It’s a question asked by every person seeking higher education. Is my degree worth it?
It’s a very serious question. The financial implications alone could change your entire life’s trajectory, for the better, or for the worse.
Doors could open to immense riches. Or, you could end up drowning in student debt, qualified for little more than to pour coffee at Starbucks.
At the root of the question lies a startling and frightening truth. For the vast majority of us, our education is worthless.
The knowledge we learn, if we retain any of it at all, is available for free and accessible within the top 10 google search results.
Of course, there are some professions that require formal education. I certainly wouldn’t want just anyone patching me up on the operating table. Or setting financial policies for the entire nation.
But for most of us, what we learn in school isn’t about the knowledge we walk away with. That knowledge is free.
So why is schooling so important in today’s society?
To answer that, we need to go back in time a few decades. Back to a time when there existed a knowledge gap.
The Knowledge Gap
It used to be up until fairly recently, that schooling was the way to improve your family's economic future. Knowledge was a commodity, and having gathered that knowledge through some form of higher education was a valuable asset to have.
The more you knew, the more value you could bring, and the more you were worth to an organization. More schooling was directly correlated to increased earning potential.
But recently, that “knowledge” imparted by the great educational institutions has become so commonplace that it’s considered a prerequisite to even get a seat at the table. Everyone has the “knowledge” associated with a bachelor’s diploma or degree, so there is no longer that gap to fill. No gap, means no economic advantage for acquiring the knowledge.
While one may argue that getting a degree is necessary to even be considered for a seat at the table, the value of that degree has diminished greatly.
The Information Era
Compounding the issue is the availability of answers to just about any question or problem that you face. For the cost of a reliable internet connection, all the worlds’ knowledge is available 3 clicks away.
In the information era, specialized knowledge is available for such a cheap fee, that there is virtually no economic value to acquiring it.
But don’t despair yet. While the knowledge you might seek has little economic value, there are still some merits to growth and development.
The Skills Gap
For centuries, the gap was knowledge. The information age has eliminated that gap, and levelled the playing field. Never before has the opportunity for success been granted to so many people.
Today, anyone, from any background, has the opportunity to succeed.
You just need to recognize that in the changing world landscape, the gap has changed. This means that you need to look at something other than information to increase your economic value.
And that new gap is the skills gap.
Knowledge is no longer the solution, but the ability to apply that knowledge. The skills to take the information, and make something valuable out of it.
What are the most valuable skills?
While there are many areas that you can focus on developing to increase your economic value, there are a few common areas that are virtually guaranteed to improve your results.
Setting and achieving Goals is one of the best skills that you can master. The ability to determine what is an important direction, and then setting up the systems and routines to get you there will serve you no matter your vocation. Building upon that skill set are the skills of prioritization. Understanding where to focus in today’s world of constant distraction will further compound your ability to deliver valuable results.
The next universal skill set that is sure to deliver economic value, is the ability to communicate clearly. Communication is one of the most highly rewarded skills. That skill goes beyond language, and spills into crafting your message, compiling compelling stories, and creating real change.
Where can you go to improve your skill sets?
If skills are becoming more valuable than knowledge, knowing where to go to develop those skills is essential. Luckily, higher education institutions are on that list.
Colleges and Universities are a great place to stimulate the development of skills. From setting goals, to prioritizing under a dynamic workload, schooling institutions help develop the skills that add value in today’s market.
But there are other options too. Online learning platforms have seen massive jumps in both quality and popularity. The focused learning curriculum of these courses allow you to tailor your growth specific to your journey.
The important note here is this: it matters far less what knowledge you are learning, and far more what skills you are acquiring.
Understanding the different styles of Picasso and Van Gogh has limited value, but having the skills to clearly communicate the benefits of a new strategy or product will greatly increase your value to the marketplace.
When advertising your resume or academic background, be sure to highlight the skills you have developed. Those skills are the answer to what will bring you fame and fortune.
To answer the question; how valuable is your degree? Ask yourself not about what information you now possess, but instead what skills you have and can use to increase your value.