of the public service. I've met some in the military, but not the civilian gov't.
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RadAudit
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Post by RadAudit »

There continues to be a debate about college costs vs. worth of the degree as defined by the PV of the life time earnings from a job in that field. Costs can be lowered based on how and where the degree is obtained (public vs. private, etc.). Worth of the degree is a function of field of study.

As long as the debate is framed in these terms, I think it misses the point. College can be / should be more than a technical school with ivy. To some, it's about a time and a place to grow up without the obligations / cares of putting food on the table and clothes on the back. To try new ideas, to learn how others look at life.

How you quantify that I don't know. But the most valuable thing I learned at the last collge I graduated from was from the exposure to other prespectives. (And as you can surmise from this post - none of those perspectives had anything to do with rational thought or writing coherently in English.)
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Re: Is a college degree worthless?

Post by diasurfer »

Opponent Process wrote:
technofox wrote:How do you guys/gals deal with this kind of thinking or dillemma?
I'm an absurdist. Embrace the absurdity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absurdism
I somehow managed to lose my undergrad diploma, but I still have my PhD hanging on the wall, and considering that it's "Aged Parchment" from the link below I estimate it's worth about $6.99.

http://www.paperdirect.com/Custom+Print ... uctDetails

You can spend your whole life looking at your peers and playing the coulda shoulda woulda game. In the big picture, you're in good shape. Don't worry, be happy.
Bored5000
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Post by Bored5000 »

technofox wrote:
Bored5000 wrote:I mean no disrespect whatsoever to the original poster, but why didn't you pursue cheaper options such as state schools (that amount of debt makes it fairly clear the OP did not attend a state school)? I guess I have an Boglehead philosophy when it comes to higher education. I mean, $67,000 in student loans seems like a crushing amount. Unless you are going to an Ivy League school or a school with a similar reputation, the prospect of being in debt for many years upon graduating just doesn't seem to make sense when there are more affordable alternatives.
I would agree with you at first; however, my major, Information Systems Security, was only offered at 4 universities back in 2005. Unfortunately, each university was marginally different in pricing (~$22k and up). Not this is an excuse, but I was not financially astute until 2006 and then began following the bogleheads philosophy.

As for the debt it is a crushing amount and holds me back from saving towards a house and other endeavours (except emergency fund and retirement). Being married hasn't helped either, but overall my wife and I our doing pretty well considering our debt load. I am focusing right now to pay off our credit cards and then paying down the personal loan, and finally pay off her car loan. I have saved about ~$18k-20k for retirement (depends on market fluxation), excluding pension contributions. After my recent post for deciding to pay down debt or conitnue to save, I have decided from what others here have suggested to pay down my debts.
Thanks for the explanation. Glad you didn't think I was trying to insult you or be a smart-ass. :D
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Post by Cognitive Miser »

In Spent, Geoffrey Miller explains the real value of a university degree:
Universities offer a costly, slow, unreliable intelligence-indicating product that competes directly with cheap, fast, more-reliable IQ tests. They are now in the business of educational credentialism. Harvard and Yale sell nicely printed sheets of paper called degrees that cost about $160,000 ($40,000 for tuition, room, board, and books per year for four years). To obtain the degree, one must demonstrate a decent level of conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness in one’s coursework, but above all, one must have the intelligence to get admitted, based on SAT scores and high school grades. Thus, the Harvard degree is basically an IQ guarantee.
Alumni of such schools also work very hard to maintain the social norm that, in casual conversation, it is acceptable to mention where one went to college, but not to mention one’s SAT or IQ scores. If I say on a second date that “the sugar maples in Harvard Yard were so beautiful every fall term,” I am basically saying “my SAT scores were sufficiently high (roughly 720 out of 800) that I could get admitted, so my IQ is above 135, and I had sufficient conscientiousness, emotional stability, and intellectual openness to pass my classes. Plus, I can recognize a tree.” The information content is the same, but while the former sounds poetic, the latter sounds boorish.
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technofox
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Post by technofox »

alec wrote:technofox,

look at the total compensation you're getting vs what you could be getting outside your gov't job. by total comp i mean pay plus bennies.

my wife works for the gov't and there were loads and loads of techies that worked for the gov't for a couple of years and then went contractor - i.e. get to know the systems and how the gov't works, then go exploit it. hey, if the gov't is going to treat you so bad, treat it bad. public service, my eye. I have never, ever met anyone that works for the fed gov't that is there b/c of the public service. I've met some in the military, but not the civilian gov't.
Well according to my boss, the total compensation is roughly about $80k for those within my pay grade (mine is the last for IT with overtime); technically your right about overall compensation, but man I would like a higher salary to get out of debt faster. As for your comment about IT employees working for the gov and then go contractor, heh you must have a lot of experience or your wife likes to talk, but you are right about that. Most of the ones I know and know of work until retirement (age 55+) retire with a nice pension and then get hired back as expensive consultants :roll:

Also, it is just not IT people who do this, its even people in other fields that require a great deal of knowledge of how government operates.

As for the serving the public comment, I do agree with you, but I find the way government is run as detrimental to the point of serving the public good. If they rewarded people based on merit and making government more efficient, then I think people who truly want to serve the public good from those who just want a secure job regardless of performance, would be brought in more often.

I decided to work for the government, because of the vastness of projects that the government undertakes, and thereby providing the broadest experience. When I work for someone I want to add value and be valued, work as a team, and as an individual. I prefer recognition and reward, basically merit. I really find it difficult to remain motivated working for the government and getting pay raises regardless of quality of workmanship and productivity. I mean can anyone truly remain motivated in such an environment like this???
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Post by jeffyscott »

From a financial perspective, it seems to me that what makes most sense is something in-between the two options analyzed for the article. My sons are getting two year degrees as computer network technicians. The school reports the following for those who comnplete this program:

Salary Range
$16,000-$67,000

Average Salary
$41,420

Average Hourly Wage
$18.57

Average Entry-Level Salary
$46,604

There are a lot of 2 year programs with similar average pay. The total cost for tuition, fees, and books comes to around $8000 total for the entire two years.

The idea of college as an educational experience, etc. is fine, but the cost is far too high if that is all one is getting from it.
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Post by tibbitts »

When you work for the government, it seems that you have to be at the right place at the right time to take a test to get a bump in pay; I prefer pay based on merit and the three faucets of IT/Security (education, training, and experience).

Having worked for both the public and private sectors, having to be in the right place at the right time isn't more true in one or the other. There are relatively few jobs anywhere where pure merit will control your fate. I suspect the situation is no worse where you are than anywhere else.

I do find it difficult to understand that with your background, you can't obtain employment in the private sector for a very, very substantial salary. IT/Security jobs are almost entirely obtained through certifications, and once you have those certifications, particularly along with an active security clearance, you should be close to the pure technical merit situation that you want. That doesn't mean that you'll get to work exactly when/where/how you want, but it's the closest situation to being able to write your own ticket that I can imagine.

Paul
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technofox
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Post by technofox »

Bored5000 wrote:
technofox wrote:
Bored5000 wrote:I mean no disrespect whatsoever to the original poster, but why didn't you pursue cheaper options such as state schools (that amount of debt makes it fairly clear the OP did not attend a state school)? I guess I have an Boglehead philosophy when it comes to higher education. I mean, $67,000 in student loans seems like a crushing amount. Unless you are going to an Ivy League school or a school with a similar reputation, the prospect of being in debt for many years upon graduating just doesn't seem to make sense when there are more affordable alternatives.
I would agree with you at first; however, my major, Information Systems Security, was only offered at 4 universities back in 2005. Unfortunately, each university was marginally different in pricing (~$22k and up). Not this is an excuse, but I was not financially astute until 2006 and then began following the bogleheads philosophy.

As for the debt it is a crushing amount and holds me back from saving towards a house and other endeavours (except emergency fund and retirement). Being married hasn't helped either, but overall my wife and I our doing pretty well considering our debt load. I am focusing right now to pay off our credit cards and then paying down the personal loan, and finally pay off her car loan. I have saved about ~$18k-20k for retirement (depends on market fluxation), excluding pension contributions. After my recent post for deciding to pay down debt or conitnue to save, I have decided from what others here have suggested to pay down my debts.
Thanks for the explanation. Glad you didn't think I was trying to insult you or be a smart-ass. :D
No problem :wink:

You didn't know about my situation that had led up to going to an expensive grad school.

I do have advice for anyone considering to go to grad school for newly developed majors, such as computer forensics and information security or any other recent field; wait a couple of years for more schools to offer the program you want and it will save you thousands. As of right now I could go to grad school for the same major for ~$8k-$9k at Georga. Basically, a little less than half of what I paid for to go to a cutting edge graduate program. 8)
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Post by jeffyscott »

technofox wrote: I find the way government is run as detrimental to the point of serving the public good. If they rewarded people based on merit...
The problem is that those making such decisions would be government managers. I can not see the advisability of giving this power to very many of those I have seen in such positions.
I mean can anyone truly remain motivated in such an environment like this???
I think I'm gonna have to maybe go with a "no" on that :) . I'm trying to survive it another 6 years and then take a pension at the earliest possible date. OTOH, I've been told by some that there is just as much bureaucracy and foolishness in large private sector companies. Also my sister who left a job with SS a couple decades ago now regrets that decision, as she is expected to be a workaholic in her current job and would soon have been eligable for retirement on a pension had she stayed with the Feds.
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technofox
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Post by technofox »

tibbitts wrote:
When you work for the government, it seems that you have to be at the right place at the right time to take a test to get a bump in pay; I prefer pay based on merit and the three faucets of IT/Security (education, training, and experience).

Having worked for both the public and private sectors, having to be in the right place at the right time isn't more true in one or the other. There are relatively few jobs anywhere where pure merit will control your fate. I suspect the situation is no worse where you are than anywhere else.

I do find it difficult to understand that with your background, you can't obtain employment in the private sector for a very, very substantial salary. IT/Security jobs are almost entirely obtained through certifications, and once you have those certifications, particularly along with an active security clearance, you should be close to the pure technical merit situation that you want. That doesn't mean that you'll get to work exactly when/where/how you want, but it's the closest situation to being able to write your own ticket that I can imagine.

Paul
Unfortunately, I don't have a security clearance; however, I am certified as an Incident Handler and Security Essentials. Informaiton security jobs where I live are very hard to come by; however, I have been looking for jobs outside the state that I live in. Especially states with lower taxes and much greater job growth and opportunities.
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alec
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Post by alec »

technofox wrote:Well according to my boss, the total compensation is roughly about $80k for those within my pay grade (mine is the last for IT with overtime); technically your right about overall compensation, but man I would like a higher salary to get out of debt faster. As for your comment about IT employees working for the gov and then go contractor, heh you must have a lot of experience or your wife likes to talk, but you are right about that. Most of the ones I know and know of work until retirement (age 55+) retire with a nice pension and then get hired back as expensive consultants :roll:
Well, unfortunately, you're likely FERS, so you've got a much small pension [1% x yrs x final salary] plus SS plus whatever your TSP is. Plus, is putting up w/ 30 yrs if gov't bulls**t really worth it?
Also, it is just not IT people who do this, its even people in other fields that require a great deal of knowledge of how government operates.

As for the serving the public comment, I do agree with you, but I find the way government is run as detrimental to the point of serving the public good. If they rewarded people based on merit and making government more efficient, then I think people who truly want to serve the public good from those who just want a secure job regardless of performance, would be brought in more often.

I decided to work for the government, because of the vastness of projects that the government undertakes, and thereby providing the broadest experience. When I work for someone I want to add value and be valued, work as a team, and as an individual. I prefer recognition and reward, basically merit. I really find it difficult to remain motivated working for the government and getting pay raises regardless of quality of workmanship and productivity. I mean can anyone truly remain motivated in such an environment like this???
IMHO, not really. I don't want to rile up any generational differences, but for those of us [say 20s, 30s, and 40s,] that were brought up in a meritocracy world, in the 80's and 90's, if an employer is not going to reward you for your work, then work pretty much stops.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" - Upton Sinclair
bigH
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Re: Is a college degree worthless?

Post by bigH »

technofox wrote:Hi All,

I found this article interesting http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Co ... spx?page=1 and wondered what you all think of it.

From my perspective, I have a lot of debt (~$67,000 of student loans) and I sometimes wonder if I should have reconsidered the choice that I have made. I have earned a Master degree and earn roughly $50,000/yr, and from my perspective I am very fortunate to earn just that.

I have seen collegemates from undergrad school who earn more than me (either through less debt or by taking a test for a higher pay grade) and its quite upsetting to see that the extra effort I had put into a graduate degree is not paying off (compared to those who haven't). The only good thing is that I can eventually become a college professor for an undergraduate university (a goal in life).

I have been struggling on not getting upset by the choice that I have made, but it did help me get into the information security profession. How do you guys/gals deal with this kind of thinking or dillemma?
Hi techno,
Would you mind sharing what areas your degrees are in?
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Post by bigH »

I think that you should only enter a field that makes the best of your strengths and interests. Too many people major in things they would like to do. Guess what the world doesn't always care or pay a premium on what you'd like to do (not trying to be insensitive.) If it doesn't make it a premium, minor in it instead. I think high counselors and parents need to teach teens more on practicality of what they learn.
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Post by mathwhiz »

Well according to my boss, the total compensation is roughly about $80k for those within my pay grade (mine is the last for IT with overtime); technically your right about overall compensation, but man I would like a higher salary to get out of debt faster. As for your comment about IT employees working for the gov and then go contractor, heh you must have a lot of experience or your wife likes to talk, but you are right about that. Most of the ones I know and know of work until retirement (age 55+) retire with a nice pension and then get hired back as expensive consultants
At least you have a job.

With job security.

Where you work 40 hours a week with generous sick leave and vacation.

Where you have a TSP with the lowest fees anywhere that matches 5%.

Where you have a pension that doesn't really exist anywhere else.

Where you have good health insurance.

Did I mention the job security thing again? Unemployment is going to 10%.

Many people rather have a secure job that pays $50k where you work 40 hours a week than a job that you can get fired anytime for anything. Or a job with no protections where you make $80k a year and you have no pension. And maybe not the best health insurance. And 2 weeks of leave you can never take and a 401k that has outrageous fees where the company just suspended the match because of the economy...

And instead of working 40 hours a week, you are working 50 or 60 or 70 and if you get asked for overtime they will laugh in your face.

Money aint everything.
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joe8d
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Post by joe8d »

In todays world,I would only consider a state school. Preferably doing the first two years at a community college and only majoring in something that would qualify you for a Government job.

PS: To Mathwhiz above.You are right on the money with your statement.
All the Best, | Joe
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Dale_G
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Post by Dale_G »

It isn't the degree or where you got it that counts. What counts is what you learned and how you apply it to the task at hand.

I won't comment on the public sector, but my 50 years of experience in the private sector indicates that the cream generally rises to the top independently of the Curriculum Vitae.

Dale

p.s. I've fired far more Ph.D's than BS's or MS's - probably because I erroneously expected more of them! So Ph.D's and MS's don't count for much if the kid simply wanted to avoid work for a few more years.

OTOH, there are a lot of very bright people, who benefit themselves and society by going to college or securing advanced degrees. If you learn something, 85K is inconsequential.
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On Approach
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Post by On Approach »

its quite upsetting to see that the extra effort I had put into a graduate degree is not paying off
I stayed on and got a Masters degree - the starting salary wasn't a lot higher, but I found out I got more interesting and challenging assignments and a lot more responsibility. That's lasted throughout my entire career (going on 32 years now). So in that sense it has payed off - and BTW, salary increases usually went along with the rest.
When you work for the government, it seems that you have to be at the right place at the right time to take a test to get a bump in pay; I prefer pay based on merit and the three faucets of IT/Security (education, training, and experience). I have to remind myself at times that I am working for the government to serve the public good. I just find it hard to remain motivated to see that there is no reward for performance or any other form of merit.
More and more Federal government agencies are implementing pay-for-performance systems (pay banding). Now that you're a Fed, look into other agencies where it's implemented or being piloted. I know of several agencies where individuals in your field are highly sought after - the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. There are probably others.
bhmlurker
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Post by bhmlurker »

Methinks we should start looking at the job market as we do with the stock market: supply and demand. How about motivating future generations to take up a trade? Many are high paying (automotive repair, plumbing) and working with one's hand can give one a sense of putting in a honest day's work. Even landscaping and gardening can be a lot of fun.

It's senseless to continually push high school grads into college, where many end up in majors that have very few jobs in the real world. I just read a story about two brothers who started a hobby of composting with worms and now have a full-time small business, shipping worms and compost to people across the US. This is what America is classically about; taking opportunity as it presents and run with it, instead of putting in the hours and hating work.
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Post by mathwhiz »

There's nothing wrong with the trades. They can't easily be outsourced except that cheap labor from illegals is a big threat to salaries.

Not everyone has the intelligence, motivation, and NEED to go to college. In fact, the graduation rates bear this out with dismal six year graduation rates at many colleges. For many college is a waste of money. There are lots of ways to learn. For me, much of college is just a haze like high school. I can't say much of anything I learned in college stayed with me after the final exams. Most of the skills I needed for my job I learned on the job. And anything else I learned that has been worthwhile has been learned through life experience, and lots of independent research and reading books, blogs, newspaper articles, sites like this.
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Post by VictoriaF »

Victoria
Last edited by VictoriaF on Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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VictoriaF
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Re: Is a college degree worthless?

Post by VictoriaF »

Victoria
Last edited by VictoriaF on Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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technofox
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Post by technofox »

Unfortunately, I don't work for the Federal government, but the state, and the state has a system that I think is detrimental to keeping people motivated and be able to be promoted based on merit at any given time. Its basically get hired at specific pay grade that is only open to the public and regardless of experience, degrees, and certifications you get paid much less than those with equivalent creditials in private sector; after that, you have to wait 1-4 years at a minimum to take a test that allow you to get promoted, but of course that is management dependent.

I get so jaded, as so do many others in the state government, because the system is so screwed up. You either have nepotism, favortism, people who passed the promotion test and unable to perform the work, management not keeping promises (happens a lot as I found out), and whole slew of other stuff that I could go on about. It is sad to say that it is no wonder why private sector and the general public think less of state employees, despite a good majority of them do what they are paid to do despite the crap they have to go through. :x

Oh well, I am happy that my job is pretty much safe for now, until the next round of layoffs. Funny thing is, management (aka governor and politicians) don't see the big picture of what is going to happen to the state. The majority of state employees are aging baby boomers that will be retiring in the very near future and with so few younger generations of workers, and much of my generation fleeing the state, that there is going to be a potentially huge knowledge vaccuum. So taxes will likely go up a little more here in NY to pay the retired baby boomers to come back as consultants to train the younger generations to do the jobs that were once held by the baby boomers (basically the retirees get a pension + benefits, plus compensation as a consultant, which is very generous compared to the salary that they had when the retired). :x

Anyways, enough ranting. I usually haven't had much complaints about other jobs that I have had, probably because applying yourself would have great rewards (recognition, pay raises, etc). I enjoy IT and security, but even someone who loves his field can become jaded by a messed up system of management.
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Post by bigH »

mathwhiz wrote:There's nothing wrong with the trades. They can't easily be outsourced except that cheap labor from illegals is a big threat to salaries.

Not everyone has the intelligence, motivation, and NEED to go to college. In fact, the graduation rates bear this out with dismal six year graduation rates at many colleges. For many college is a waste of money. There are lots of ways to learn. For me, much of college is just a haze like high school. I can't say much of anything I learned in college stayed with me after the final exams. Most of the skills I needed for my job I learned on the job. And anything else I learned that has been worthwhile has been learned through life experience, and lots of independent research and reading books, blogs, newspaper articles, sites like this.
i agree. this country needs more skilled laborers and less college grads.
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technofox
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Re: Is a college degree worthless?

Post by technofox »

VictoriaF wrote:
technofox wrote:Hi All,

I found this article interesting http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Co ... spx?page=1 and wondered what you all think of it.

From my perspective, I have a lot of debt (~$67,000 of student loans) and I sometimes wonder if I should have reconsidered the choice that I have made. I have earned a Master degree and earn roughly $50,000/yr, and from my perspective I am very fortunate to earn just that.

I have seen collegemates from undergrad school who earn more than me (either through less debt or by taking a test for a higher pay grade) and its quite upsetting to see that the extra effort I had put into a graduate degree is not paying off (compared to those who haven't). The only good thing is that I can eventually become a college professor for an undergraduate university (a goal in life).

I have been struggling on not getting upset by the choice that I have made, but it did help me get into the information security profession. How do you guys/gals deal with this kind of thinking or dillemma?
Here is what I think.

You started with questioning your degree after you have already obtained it. I find it unusual, because in my experience, while people analyze their options before deciding on a particular path, very few regret having higher levels of education.

You explained your $67k in student loans by few choices in universities granting degrees in Information Security, at a cost of $22k and above. But an MS degree usually takes one to two years. Your loans exceed what your needed for your MS.
technofox wrote:When you work for the government, it seems that you have to be at the right place at the right time to take a test to get a bump in pay...
Why cannot you take a test? Study for and take CISSP; your advanced education prepared you for doing it easily.
technofox wrote:I have been looking for jobs outside the state that I live in. Especially states with lower taxes and much greater job growth and opportunities.
You can live in a cheap place with low taxes, or you can work in a place with a lot of opportunities. These are usually different places. For example, Maryland has plenty of jobs in National Security but it also has pretty high taxes.

Your degree enables you to make choices.
technofox wrote:I have to remind myself at times that I am working for the government to serve the public good. I just find it hard to remain motivated to see that there is no reward for performance or any other form of merit. My boss has had the same feelings, but he still chugs along giving 110% despite being just as jaded by the system.
You transitioned from education bashing to the government employment bashing based on your narrow view as a recent mid-grade (GS12?) employee.

May I suggest that you use your education to enhance your career and not dwell on the flaws with the system?

Victoria
I am not really bashing the education itself, but the cost of it and the lack of reward for the extra effort, of course this was due to unrealistic expectations of the real world. I think the author of the article really points out a major flaw in regards to cost vs. reward for education and our perceptions of education. For example the higher the educaiton the more that it is to be expected to be paid more within certain fields; unfortunately that is not how the real world works.

My degree has prepared me quite a bit for the CISSP, and I will qualify for it this year's October, so that I can have the full fledge certification. I guess I am just ticked that I went into so much debt for a degree that yes it has prepared me well for going into information security (I was even able to perform some of the duties (I would have been able to do almost all of them if I was permitted to) of my boss who got laid off, until a new security officer was hired), but I got no reward even for that effort, which I had performed on top of my regular duties for about ~10 months, after that I had already found a new position going back to IT from security, because I got sick of the management dangling a carrot and not keeping their word. The management did a counter offer, at first I wanted it, but after giving my word to my current boss at my new job, I decided against it. I also found out that I was not the only one who had gone through this experience at my previous employer.

As for questioning my degree, I guess it was more of questioning whether or not was it really worth it to go into the debt that I have right now for the master degree. I am greatful that I went, because as aforementioned, it has prepared me for even management level work, but I just would like a higher salary to compensate the extra investment that I did (again this is the perspective marketed by the universities). Maybe I should just quit thinking about the hyped up marketing of degrees and just be happy about it and move on.

By the way, the areas with the low taxes that I have been looking at, actually have more job opportunities than upstate NY would ever have in the next 50 years. I wouldn't be surprised the way NY is taxing everything that it implodes from the lack of tax payers and too much state services :shock:

Anyways, I'll just accept where I am at today is because of the sum of the choices that I have made in the past. 8)

Victoria, I will also take you up on your suggestion about focusing on the flaws of the system; I have to break out of my cynical attitude attitude and negative outlook on the system. I would like to work somewhere, that adding value and quality of service gets rewarded (doesn't have to be money). Anyways thanks for your advice. 8)
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Post by bigH »

technofox wrote:Unfortunately, I don't work for the Federal government, but the state, and the state has a system that I think is detrimental to keeping people motivated and be able to be promoted based on merit at any given time. Its basically get hired at specific pay grade that is only open to the public and regardless of experience, degrees, and certifications you get paid much less than those with equivalent creditials in private sector; after that, you have to wait 1-4 years at a minimum to take a test that allow you to get promoted, but of course that is management dependent.

I get so jaded, as so do many others in the state government, because the system is so screwed up. You either have nepotism, favortism, people who passed the promotion test and unable to perform the work, management not keeping promises (happens a lot as I found out), and whole slew of other stuff that I could go on about. It is sad to say that it is no wonder why private sector and the general public think less of state employees, despite a good majority of them do what they are paid to do despite the crap they have to go through. :x

Oh well, I am happy that my job is pretty much safe for now, until the next round of layoffs. Funny thing is, management (aka governor and politicians) don't see the big picture of what is going to happen to the state. The majority of state employees are aging baby boomers that will be retiring in the very near future and with so few younger generations of workers, and much of my generation fleeing the state, that there is going to be a potentially huge knowledge vaccuum. So taxes will likely go up a little more here in NY to pay the retired baby boomers to come back as consultants to train the younger generations to do the jobs that were once held by the baby boomers (basically the retirees get a pension + benefits, plus compensation as a consultant, which is very generous compared to the salary that they had when the retired). :x

Anyways, enough ranting. I usually haven't had much complaints about other jobs that I have had, probably because applying yourself would have great rewards (recognition, pay raises, etc). I enjoy IT and security, but even someone who loves his field can become jaded by a messed up system of management.
Techno,
I used to work for the federal government in DC (first job out of college at 23). I am in the private sector right now mainly for the reason you highlighted: You set your own pace for achievement (or possible failure). In the government, you need to follow your pace. If you are highly motivated, you should move to private. You will work harder, but if you chose the right place you will get rewarded handsomely and you'll be able to hold your head up higher.
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Post by KlangFool »

1) College education is one of the largest purchase in a person's life. It pays to shop around.

2) I went through my first 2 years in community college. That saves a lot of money.

3) I do not understand all those stuff on getting the latest and best sounding master degree. Especially, in the IT / Data com/ Telecom world. It is more a marketing trick than anything.

4) I did my MSEE thesis on computer networking. There was NO COURSE on computer networking during my time. I read and did hands-on networking by working part-time at the university computing center.

5) Anyhow, when a course work aka degree is offered at some area. It is PROBABLY behind time. Most leading age stuff in IT / Data com / Telecom are only available over the Internet.

6) Always think in term of ROI.

KlangFool
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TrustNoOne
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Post by TrustNoOne »

The article has a fatal flaw in its analysis of the retirement funds the HS and college grads have upon retirement. The basic problem is in the assumption that both will only invest 5% of their incomes over their life. While that is not an unreasonable assumption by itself, the problem is that, as the figures show, the college grad earns substantially more over his lifetime. If, he saves only 5% more, then clearly he is enjoying a higher standard of living from his higher income than the HS grad. Put another way, the college grad could live with the same standard of living as the HS grad, and save a lot more than 5% of his income. Were he to do so, he could pay off his loan earlier. That raises another problem - why is the college grad paying off his loan so quickly - his interest rate is 5%, while he earns 8% on his stock investment.
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Post by Rodc »

I think I'm gonna have to maybe go with a "no" on that Smile . I'm trying to survive it another 6 years and then take a pension at the earliest possible date. OTOH, I've been told by some that there is just as much bureaucracy and foolishness in large private sector companies. Also my sister who left a job with SS a couple decades ago now regrets that decision, as she is expected to be a workaholic in her current job and would soon have been eligable for retirement on a pension had she stayed with the Feds.
The grass is always greener ...

(applies to the OP to, beware of this potential pitfall)
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.
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Post by jeffyscott »

bigH wrote: i agree. this country needs more skilled laborers and less college grads.
Same here and I also think there is/will be an over-supply of the generic college grad because HS counselors, the govenrnment, etc. generally push everyone to go that route.

I wonder if these surveys that show higher pay for the average college grad would do so if they were comparing those with some sort of generic liberal arts degree (leaving out the degrees that are really more about technical training than generic education...like engineering, computer science, etc.) and those who have some skill learned from a tech school or some other source.
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bigH
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Post by bigH »

jeffyscott wrote:
bigH wrote: i agree. this country needs more skilled laborers and less college grads.
Same here and I also think there is/will be an over-supply of the generic college grad because HS counselors, the govenrnment, etc. generally push everyone to go that route.

I wonder if these surveys that show higher pay for the average college grad would do so if they were comparing those with some sort of generic liberal arts degree (leaving out the degrees that are really more about technical training than generic education...like engineering, computer science, etc.) and those who have some skill learned from a tech school or some other source.
General liberal arts is more of a hobby than skill.
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fluffyistaken
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Post by fluffyistaken »

Almost any degree that does not specifically target a high-paying field (computers, engineering, hard science, pre-med/medical, maybe some business, and probably some others I forget) will be a "waste of money". It may be fun, satisfying, personally enriching, but it is very unlikely to pay for itself unless you stay in academia and become a professor in that field.

Within those well-paying degrees, ones from a good university are of great help to get jobs at a higher than average salary in your first few years out of college. After that the benefits of top education are secondary to your job experiences and accomplishments. A "good university" is not the same as expensive one. Many state schools are better than many pricier private schools. There are a lot of school rankings available.

So most degrees probably are a "waste of money" in the purely financial sense. But it is very much in your control to get a good value for your money when it comes to education. Certainly more so than getting a good value when buying equities :D

As far as job satisfaction, I don't know if my fellow IT workers are extra-whiny or if there is something truly inherently evil about IT jobs but I've met very very few IT workers who are happy with their jobs. Many are happy or at least satisfied with compensation but almost all dislike the actual work, complain about the burn-out, and have some vague plans of "getting out". Non-IT people seem to complain less even though they are often not nearly as well paid. Don't know what that means, just throwing it out there as personal experience.
Last edited by fluffyistaken on Sat Jun 20, 2009 9:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
ziggy29
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Post by ziggy29 »

Worthless, no. Overrated, sometimes, depending on the major and the occupation. Part of this is because we've become a nation of snobs when it comes to education and because we look down on people without degrees as losers. The result is that a bachelor's degree is fast becoming what a high school diploma was 40-50 years ago in the job market and the graduate degree is the new baccalaureate degree. There's a lot of "education creep" going on in a competitive job market where there are more degrees than jobs.

For someone not going to grad school, the expensive "big names" are even more overrated for an undergraduate education, but unfortunately too many old boy network types do the hiring and look for the name on the label even if the product isn't much better.
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Post by schwarm »

Dale_G wrote:
p.s. I've fired far more Ph.D's than BS's or MS's - probably because I erroneously expected more of them! So Ph.D's and MS's don't count for much if the kid simply wanted to avoid work for a few more years.
I'm curious what type of PhD's these people had, and if it was related to the field they were working in.
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Post by rob »

I think it depends on the type of job... I would expect if you a professor then it's very useful whereas driving a taxi... not so much.
| Rob | Its a dangerous business going out your front door. - J.R.R.Tolkien
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