Is all that higher education worth it?

Out of curiousity, I asked my family member if going to school, getting her PhD and all that education was worth it in the end.

She hesitated (not a good sign).

Then she replied:

Well I make $110k/year.I also have a flexible schedule and I don’t work like I used to.

So I guess it must be worth it.

It just seemed like such a long time to get my degree though, and I am still paying off my loans.

I let it go at that point. I know she finds her job boring, but I was curious as to whether the shorter hours, bigger paycheque made up for it all.

She only confirmed what I had felt all along: if you don’t love what you do 90% of the time, you will always feel wishy-washy about your job, and slightly unhappy.

A while back, I came across this post card from Post Secret:

Granted, I don’t know about this person’s situation to comment on it, but I wonder if earning more than $30,000 a year, working 70 hours a week would make them happy.

Do they hate their jobs, hate the lack of money, or both?

I wonder what the motivation is for people to decide to get their PhDs in their respective subjects.

Is it because they want to work towards that actual role of being a professor, assistant professor and to conduct all that research?

If so, then loving the job but wishing you had more money is something I can understand. I would do my job even if it paid 4x less — it is that interesting!

I feel like my family member got into the job because she didn’t know what else she wanted to do.

She was hog-tied, career-wise and it only seemed logical to follow this discipline until the end, considering that it was the one in the most demand (seeing as it is horribly boring, and no one wanted to do it) and joked she would be a lifetime student.

Even for undergraduates: why do people choose the disciplines they do?

I think the same principle applies when you decide to go to college for an undergraduate. I went into something I found interesting: business and ended up by accident doing what I love and making decent dough.

However that doesn’t mean someone who finds anthropology, history or computer science interesting will end up in a job they love.

So what do those people do? How do they find what they love if what they love doesn’t have a job, a role or a demand out there for them?

They all say that someone with a college degree earns more than a high school graduate (something like $15,000 more), but are they really looking at it from a discipline-by-discipline perspective and accounting for all the variables such as job demand, and so on?

If not, then numbers from engineers or investment bankers will skew the average earnings up far above the rest.

Then you look at this chart (click on it to make it larger) from Chronicle that asks: Why did 17 million students go to college?

I wish there were correlating statistics on what undergrad they took.

Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree.

I am guessing all that debt wasn’t worth it, and with rising student loan numbers, it seems like a waste of time. There’s always the possibility to work part-time or study part-time to try having less debt, but then it takes even more time to get a degree. In the late years, many are turning to online courses from accredited colleges, like NDNU Online, so they can work full-time while earning their degree. I wonder if they find their courses as much interesting as the ones given in classes though.

That being said, I love that I got my degree and I’m happy I did. It’s certainly paid off, but am I the norm, or one in a hundred?

All very interesting questions.


So I ask you, why did you decide to go to college?

And for those of you who went the step farther — why did you go for more schooling?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.