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Why you need a college degree

A new study shows that workers with no more than a high school degree were hit hardest hit by the recession. and they're not benefiting from the recovery.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 23, 2012 9:48AM

This post comes from Susan Adams at partner site on MSN MoneyWhich group of workers has been hit hardest since the recession started in late 2007? Though the media runs plenty of stories about the plight of college graduates and focuses on differences between male and female job seekers (hence the coining of "mancession"), a new study from Georgetown University shows that the workers who have suffered the most are those with no more than a high school education.


Image: Man holding out empty pockets. (© Dougal Waters/Photodisc/Getty Images)Not only did this group lose millions of jobs when the recession began, its situation has continued to stagnate or worsen during the lackluster recovery. People who did not go to college lost 200,000 jobs from the beginning of 2010 to early 2012, according to the study.


Based on data collected by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study, by Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce, divided the U.S. workforce of 140 million people into three groups: those who did not go to college, those with some college education or an associate degree, and those with at least a bachelor's degree.


From late 2007 to early 2012, the least-educated group lost a total of 5.8 million jobs, or 10%. The middle group, with some college education, lost far fewer jobs during the recession, and those losses were almost completely reversed by early 2012. In the group with the highest level of education, there was no net job loss during the recession, and the number of people who held jobs climbed 2.2 million, or 5%. (Post continues below video.)

Current unemployment rates continue this trend. While the national rate is 8.3%, the rate is just 4.5% for all four-year college graduates. The rate is higher for recent college grads, at 6.8%, but for recent high school graduates, it's a whopping 24%.


Why is the job market so terrible for less-educated workers? Industries like manufacturing, construction and transportation, in which many of the jobs don't require a college degree, have experienced sharp job losses since the recession started. Since those fields are dominated by men, there has been much coverage of male job losses. But the Georgetown study looked at the sex disparity in unemployment and found that it has narrowed, partly because women have been heavily affected by the decline in education and other government jobs.

Anthony Carnevale, the director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown,  talked with The New York Times about the study and noted a silver lining. In recent years, more men than women have gone to school to make themselves more employable. "We seem to have hit the boys hard enough to wake them up," Carnevale told The Times. Carnevale also spoke with National Public Radio and said, "The only thing that's more expensive than going to college is not going to college, so you really don't have a choice."


Carnevale's comments are striking, given the current controversy about the value of an ever-more-pricey college education, and about high dropout rates and outsized debt loads at for-profit colleges. The Georgetown study makes a compelling case for getting a college diploma.


More from MSN Money:

Aug 23, 2012 10:54AM
This is absolutely ridiculous.  If you know how to make your own in this world, it is not essential to acquire a degree.  Unfortunately the degree often times carries an air of pretentiousness, which is why articles like this are written.

Education is a wonderful thing, if planned for properly.  What one often sees, however, is people forced into it who have no business or desire to attend.  As such, they take the path of least resistance, and it's game over afterward with dim prospects and a mountain of debt.  What's more is that colleges don't care, preferring to ship out a prospect with a degree in anything just to get paid.  What passes for education at the higher levels anymore in this country is a sad, sad state of affairs.

Do not go to college if you don't know what you want to complete.  Don't go because someone told you it was a good idea.  Find an employer who has a semblance of common sense and values hard experience over some new buffoon with a piece of paper that allegedly 'qualifies.'  Don't borrow ridiculous amounts of money without knowing your job prospects.  If you're going to do it, do it well or hang it up.  Toilet paper is much cheaper at the grocery store.
Aug 23, 2012 4:40PM

This is a load-of-crap article. (MSN is getting proficient in those)

I have a biology degree. Never have used it. The job I currently have is in emergency services. All of my friends, except for three, who have field-specific degrees and/or advanced degrees, have been laid off/let go from their jobs due to cut-backs, or have had to find new work, because their employer/company that they worked for folded or moved operations to another country. All of them have had to take whatever jobs they could get, and aren't making anywhere near what they should based on their degrees and/or work experience. This includes a friend who used to be a professor at a local college. The college completely folded her department. She's now an assistant manager at a local restaurant.

A college degree means very little now, except that, unless your parents paid the bill, you have a mountain of debt with no certainty of being able to pay it.

Aug 23, 2012 4:24PM
What they fail to point out is, so many who have a college degree are currently working at jobs that don't require the degree they have: many people have been turned away from the jobs they wanted because they were 'overeducated'.  I know many people personally who have masters degrees but work in a completely different field, and the jobs they have barely pay the college loans.

That's another thing this article ignores: getting an education can be horrendously expensive, and starting a career with a mountain of debt negates the financial edge most graduates assumed their degree would give them.  Even noble careers like teaching lose their appeal if the student loans bankrupt the teacher.

Aug 23, 2012 4:21PM
We sent our children to a liberal arts college, I now have a different thought process about college.  They both graduated, one with a psychology  major, who is now a bartender.  Our other child was a political science major, who now works in real estate.  I am grateful both have job's that provide for them, however , it was a big expense.  I now feel that liberal arts degrees are not so useful unless you go on with more education.  Get a trade job, less expensive, you get a job immediately and so on and so on. There are so many to choose from medical, dental, electrician, plumbing you name it. Traditional college is not the only answer!
Aug 23, 2012 3:16PM

A study conducted by Georgetown University, well, well, well. That is like the tobacco industry saying cigarettes are not harmful.

Does anyone think Georgetown would tell the truth by saying a college degree is not worth the time, money spent and earnings lost, except for licensed professionals.

Aug 23, 2012 2:10PM
Aug 23, 2012 3:43PM
Work at a private lab there will be 3 job opening coming up, but company starts everyone out washing dishes and glass ware used in lab. This was started by the founder of the company 70 years ago, it was his way to see who is willing to work and who's not, he said it also brought new college grads back to earth. After washing dishes for two or three months then they are moved to the position  where there really needed along with a very nice pay increase. It's fun to watch the look on a Phd face when you tell them that they will be starting at being a dish washer. It's priceless!
A college degree is fine; however, to get employment one must have a degree that is in demand. I have 3 grandkids who graduated in the past 2 years and all had several job offers before graduation. Needless to say all were in demand fields, computer engineering, bio-medical engineering and mechanical engineering. Their friends with basket weaving degrees are still unemployed.
Aug 23, 2012 5:30PM
It's not what you know, it's who you know.  I'm one of the suckers who went and got a degree to better my chances of landing a job.  But employers want someone who has 5+ years of experience in the field.  In order to get any experience (or a foot in the door) one really needs to know someone within the organization.
Aug 23, 2012 6:13PM
Graduated from H.S., mid 60's, didn't know what I wanted to do, joined the Air Force; applied myself; went to night school for 1 class each semester for 20 years --- have 2 associates degrees but 1/2 year short of a 4 year degree. However, the people and management skills I gained in the service (24 years) enabled me to average 70K for the last 23 years as a superintendent for construction. I have learned that the construction industry, if you care about your career, has some of the brightest and most professional people I have ever met. As far as college goes, only the math and communication courses are pertinent. Good trades people are are invaluable. College is NOT the only path.
Aug 23, 2012 6:25PM
MSN is losing more credibility every time they post articles like this. One week they'll say college degrees won't net you a job; the next week they say they will. Idiots.

Aug 23, 2012 2:52PM
Go to college to learn how to cook fast food or drive a taxi.   Those are your new career choices.
Aug 23, 2012 7:09PM

How about everyone does whats best for them and looks at all of their options instead of following the stupid trends!!!  I can already see an issue arrising when, in 10 years, we have far to many engineers, IT people and tradesman complaining because there aren't enough jobs, yet there will be a shortage for marketing specialists and graphic designers.  Come on people!  Think for yourself, don't follow stupid articles online.


And guidance counselors should be done away with.  They couldn't guide themselves out of a paper bag!

Aug 26, 2012 1:35PM

Its a numbers game.  A decently trained welder, or aircraft mechanic will out earn a doctor, in the first 15-20 years after leaving high school!!!  The doctor will not lead as good a life, nor have as much money, until about age 40!!!  For twenty years, the welder will have a better house, a better car, his/her children will be better off than the doctor!!  (THE DOCTOR, will not do as well for 20 years!!!)  Teachers will NEVER catch up with the aircraft mechanic!!  A large percent of those who begin college, will still not be graduated 10 years later.


Its also human nature.  We all favor people like us.  As long as college graduates are councelling students, they will be shoving them into college!  Many students are cut out for college (and jobs that really require college), and many are not.  Those who are not cut out for college, need the same nurturing (as well as curricular courses) to prepare them, as do college kids.  And, that is woefully lacking in virtually every school, in every district, in every state, in this country.  Don't want college?  Don't know what you want?  Too bad.  You don't want college, we barely recognise that you exist-- in almost every school system!!  Vocational/ practical classes are out back, in the second class section of the school, or the district.  There are exceptions, but that's the rule, in too many places. 

Aug 23, 2012 6:02PM
Sad, what a crazy system we've created. 
Aug 23, 2012 3:38PM

Go to college ONLY if you can afford it AND know that your major has good employment  prospects. A degree in French Literature may interest you but, will you be able to support yourself?

You may be better off serving an apprenticeship and learning a marketable trade.

Although I have a degree in chemistry, I do not use it.

At my last job, that didn't even require a high school diploma,  I made $85k / year. Now, doing the same type of work, I'm semi retired with my own business and working  20 to 25 hours / week and making $90k to $100k / year.

Aug 23, 2012 3:00PM
More men getting degrees than women? I would say that the trend is that more men are beginning to get higher education at equivalent rates as women, not more than. I would also say that more people are getting more education as a whole due to the recession, however even college grads are having a difficult time finding employment--take it from me, I have 3 degrees and it has taken a very long time to get a job and the job I'm in I'm severely over qualified for!
Aug 23, 2012 3:04PM

First of all ,we have had the  recovery that the Democrats have been able to get Ruplican Senators to pass; however, the Republican Governors like Kasick of Ohio and other republicans have holted the expansion of jobs so they can help republicans win the Presidency.  Kasick actually got into office not talking about anythinkg he was going to impliment or help the state get out of debt; instead he waited until after he won the election and that is  when he went after the unions, and the middle class, women, education, policemen, firemen and they are the only ones who are suffering in the state of Ohio.  Like Kasick, that is what Romney is doing.  He is getting off topics, not telling how he will fix things, and then if he wins everyone else will suffer but the greedy.  People will be paying more taxes, will be charge fees for everything under the sun, and they will get rid of the education as we know it.  Right now in Ohio, three-quarters of the charter schools are owned by other countries.  We are paying millions of dollars (which are not going to our students or our educational system) to one person (who is a millionaire because he keeps over 50% of the funds our state is giving to them.   Those schools can not even past the tests in the state because they don't care about the students just the money. 

      America better wake up - Republicans are trying to control the ballot box by keeping people from voting or from being allowed to vote.  Ohio is one of them.  Ohio has been ruined and freedoms have been taken away from the people.  I believe Americans are not fooled.  Remember that Clinton had our country out of debt, Bush placed us back in debt the first six months in office and continued by getting us in a war we had no business being a part of because Bin Ladin was not in Iraq.  As far as a education, I am a college graduate who wants to start teaching, but once again our republican governor in Ohio has taken money away from public education because he does not want the kind of education where the 1% can not control.  Teachers are teaching students not to believe everything they see (examples commercials on tv where one lie after another is the word of the day).  It took Bush only 8 years to get us into what would have been another or even worst Great Depression.  It took over 5 to 10 years for us to get out of the Great Depression of the 30's and 40's (well actually many more years than that).  Who in their right mind feels President Obama has not tried his hardest to get people back to work.  With people like the republicans working against him (example the Job Act of Obama's that was voted down by the republicans).  I would like to see our leaders actually work together to get people back to work. What the republicans (the one percent of the US) is that they may have to actually pay taxes or have to sacrifice.  Actually, it is about time they did their fair share as they have had it easy for over 8 years (Bush's administration) and did get a bailout.  Now it is time for those of us who have suffered because of the 1% who took jobs overseas etc. to pay the price.  I think it would be fair if the business received  a deduction in taxes if they hire from within the US; but, if they take jobs overseas then they need to pay double the taxes.  Those are the people who put us into this situation because of their Greed and corruption. Republicans are part of that greed and corruption.  I use to vote more republican than democrat as I was an independent. I voted for the one I thought would do the job.  I have now turned democrat because the republicans do not care about America; they only care about the rich.  I can not wait to get my ballot because on the first day of the early elections, I will be standing the first in line to vote. 

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