It’s become commonplace to assume getting a four-year degree is the only way to get a good job. But CEOs like Apple’s Tim Cook are questioning the need for four-year degrees. In fact, half of the employees hired last year at Apple did not have a four-year degree. In an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting last month, Cook reasoned that many colleges do not teach the skills business leaders need most in their workforce, specifically for Apple, coding. These beliefs are due in large part to the fact that Apple was founded by a college dropout, so they realize a college degree isn’t required to do well.
Many jobs within the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field do not require a four-year degree, they only require the skills get the job done, which can be self-taught. STEM jobs make up 1 in 10 jobs in the United States, and on average pay $53,000 annually.
This doesn’t mean college can’t be a good investment. The numbers show that college graduates have a higher employment rate and on average make $932 more weekly than non graduates, according to a recent report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. But degrees often require taking on a significant amount of student debt, making college degrees unaffordable to many Americans.
There are a large number of “skilled labor” jobs, even outside the STEM field, that are going unfilled because there is an assumption that they will not pay much. Jobs like plumbers, electricians, welders, and mechanics are necessary and in high demand. The labor supply for young, skilled workers in these professions is very low, and many individuals who are well-trained in these trades are older than 50. Thus, talented workers in these professions can pretty much guarantee employment and make upwards of $70,000 per year (or more) by the age of 30.
For a few generations now, many Americans have been raised to believe that everyone should get a college degree. But it’s becoming apparent that was is needed to succeed in many jobs are the right skills, not a degree. While a college degree can be a good investment, it is possible to succeed without one, and companies need to start rethinking what it takes to be successful within their organization.