Do you really need a degree to be successful?
Is a university degree synonymous to success? Source: Shutterstock

What do individuals like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs have in common? All three went on to achieve great things in life without a degree under their belt.

It’s worth noting that Zuckerberg and Gates eventually received an honorary degree from their alma mater, Harvard University, after dropping out to work on their lucrative ventures, Facebook and Microsoft respectively, years after they were scheduled to graduate.

But does their success mean that getting a degree isn’t essential in building a successful future?

Not necessarily so.

University of Waterloo economics Professor Larry Smith pointed out that these individuals merely represent a handful of people who succeeded despite not having a degree.

“And what about ‘John Henry’ and the 420,000 other people who tried ventures and failed? It’s a classic case of survivor bias. We make judgments about what we should do based on the people who survived, totally ignoring all the guidance from the people who failed,” he told Forbes.

While everyone’s life circumstances are different, here are some factors that may urge you to rethink your decision to drop out of university, if it has ever crossed your mind:

A degree can be your safety net

Many jobs require a degree as a minimum requirement. Source: Shutterstock

Scroll through any job search website and you’ll soon find that a degree is a prerequisite to getting a job – including entry-level positions.

While you may have a number of side projects while enrolled at university, à la Zuckerberg, who worked on Facebook as a student at Harvard, getting a degree can still be a worthwhile investment as you’ll always have something else to fall back on if your venture doesn’t work out.

Graduates earn more on average

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, bachelor degree holders tend to earn more than their counterparts without a degree. Similar findings have also been echoed in the UK – Graduate Labour Market Statistics show that working-age graduates earned £10,000 per year more than the average non-graduate.

Graduates are less likely to be unemployed

Graduates are less likely to be unemployed than non-graduates. Source: Shutterstock

Data suggests that graduates are less likely to be unemployed when compared to non-graduates. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the unemployment rate for graduates is lower than non-graduates.

The March 2019 unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was two percent, while the rate was 3.7 percent for high school graduates.

A degree can prepare you for a specific career, or even non-specific roles

There’s no escaping it – there are jobs that require applicants to possess a degree or graduate degree, such as psychologists, doctors, dentists, researchers, and more. Even if you have a change of heart about your career, you could still try your hand at other jobs available anyway.

Don’t forget, university is only three to four years of your life – in the grand scheme of things, it might be better to grit your teeth and earn a qualification that has the potential to give you a better life, than choosing an option that may lead to more job insecurity in the future.

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