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Do You Need a College Degree to Be Successful?

Do You Need a College Degree to Be Successful?

Do You Need a College Degree to Be Successful?

From putting in hard work and dedication to making connections with others, here are nine answers to the questions, “Do you have a college degree and do you think people need a college degree to be successful?”

  • Degrees Aren’t 100% Necessary Anymore
  • Vision, Grit, and Determination Are the Recipe for Success
  • A College Degree is Optional
  • You Don’t Need One, But a Degree Can Help
  • Employers Want Experience
  • There Are Varied and Individual Requirements for Success
  • A Degree Does Not Always Align With Everyone’s Goals
  • There is Not an Absolute Answer
  • The Real Benefit of College is the Networking Opportunities


Degrees Aren’t 100% Necessary Anymore

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 30% of high-earning professionals did not have a college degree. Similarly, the 2019 Census reported that 37% of successful entrepreneurs had not completed their college education. Ultimately, success depends on an individual’s hard work, dedication, and perseverance—regardless of their level of educational attainment.

I have had two people on my team who have not gone to college and were widely successful in their roles. They had the grit and passion for learning on the job, which is much more powerful than being taught in a classroom. I went to school for radio, TV, and film, and now I run a seven-figure video production firm handling operations, marketing, and scale—not filming. I molded and learned on the job, just like anyone can do.

Trevor Rappleye, CEO and Storyteller, Corporate Filming


Vision, Grit, and Determination Are the Recipe for Success

While my love for hotels and airport logistics led me to earn a BS in Systems Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, the path to success no longer requires a college degree. 

You must have the right outlook, determination, and capability to decide swiftly in changing circumstances. And this is true whether you’re building a remarkable career or starting a successful business. 

But vision enables entrepreneurs to see ripe opportunities and the driving forces behind them, turning an idea into reality using a plan to make it happen. With the abundance of information and resources available today, those who will put in the work can take advantage of current trends in the market.

Shaunak Amin, CEO and Co-Founder, SwagMagic


A College Degree is Optional

I graduated from university and achieved a master’s degree in the language of social communication. However, once I started my full-time job, I noticed that a degree is optional in this field. 

In the creative area, your skills and experience matter much more than your education. So, if I were to consider a career as a copywriter, graphic designer, or designer, I would focus on a solid portfolio rather than a degree.

Karolina Turowska, Community Manager, US Passport Photo


You Don’t Need One, But a Degree Can Help

Yes, I have a university degree in business. Do I believe you need a university degree to be successful? No, I don’t think you do. However, it certainly can make it easier to be successful. I’d say someone would take a harder route if they do not go to college or at least advance their education past high school. 

Many jobs that did not require a college education are becoming obsolete because of advanced technology and AI. Higher education institutions are focusing on master’s and doctoral programs, and jobs are demanding more and more certifications to garner six-figure salaries.

Jeanel Alvarado, Retail Expert, Retail Boss


Employers Want Experience

I am a senior in my last semester of college. While I have not yet received my degree, I have already started to see and experience the benefits of being a student in college. 

When I am looking for a job or internship, being a student in college/having a degree seems to provide greater credibility because it is something employers can leverage to know more about what you do. However, one thing a diploma—or just the simple fact of being in college—does not provide is proof of your ability to execute certain job functions. 

Experience is key. Employers rarely rely on just the fact that you are a college student or have a degree. They like to see that you have applied your knowledge to various jobs, internships, and personal experiences. Therefore, whether you have a college degree, as long as you work hard on building a playbook of work experience, you will set yourself up for success.

Shayma Ouazzani, Content Marketing Intern, Surety Systems


There Are Varied and Individual Requirements for Success

Having a college degree will never hurt your chances of success, but it is not always the best option. The real question is: How do you define success and what is the most efficient way to get there? When deciding whether to pursue a degree, one should always do a cost-benefit or opportunity-cost analysis. 

Will a degree have the best return on investment (ROI) in the short term? Long-term? For example, if someone wants to become a software developer, coding boot camps or self-study is a less expensive, shorter path into the industry, which yields a greater ROI than getting a degree. However, if one wants to become a CIO at some point, there’s a possibility they’ll need to go back to school for a degree. If one wants to become a doctor, a degree is mandatory. 

It’s common for people to become very successful without a degree, but success is different for each person. It’s best to define success for yourself and then figure out the best path to get there.

Nick Suwyn, Founder and CEO, Promineo Tech


A Degree Does Not Always Align With Everyone’s Goals

No, I do not have a college degree. I chose not to go to college because it did not align with my goals in life, however; I view myself as a successful person. Why? Because the way I define success is based on having a specific goal in mind and working hard to reach that goal. This does not require having a college degree; but it requires having a plan, being realistic, working hard, and staying focused, positive, and motivated.

Each individual person measures success differently by what they would like to achieve in life. For example, if a person aspires to become a medical doctor, that requires a college degree. Therefore, it would make sense to attend college and get one. 

But if they decide they want to travel the world or involve themselves with some sort of volunteer work regularly, then having a college degree backed by a lot of debt may not help them reach that goal. It may even keep them from reaching their goals.

Amanda Moss, Sales and Marketing, A Plus Insurance


There is Not an Absolute Answer

It depends. A college degree and experiences serve several purposes in providing professional success:

  1. It’s a good housekeeping seal that credentials one as being vetted and trained. 
  2. It creates an unbelievable network that opens up new opportunities that might not otherwise have been possible.
  3. It is a hotbed for new ideas and perspectives that helps expand one’s aperture beyond their life experiences, and
  4. It provides proximity and knowledge sharing from a great density of big thinkers. The alchemy of these benefits makes the potential value of college unparalleled.

Do you need all these things to be successful? Arguably not. Will they give you a leg up if leveraged properly? Absolutely. So the genuine answer depends on what you need. As Obi-Wan once said, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Marcus Collins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Michigan


The Real Benefit of College is the Networking Opportunities

While I have a BA in Telecommunication & Film from a major four-year university, it is not required to have a successful career in the television and film industry. There aren’t any certifications in my field that require a degree, and much of what I learned about the various roles in our industry happens on the job, or in entry-level positions within the department that you’re interested in. 

The most significant benefit I received from my time in college was the networking opportunities. Without those connections, my six-figure career would have been delayed or possibly even completely non-existent. Dedicated for-profit “film schools” can offer more rigorous hands-on training, but you do sometimes lose the ability to connect with those outside of the filmmaking circuit, which can often be future clients.

Tyler Faison, Production Sound Mixer, Vandelay Sound Exports


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