Are University Degrees Worth the Money?

In the United Kingdom around 42% of the population holds at least a bachelor's degree, while 8% of the population holds a master’s degree. In the United States, it is estimated that roughly 35% of the population holds a bachelor's degree.

Image Credit: StockSnap / 27553 images

In recent times, more and more people are pursuing a master’s degree as a bachelor’s degree is now considered to be an entry level qualification for most jobs; what is more odd is that soon the master's degree will become the new bachelors degree. What can be understood from this is that higher education is no longer the route to success as it once was.

In many Western Countries, the planned transition from an industrial economy to a service sector based economy has produced a significant uptick in young adults pursuing higher education as an effective means of standing out from the crowd. This societal expectation has made our economy dysfunctional, where the value of a bachelors or a masters degree is greatly diminished. At the end of the day, young adults are left with a huge amount of debt that they have difficulty paying off; which is not good for any society.

This dilemma is also conflated with the fact that countries in Europe are highly regulated in terms of their hiring practices and firing policies: which makes it incredibly hard for new graduates to find jobs or even change jobs due to companies being overly selective and careful to not choose the wrong candidate.

Not only that, but according to official statistics 50% of graduates in the United Kingdom are working in jobs that do not even require a degree; therefore, graduates are not getting a return on their investment in higher education. Every year, chances for young graduates to get their foot in the door reduce as more and more graduates enter the pool with those graduates who are already unemployed and waiting to get into employment.

In recent years, the pandemic has made this trend even worse, many industries are shrinking, and small to medium sized businesses are beginning to feel the effects - in fact many businesses had to shut down during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021: which were poor decisions and cruely calculated to benefit big corporations and big business; and Amazon doubled its value on the stock market in 2021. The young were the most to be affected by the pandemic: many lost their jobs or failed to even gain employment at all.

Too much governmental involvement and intervention in higher education has potentially devalued higher education - most degree programmes are either invaluable to employers, or will soon be out of date due to emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence. Many university students fear that their future career choices will be impacted by the rise of Artificial Intelligence; some jobs that require mastery of a particular subject area such as: dentists; doctors; accountants and some other roles are potentially considered to be under threat from AI due to those roles being repetitive; requiring little human emotion.

What is clear is that in the west, too much emphasis has been put on young adults to go to university in order to pursue higher education so that their prospects are significantly improved; however, what we can see here is that their prospects are not improving. Instead, people are only delaying their careers and potentially losing money down the line as a result.

Nowadays, our world is changing very quickly and in ways that we cannot fully comprehend or grasp. If one is looking to go to university and pick a particular career path, it is important that (s)he chooses very carefully so that the coming changes to society - which have a lot to do with AI - do not affect that particular career path.

At the end of the day no profession has a zero percent chance of automation, but some professions have a greater degree of risk than others; and there are many factors that affect the level of risk such as: human interaction, emotion, complexity, management, negotiation, and much more. If you are keen to find out about whether you will be affected by this, then the following webpages will provide the following statistics on your chosen profession:

What governments in Europe and the United States should be doing is investing in different areas of the economy which have been neglected and are safe from being automated. Furthermore, governments should reduce the unnecessary and restrictive barriers to starting a business, so that the economy can start functioning properly, and in a manner that is more productive and conducive to generating economic growth; shaming business owners through a Central Registry of Beneficial Ownership as is done in the United Kingdom and Europe is not one of them.

The numbers are skewed against graduates and the time has come for those who are thinking of going to university to think if their degree will really benefit them in the long run, and if those degrees will provide any value to society. For example, the law industry in the United States is becoming saturated with qualified professionals, as are many other professions; you may be doing yourself a disservice if you think you can stand out from the crowd in this manner.