Is College Really Necessary?

John Krautzel
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A college degree may not be the end-all, be-all solution to career success. A 2018 study published by LiveCareer shows that having a post-secondary education lends well to higher-paying positions for white-collar jobs, but not necessarily for blue-collar employment. Having a degree only works out if a chosen career demands one, and blue-collar employment usually takes a more direct approach.

Statistics Behind the Survey

LiveCareer's 2018 job-hopping survey examined thousands of resumes and job listings for 12 different occupations that make up 25 percent of American occupational categories. A program specialized for natural language processing then compared resumes to the job listings. Around two-thirds of millennials had some kind of college degree, ranging from a two-year degree to a graduate degree. By comparison, 26 percent of millennials listed at least one professional certification or license on their resume.

When examining blue-collar jobs only, a college degree may actually hurt someone's chances of landing a job. Around 24 percent of blue-collar job seekers listed a two-year degree, and 17.5 percent highlighted a four-year degree on their resumes. By comparison, only 5 percent of blue-collar employers had a four-year degree as a qualification, and none showed a two-year degree.


The survey concluded that having a college degree for a blue-collar job, or one that relies on specific, hands-on skills, may actually hurt someone's chances of landing a position. These jobs include plumbers, electricians, hairstylists, construction workers and skilled laborers. Companies may feel someone with a degree is overqualified and underpaid. That disconnect could lead to job dissatisfaction and high turnover, so employers try to find someone who is a perfect fit.

Solutions and Tips

Job seekers with a college degree who want a blue-collar job have some strategies to lean on when it comes to landing a great job. These jobs are usually non-professional ones where job skills transfer easily from one position to another. Job seekers should focus on these transferable skills as opposed to higher education. That means beefing up communications, teamwork, collaboration and leadership skills.

Candidates should compare what employers want by examining various job descriptions. When similar positions have the same certifications or licenses as a standard practice, people should highlight those rather than showcasing a two-year or four-year degree. Specialized training for certain fields may be more important than an overall education.

Another solution is for job seekers to go into business for themselves. If a person has all of the skills needed to be an electrician or welder, a candidate can invest in the time and tools necessary to own a business or become an independent contractor.

A college degree does not necessarily mean career success, but that's not a bad thing. Many companies would rather find a perfect fit instead of having to hire another new person all over again because of an overqualified candidate that lacks engagement and becomes bored quickly.

Photo courtesy of Roman Boed at


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