Do Students Today Really Need a Bachelor’s Degree?

Do Students Today Really Need a Bachelor’s Degree?

By: Tessa Hunt

Originally published December 11th, 2019

This article is part of The Current’s “Throwback Thursday” series.

Students may feel they shouldn’t be wasting their time going to school to get a degree that might fail to help them achieve their dream job. For the past 100 years, it seems like it’s been drilled into college-going students that attending a university for a degree is what will set you apart from the crowd.

The education you will receive, the friends you will make, the network you will build will all conquer your undying need to be successful and happy. This age-old belief that “You need to go to college to be successful” and “A college degree will get you so much further than a high school diploma” may not be true.

Is it entirely possible that we can have a happy, successful and financially stable career without having to go to a four-year university? We are living in such a complex, consumer driven, entrepreneurial world that secondary education is being considered more supplemental than required for most career aspirations. 

For students in the arts, going to any university, may be quite a stretch. Students who are enrolled in degree programs in the arts or music have serious concerns for their future. They may be worried about making enough money, or being fully satisfied with their career choices. And with those concerns they have serious questions and need serious answers.

Students may feel they shouldn’t be wasting their time going to school to get a degree that might fail to help them achieve their dream job. When they think like this, they get discouraged, ambition to go to class drops down, self-confidence tanks and they begin to overanalyze every choice they’ve ever made academically. Students now more than ever need to find out if there is another direction they can or need to take.

A report done by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education titled, “Pathways to Prosperity” states that “About 70% of high school graduates do head off to college, but only 4 in 10 end up with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by 25.” The study also found that “only one in three adults actually end up graduating.” Could this be due to the crippling student debt that has plagued nearly half of the workforce today or could it be due to a lack of job prospects after college graduation? Or maybe both?

The New York Times published an article with a study claiming “Since 2000, the growth in the wage gap between high school and college graduates has slowed to a halt; 25% of college graduates now earn no more than does the average high school graduate.” This information suggests that getting a bachelor’s degree doesn’t pay up. 

With studies and reports like these, those in college today can find it hard to stay focused on completing their degree at a university, let alone stay optimistic for the future. Appropriately, there are still many questions running through our minds. Should we even stay in school? Or should we re-evaluate our interests and find another path to take all the while saving our time and money? This all depends on what WE want to do with our lives, but definitely do the research. has compiled a list of high paying occupations that still require bachelor’s level degrees. These jobs include: Architecture, Computer Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Software Developers, but where does that leave those interested in more creative fields like music and art? It’s no surprise that a lot of the prospective jobs like those held in the arts can find all the experience they need in small scale businesses and work their way up to higher level positions without any need for a formal degree. 

Here’s a challenge. Try to look up a job posting and see what the desired requirements and qualifications are for an artist, musician or writer. A lot of the times the descriptions will read along the lines of “previous experience,” “a portfolio,” “2-3 references” or sometimes “no experience necessary” or “will train.”

That means the arts degree we spent four or more years crafting, sinking us further into the fiery depths of student debt could ultimately be rendered completely useless. Yes, it may help us get our feet in the door, but without the outside experience or passion, we could be left waiting for a call back that may never come.

Alternatively, going to school to obtain a bachelor’s degree may not be just about the money. It could be for the sake of an adventure, making new friends and experiencing new things. Maybe it’s about taking some extra time to be present and not worry about the serious things of adult life just yet.

Everyone measures success differently anyways, right? Whether it’s choosing what life’s next big adventure is without thinking about college degrees or if the degree is necessary for success, it’s definitely a decision that should be made earlier so there is time to plan accordingly. When making the right moves, things will fall right into all the right places.

Ultimately, being a student in 2019 and focusing your studies in the arts and music or another less mainstream field, it’s encouraged we work on our craft and build a name for ourselves, professionally.

Take for instance, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard University to build and continued to make the website better everyday.

The point is, set a list of small goals and go for it. College may not be for everybody, so find out what is. Learn how to outsource, volunteer to work with vendors, sell music or artwork, or work in retail to learn how a business works first and work your way up to management, if possible.

These are all things that can help us go from nothing to something without the help of a degree. It’s best to remember that the most effective recommendation letter we can get these days is word-of-mouth and the best resume we can create is the one we create by getting out there and just doing something. 

Tessa Hunt is a transfer student and currently a senior studying professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing and has a double minor in English and journalism. She has previously written for the Odyssey for Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University. She hopes to work in editorial or publishing after graduating. In the free time she does have she enjoys shopping, eating Ramen noodles and collecting Funko Pops. Follow her on Instagram @tessaahunt29