For years, the conventional wisdom for achieving career success was simple: go to college. But the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics call that advice into question.
Proponents of more education for everyone have often used BLS data to encourage students to pursue college diplomas. And it’s true that the Bureau’s lists of fastest-growing jobs often include many occupations that require higher education. But what the boosters fail to mention is that high growth rates don’t necessarily translate into large numbers of job openings. Yes, it’s projected that we’ll need nearly 36 percent more veterinarians by 2020, but that’s relative to the very small number that currently exist. Even at 36 percent growth, we’ll only need 22,000 more vets by 2020.
With such projections, it’s no wonder that roughly 25 percent of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 are currently underemployed (with another 25 percent jobless). Almost 17 percent of minimum wage workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
With job growth like this, it’s more important than ever for prospective students to carefully weigh the costs of higher education when they are making decisions about the future. Students should also consider the opportunity costs of spending four or five years in college instead of taking the first step on a career ladder. In this changing economy, free learning, part-time education, apprenticeships, community college, and gap years should all be on the table instead of looking only at a traditional four-year college path.