SHOULD YOU GET A COLLEGE DEGREE?

Many of us have been taught that education is the key to succeeding in life. Yet, there are numerous success stories of highly successful, billionaire business leaders without college degrees, including Bill Gates (Microsoft founder), Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook founder), Larry Ellison (Oracle founder), and of course Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum).

Reflecting back, I often felt conflicted as I got my tech degrees whether they were even necessary. Paying over ten thousand dollars a semester for 4-5 courses that may not lead to a job opportunity upon graduation was one concern. Second, what’s the point of exams and grades if the real-world does not measure success the same way?

Now that I’m older and have three degrees, I have the luxury of reflecting on these questions and considering whether I made the right choice. To me, I was right in pursuing my two technology degrees because they gave me a good foundation in computer engineering concepts. In fact, I didn’t land the best job opportunities after my Bachelor’s, and had to continue for a Master’s degree. I tend to think that the successful college dropouts who later became billionaire tech leaders were benefitted by a mix of luck, charm, and natural skills in engineering and sales. If you’re not naturally gifted in developing products and selling them, a college degree is probably worth pursuing.

The second reason I think my degrees have been useful is because they eventually enabled me to get a professional degree at a well-known business school. For most professional programs, such as MBA (Master of Business Administration) or LLM (Master in Laws), having prior degrees is a requirement. My MBA helped me to ultimately land a job as a Marketing Director at a leading tech corporation. Some of my MBA classmates have founded companies, shifted careers, and dedicated themselves to leading non-profit organizations. In doing these things, they try to make a bigger impact on the world and leave it a better place for future generations. Ultimately, it was their college degrees that enabled them to pursue these careers.

I realize that my point of view is biased—I’m someone whose degrees have paid-off over a decade. But the chances of earning a high salary are better for those with degrees than those without. There are very few among us with the charisma and intellectual ability to succeed without getting a formal education in an academic institution.