Is A College Education The Way to A Successful Future?

Yesterday, I visited Barbara Frank’s blog and found a very interesting article there on the Gloomy Stats about Colleges and Jobs. Before you read my piece further, I encourage you to read what she has to say. She has some great stats and comments that will make a jumping off place for this post. Go ahead, click. A new window will open up and then you can come back here when you are done. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
There, are you back now? Are you depressed now? Have you had in the back of your mind that college is the way for your children to achieve the American dream? Don’t be depressed, you have just gained a great advantage, you have been told that there are other options. That you don’t have to spend the family fortune or push your children deep into debt for a degree that may not be anything more than a lovely piece of paper for the living room wall and experience in the latest drinking games.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I went to College. The College of William and Mary to be exact. I was the first person on my father’s side of the family to attend college and graduate with a four year degree. I had known my whole childhood that I would be going to college. I am an only child and my parents worked hard to put me through college. I worked in college but it was for extra money and when I left college, we owed about $10,000 (which was 1/2 the cost of my stay in college). I treasure the time I spent at William and Mary. I learned a lot about life there, was able to learn independence within a protected setting and I have a really great degree in Latin to hang on my wall.

I graduated in 1988. My degree didn’t help me attain any of the work I did in my life. I had a Bachelors of Arts with a Major in Sociology and minor in Psychology. I wanted to go into social work, but I had the wrong degree for that, turns out I needed to have a degree in Social Work. Go figure! I thought about Guidance Counselling (I am really pulled towards working with children). When I was in school my guidance counsellor was awful and she was an ex real estate agent. Turns out that now to be a guidance counsellor you have to be a teacher and have to have a degree in guidance counselling. It didn’t matter if I had the heart for it and the resources, i was rejected because I didn’t have the ‘right degree’. So I spent my first few months out of college working as a patient registrar in an emergency room (checking in people who needed to be seen). Within four months, I applied for and received the job of Office Manager at Parking Services at the College of William and Mary. I loved that job and I did very well with it because I am organized and also because I am good at coming up with incentives and ideas.
My next job was 6 years working with an early intervention program. That job did require a college degree, I think and by the time I left, the requirements had evolved to it had to be a degree in Child Development Instruction. And they weren’t grandfathering people in either, you had to go back to school and take classes while working to keep your job! While my William and Mary degree probably looked good on the resume, the reason I got the job was becasue I didn’t give a stock answer to one of the questions and it made me stand out. I can attribute that answer to my upbringing and what I learned in Sociology class.
The most I ever made at that job was 22,000.00 a year in 1996. I quit work to try some work on my own ideas and to start a family. I now homeschool my children and do various odd jobs that I can do from home because raising our children here at home is very important to my husband and to me. I do sometimes wonder if my parents don’t regret spending the money on my college education. My husband who has two years of college and no degree is one of the top computer consultants in the country.
Anyway, that’s my story. I grew up with parents who had high school diplomas and who believed that by me going to college I would make a better life for myself than they had. The reality was I went to school with people who were working on their masters and were telling me they could make more money waiting tables at a high end restaurant than they could if they got a job using their degree. HUH? Surely, it’s not supposed to work that way.
A couple of years ago, I attended a local business seminar on behalf of my husband and our business. One of the lectures was about how for kids today, the money to be made is be going technical and entering the manufacturing workforce. Our outdated ideas of what manufacturing is are hurting our country and if we don’t get is right in our heads, we won’t be able to find anything that is manufactured in the U.S.A. The people who are running the manufacturing plants now are aging and there is no replacement workforce coming up behind them to take those important jobs! There is actually a website that we were told about at the time (unfortunately I no longer have it and wasn’t able to track it down through googling different keywords), but it is a site designed to explain to children the value of getting a vocational school experience and going into manufacturing.
Other jobs that I would recommend based on my own personal experience are plumbing, auto mechanics, electronics, people services. And of course with our aging population all kinds of medical professions (therapists, nurses aides, nurses, doctors, x ray technicians) are going to be looking for employees.
The pursuit of knowledge doesn’t have to stop with highschool or college, it should be something we do for our entire life. Maybe college when we are 18 is the way to go, maybe a couple of years in the military right out of highschool would benefit our children better or going to a vocational school and right into the work force. Don’t be pressured into pursuing the college route, it is not necessarily the way to your piece of the pie.
So here are some articles I found to give you a taste of what is going on in the manufacturing world.
Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council – while this targets Chicago, it gives the visitor good insight into what is going on in the manufacturing world. There are some amazing facts on the home page, including that careers in manufacturing average 64,000 a year including benefits.
Here is an article from the Chicago Jobs Council that talks about a high tech manufacturing camp.
Here is another article from the website Goliath that talks of recruiting high school students into high tech jobs. Scroll down a little bit for the actual article.
I hope you have found this post informative and interesting. It definitely gives us parents something to think about when discussing future careers with our children.

2 thoughts on “Is A College Education The Way to A Successful Future?

  1. Sarah (Real Life)

    This is a great post, Melissa! While College is beneficial;, it’s not the end-all for everyone! My brother didn’t go to college, started working laying fiber optic lines for cell phone companies, and has almost a six figure income now. My mother-in -law started as a secretary and is now the best sales person in her company. The basic things are: 1. Figure out what you like to do. 2. Figure out what is needed in society. 3. get the proper training, including trade school, apprenticeships, etc.

  2. AtomiK Kitten

    I am going to college online. It works well for me with having small boys. I will be done almost this time next year. I can’t wait. The first thing to look for is that the college is accredited through the dept of education.
    email me – I have a question for you.


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