Forty-one percent of university students drop out before the completion of their degree, according to a recent report released by the United States Department of Education. While the attainment of a degree is the objective of going to university, it’s inaccurate to say that drop outs do not gain any benefit from the time they have spent at the university.
The distinction we need to make is between those who never attended a university, those who attended but dropped out, and those who were awarded a university degree. By making this comparison, we might be able to answer the main question as to whether or not a university degree is necessary today.
The career choice young people make when they complete their schooling is the very first factor that we need to take into account as to whether or not a university degree is required. Those who choose to enter one of the trades by becoming an artisan or tradesman, obviously do not have to attend university to qualify in their chosen field. They would, however, have to attend a trade school or other vocational education institute to become properly qualified.
For those choosing to enter fields of activity where membership of a professional society, such as the American Medical Association or the National Society of Professional Engineers, is obligatory in order to practice in your chosen field as a professional, a graduate degree is an essential. Individuals choosing a military career as an officer have to attend university or a military academy in order to progress through the ranks of commissioned officers and achieve leadership roles in their particular field.
The next group we look at are those that attended university but dropped out before completion of a degree. The major reasons for dropping out, according to a Harvard University study done in 2011, is the inability to cope with the academic demands of the selected course, shortage of funds to continue and a desire to enter the workplace for various reasons such as money, good job offers and the realization that a college degree is not essential. The other group are those that drop out in order to go into business.
The Professional Path
Those who have chosen professional career paths where the individual would be in private practice such as physicians, dentists, attorneys, or accountants, while the others, more in the science and engineering fields, would typically be employed in the private sector. The attainment of a university degree would, in the vast majority of cases, ensure a secure and moderately wealthy lifestyle with the same degree of security following through into retirement.
While it is impossible in an article such as this to examine all the various professions and degree courses, the importance of acquiring a university degree should not be underrated. There are naturally many spheres of employment where a degree provides an advantage, but is not an essential, with workplace experience often compensating for a lack of educational qualifications. Employers very often tend, however, to give preference to educational qualifications and youth ahead of experience which generally goes with age.
The Drop Outs
Invariably, whenever this subject comes up for discussion, somebody is sure to come up with a list of names of those who succeeded, despite having dropped out of university. They will reel off names such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs among others who not only succeeded, but became world renowned and enormously wealthy. Two of them are among the ten wealthiest men in the world, and while several others are the beneficiaries of inherited wealth. Bill Gates — who tops the list — and Larry Ellison are self-made successes. It’s important to note however, that although some of these individuals dropped out of university, they started out in activities mostly related to the world of computers with business partners who they had met while at university. While they might not have attained a degree, being at the university meant that they met like-minded people who played a role in their future successes.
Bill Gates started out playing around with computers and doing programming while still at school and even wrote an algorithmic program at a very early stage. This type of algorithmic program became an essential part of the development of the online trading platform similar to that which millions of online investors engaged in binary options trading use. While not for one moment discounting the success of Microsoft and what it has meant, the algorithmic program has earned billions for online traders globally.
Where Are They Now?
The latest data available indicates that in 2011 there were 21 million students at universities and colleges in the U.S. With a dropout rate of 41%, this means that around 8 million students drop out in every 5 or 6 year cycle. Although we hear about the few drop out success stories we discussed earlier, nothing much is ever heard of the millions of other students who also dropped out.
Those who achieve university degrees and then go on to succeed in the professions as well as in business, remain anonymous in most cases, but far outnumber the small minority of dropouts who succeed beyond expectations.
The ability to succeed in life seems to be enhanced by attending university, while the completion of the full curriculum and being awarded a degree must certainly be considered worthwhile. The degree of specialization we find in some fields of endeavor have made specialist education an essential need. This need can only be filled in an academic environment, such as a university, for the betterment of society and the world at large. Having said all that, while a university degree is necessary in many activities, artisans, craftsmen, and many others without degrees fill a vital and important function in our day-to-day lives. The answer to the original question must then lie in the choice of career, with some requiring a university degree as an essential, while others do not need to have the same amount of academic input to be useful and active members of society.
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