Right before and following college graduation, I was dead set on going to graduate school. I knew I wanted to work in economic development. And most of my dream jobs required graduate school.
But as I was studying for the GRE, poring over math problems and obscure vocabulary, I had an epiphany: Why spend all this effort forcing myself to memorize information when I could be teaching myself valuable real-world skills?
In the end, instead of going to graduate school, I taught myself digital skills. These digital skills changed my life for the better, and they can do the same for you.
Below are 6 reasons why teaching myself digital skills, and not spending another $100,000 + on higher education, was the best decision I could have made.
1. I Saved a Ton of Money
When I say a ton, I mean a ton.
It’s common knowledge that university programs in the US are expensive, and the same goes for graduate programs. (Including MBAs, law degrees and so forth.) Most programs cost between $30,000 and $120,000.
Aside from the cost of tuition, graduate school oftentimes means relocating, which could result in a higher cost of living. When you think about it, you could almost do anything and spend less money compared to going to grad school in the US.
You could travel the world
You could bootstrap your own business
You could still learn on your own—without attending a formal university
In some instances, going to grad school could be a worthwhile investment. But In my case—it just wasn’t.
2. I Saved Time
One or two (or more) years of your life is a lot.
That’s time you won’t be spending getting real work experience. And it’s time you won’t have to figure out what your true passions are. (Real world experience is what helps us navigate those waters.)
Fortunately for me, I ended up landing a dream job before I had the chance to seriously consider grad school. (It was more like a paid internship…but still it gave some real world insight into what life would be like.)
And guess what? I didn’t like it.
I totally dodged a bullet. Imagine if I’d just gone to grad school right away and ended up spending time and money to enter a field I didn’t love?
3. Digital Skills Are in Demand (and Pay More)
According to a recent Glassdoor study, 14 of the top 25 highest-paying and in-demand jobs are in technology.
Not only are these careers higher in pay, but they are also more in demand. And over the next few years, this will only increase.
A lot of what they teach in universities is outdated. And not relevant to the current market.
If I had gone to grad school, my education would not have included many digital skills. So even if I had a grad degree, it really would have not made me a more attractive job candidate—especially if I sought out one of those lucrative careers in technology.
4. Degrees Are Becoming Obsolete; Skills Matter More
According to Miles Kimball in Degrees Don’t Matter Anymore, Skills Do, “More and more, employers are going to want to see some proof that a potential employee has actually gained particular skills. So certificates that can credibly attest to someone’s ability to write computer code, write a decent essay, use a spreadsheet, or give a persuasive speech are going to be worth more and more.”
This article was written by a professor—not some anti-college thought leader.
Your skills matter more than your degree. And, as Kimball later points out, recently popular programs like coding bootcamps and related are starting to gain credibility.
Plus, they’re a much more quick and affordable option than grad school.
5. You Can Learn These Highly Valued Skills on Your Own
As I quickly found out, you can learn a lot of these in-demand skills on your own.
Many of these technical jobs don’t even require a technical undergraduate degree, much less grad school (although this varies).
With the abundance of affordable online resources and MOOCs (massive open online courses), it’s easier than ever.
For example, any person with an internet connection can take MIT classes for free. Even if you’re not trying to gain digital skills, other platforms like Coursera have classes on a range of topics for free.
Or you can take a more hands-on approach and attend in-person workshops or “boot camps.” (Both of which cost less and require less time than grad school.)
Personally, a lot of what I have learned over time has been through self-teaching. But early on I attended in-person workshops with Meetup groups like Girl Develop It.
6. The World Around Us Is Digitizing
Nowadays, every company is a “tech” company to a certain extent. Every business has a website, and some even have elaborate online stores/applications.
Almost all businesses need IT people. (Many need designers, developers, quality assurance, digital marketers, etc. too.) And even if you don’t want a “tech” job, learning these valuable skills will add tremendous value to your resume.
A huge misconception is that tech skills means coding. But that is far from the truth. In reality, digital skills can be any of the following:
Content strategy (creating content for websites)
Information architecture (arranging how content will flow on a site / application)
Website analytics (using tools to gauge what website visitors are doing and how to improve the site)
UX design (creating products with the end user in mind)
Microsoft Excel (yes, lots of tech jobs require using Excel: namely pivot tables and more advanced macros)
Search Engine Optimization (or SEO: helping websites ranks better in search engines like Google)
And much more
Digital skills of any kind can bolster your resume, keep you current and stay competitive in your field. And you may even end up discovering that you’re passionate about one or two of them!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Levo League!
About the Author: Laurence Bradford is a digital entrepreneur specializing in website content strategy and front-end development. She is entirely self-taught and is now dedicated to helping others acquire digital skills. When she’s not working, she’s writing on her blog at learntocodewith.me. Follow Laurence on Twitter!