Why the College Degree Will Be Obsolete in 15 Years

College DegreeWe all have things laying around we no longer need, without really knowing why we keep them.

If you live and work in a big city, you may still have your car from the days when you used to live in the suburbs. At one time, the car had a purpose. But now? It just collects parking tickets and bird poop. And have you ever seen a pay phone and wondered why it’s still there?

Some things just outlive their usefulness. Perhaps a traditional college education is one of them.

Why We Used to Need College

Long before the Internet came along, in post-WWII America, information and knowledge were hard to come by. Knowledge was largely centralized in the universities, so if you wanted to gain the education necessary to obtain a middle-class job, you needed to go college. And the government paid you to go to college through programs like the GI bill.

Somewhere along the way, though, things changed. College tuition started rising more than the cost of living, and wages stopped increasing, making college a questionable financial investment. The quality of a college education began to decline, and employers started to realize that doing well in college didn’t correlate with doing well in a real-world job. The old system started breaking down.

Today, the Internet has decentralized knowledge and government funding for college has dried up, but we still see college as the only viable option for an education. Why? Because most employers still require college degrees.

But what if we could find jobs that didn’t require a traditional college degree? And what if we could find a way to acquire the knowledge required to be successful in those jobs without incurring $100K in student loans?

With the decentralization of knowledge, we can acquire the tools and techniques necessary to be successful… without a traditional college education.

At the same time, we can find good jobs that don’t require traditional college degrees. The infrastructure for this type of system is already being built, and the disruption of the traditional university system has begun.

Why We Won’t Need College

Have you ever watched a how-to video on YouTube? Or searched Wikipedia for an article on a topic you didn’t quite understand? These are simple examples of how the Internet has decentralized knowledge over the past 20 years. Imagine if we could extend these examples to replace an entire college education.

Massive open online courses (“MOOCs”) like Udacity and Kahn Academy, which give you the tools to educate yourself for free, are building the infrastructure for this new system. If you question the quality of the education you can get from MOOCs, organizations like Dev Bootcamp provide apprentice-like experience for much less than a college degree.

If these non-traditional options are too risky for you, there are more traditional options available to you that avoid an expensive college degree and still give you access to a good middle-class job.

The main reason most of us don’t take advantage of this type of education is because most employers don’t accept it.

Lucky for you, the employment infrastructure suited for this type of education is being created, too.

Are you a computer programmer? Apple gives you access to millions of customers through its App Store. Are you an author? Amazon has a platform for independent publishers. Are you a film buff who dreams of producing videos? YouTube lets you do that.

Many of these options are still unproven, and the path won’t be easy for the early adopters. There’s a lot of risk in self-employment, and there are questions about the quality of MOOCs. But, with rising college costs and stagnating wages, we’re not being given much choice.

Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. The opportunity is there for you.

You just need to grab it.





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brazen Careerist!



Brent RitterAbout the Author: Brent Ritter is a Chicago-based writer and a recovering financial professional. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.



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  • Laurence

    This is a very surprising article and I have to say I absolutely do not agree with encouraging a labor market that never asks for a college degree. I am currently working on what education yields in terms of annual income for a particular occupational group and even though for some specialties the financial results on the labor market doesn’t seem to be worth the investment, I would never recommend someone not to go get a college degree. When you choose a career it is always a good idea to take a look at what seems to be more important for the average employer: education versus experience. Nevertheless, I think the question concerning education relates more to the pertinence of our academic programs. If experience is now more important, then we should adapt the programs by inserting tutoring, internships, workshops, etc. That was the students can still get a diploma AND network, get more applied experience. I absolutely do not think online programs where you can teach yourself can replace the social value of education in a college. Do you seriously think the majority of people would introduce themselves to philosophy, read Hume, De Tocqueville, and other very important authors who teach us about respect, civility, about equality between human beings, etc.? Education should not be considered only under its financial benefits for your career, do not forget that it also has a deep social and cultural value that would clearly be put aside by too many people if we encourage employers to stop asking for degrees. I think you might have a point by saying that for some occupations it is starting to be less and less important for employers, and don’t get me wrong for some occupations I do think it is not necessarily a bad thing as students get into debts for an investment that is not financially profitable and it can be a heavy burden. But a college degree helps you becoming a better citizen by introducing you to material that you don’t always have the initiative to go take a look at or the chance to have educated parents that can point it out to you.

    • YouTern

      Hi Laurence,

      Some very good points in your comment. We don’t necessarily encourage everyone to just stop going to college. “College is dead! Close it up!”

      The idea is to educate those people who either don’t have the financial means or perhaps the personality type to go through the traditional collegiate route. Other educational options are available.

      “Education should not be considered only under its financial benefits for
      your career, do not forget that it also has a deep social and cultural
      value…” That’s a very good point you made. Only part of the benefit of college is the classroom learning.

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  • Metalhead

    We are out of the higher education era, nowadays you can even go online and buy a textbook on amazon and read it, or look it up on youtube, while I agree that engineers, doctors and law studies need degrees, college isn’t what it was anymore. The trades being taught at Community Colleges are the way to go right now.