Worthless degrees

In a fair market the value of a degree should be driven by demand and supply forces. A degree is considered valuable when it is high in demand and yet the supply of graduates is limited. When society demands a certain service/skill we see a proliferation of often duplicated courses in the local universities. Then there is an oversupply of graduates for a certain course and we see the pay rates plummeting. This trend has been observed in many popular courses at campus. There was once a wave of ICT degrees, then Procurement, then Mass Communication, then Engineering, then Economics, then Statistics, etc. Many of these graduates are now doing completely different things!

Demand for specific skill sets is driven by many things including population growth, economic growth, and income levels. For instance the entry of telecom companies into the country drove the initial need for Telecom Engineers and ICT professionals. 

Supply is generally a function of barriers to entry and the ease or difficulty of producing a certain graduate. For example it is quite difficult and expensive to produce a neurosurgeon and that is why we have very few of them. Other barriers to entry include the difficulty of a course, length of time, registration requirements, tuition, failure rate, etc. Shorter and easier courses tend to have more graduates. 

There is also a cultural dimension to it. We generally perceive a graduate to have better odds of success irrespective of the degree they hold. Recent trends have indicated that this is no longer true. There are many unemployed graduates.

Perhaps we should not be clamoring to acquire certain degrees but rather the relevant in-demand skills. For example the number of cars on the road has grown tremendously which means we need people who can offer comprehensive maintenance and repair services in a professional manner. An apprenticeship with a reputable garage/workshop may offer more relevant skills than a popular degree from campus.

There is a huge demand for hands on practical skills of all sorts which few degrees offer. The growing middle class needs professional house keepers, carpenters, masons, plumbers, painters, gardeners, florists, make up artists, fashion designers, mechanics, fitness instructors, chefs, coaches, counselors, spiritual leaders, nutritionists, etc.

Common sense would dictate that we pursue skills and knowledge for which a ready market already exists. Yet we continue to pursue worthless degrees in the hope that we would be able to find a good paying job. The odds of this happening keep shrinking everyday as the education system pumps more graduates than the market can absorb. Instead of acquiring worthless degrees we should instead consider investing in valuable skills, knowledge and experiences.

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