Apart from teaching, engineering and medical industries which jobs actually require a degree? In the UK accountancy and law have seperate exams to become professionally qualified.
EDIT: to give more context I'm the equivalent of a high school teacher and occasionally advise students on their career path. Thinking back over my past, if I know what I know now most likely I would have left school as early as legally possible, got a job and worked my way up in the labour force; I would have studied economics and philosophy in my own time- I take a similar position to Gary North on these matters. However I'd like to be able to back up my tentative position with some stats. So if any of you have an links that would be useful or any comments on the value of achieveing a degree I'd like to hear them?
This was prompted by the go HAM thread,
The atoms tell the atoms so, for I never was or will but atoms forevermore be.
To be honest, I think even the professions you listed would be better off without degree requirements, not because "college is bad" but because even by the 18th century, it had already become basically a State-administered guild certification system. In Alexandria, around the turn of the era, it was common to hear philosophers, geometers, astronomers, etc. lecturing in the street. If you heard a lecture and you liked the teacher, you could approach him and make an arrangement for tutelage in the subject of interest. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a business that caters entirely to this sort of economic activity (ala a University) but I think the ancient business model is a real reality-check on the nonsense that it has evolved into. I could have learned everything for my bachelor's that I needed to know for the job I have in no more than two or two and a half years. And the best way to have learned it would have been to begin an apprenticeship after about the first year. The first year of book-learning is just so the master who takes you on is able to talk to you (you have to know your ABC's before you can read). And the goal of becoming an apprentice is to eventually stand on your own two feet... to be a professional with a shingle out on Main Street. The economic component has become completely lost in the cattle-chute model of University->Corporation->Retirement.
All I can say is to tell you how I approach this when someone asks me for a recommendation.
I tell them to be VERY sure the degree they wind up paying for is the best way to get into the field of their choice. Also that there is a financial advantage in it.
Take my field, for example. In Art History, the kinds of museum jobs I wanted definitely require the Ph.D. However by the time I got there (judging by the financials after my bachelors') I would have a student loan bill that utterly exceeded anything I should be paying for on the salary I could expect to get.
It wasn't financially viable. I could have learned any of that stuff on my own practically for free; I should only have paid for it in the knowledge that it would be a sound investment in the long run.
@ Clayton- I entirely agree that it has become a state sponsered guild system. My question was merely pragmatic: given the present institutional structures which require a degree for employment in that field beyond the ones I mentioned?
Under a sane system practically all training for a vocation would be an old apprentice system. Hook up to one master, shadow him, do the menial tasks and learn. Then after a number of years become your own man becoming self employed or being employed elsewhere. No ridiculous day release to college and paper work- just learning how to do a job well to satisfy consumer wants.
@ Lady Saiga- I too am pretty hot on asking whether the degree route is in fact the best one for their chosen career. Most people assume they have to go to university but in most cases they need not.
@Physio: On the completely pragmatic front, these are I think some of the big variables:
a) Field. If it's certain fields like medicine, law, etc. there is no possibility of not getting certified, as you mentioned. At least, not in the "developed" world. You may think outside the box, however, if you are thinking of going to some less fascistic part of the world.
b) Family expectations. If your family expects you to "get certified-up", especially if they're paying for some or all of it, then just go with it. The key is de-programming yourself and getting realistic expectations about the real world despite the mind-f*** that is college...
c) Your propensities. Are you entrepreneurial? If not, then forget about trying to "go it alone" educationally, too. The same self-motivation and drive that is required to run a business is required to qualify yourself for a technical/specialist field.
d) De facto apprenticeship. I've written on this before, but if you're going into any kind of specialist field, even if you do go to college, you should think about how you're going to become a de facto apprentice once you arrive to your career. College fills your head with delusions of grandeur so that you think you're already a "somebody" just by virtue of graduating. In fact, once you show up for your first day of work, you're a nobody... yes, you got the job, but you have no experience.
e) Decide whether you want to climb the corporate ladder. If this is the way you want to go (it is a possible route), then you need to "re-tool" your mindset and start thinking in "cog in the machine" mode. You need to start thinking how you are going to play the status game, how you're going to get "heads" under your "command" and so on. You need to start thinking like an up-and-coming, mid-level officer in the Pentagon. It's all about status, rank, heads under your command, etc.
f) Venturing. This is another route. Google "James Altucher" "Y combinator" for some outside-the-box thinking.
Strictly speaking? Nothing requires university per se. Although with some things, like accountancy, law, surgery, psychology, dentistry, medicine, engineering etc., you want people who are competent and well trained doing them. Though in the UK, unless you know a trade or have an entrepreneurial mind, good luck getting decent paying work without a degree.
Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...
Some good advice there Clayton. One of the issues we face in the UK is that, even though student debt can get really high, it doesn't feel expensive since you only start paying the debt back after reaching a particular earning threshold. Further with the loans you get you can live quite comfortably for the years at University. Consequently many people go for the reason I did: I liked Economics so I'll study it at university. I did have some career ambitions, that of becoming an Economics Professor, but that went out of the window when I got fed up with the whole rotten system. As I stated before since I have little interest in pursuing medicine, law or engineering I would tell my then 16 year old self to get a job.
My main point here is that many people do a degree without a thought of what career they'll pursue so I'm trying to open up avenues for the older kids I know at Church and those I teach. Most of them think they'll go to University since that is what everyone else is doing.
@ Jon- being a home national in country without a degree in your subject will mean it is incredibly difficult to get a job in those fields. Further from what I have seen the content of a lot of degrees have little relevance to what is actually required to be competent at a job in that field.
Yes, I edited my reply with that in mind.