The Purpose of a College Degree

by Sharlyn Lauby on January 3, 2011

Someone was telling me about an employee issue they were having recently.  During the conversation, they said, “This person is smart.  They have a college degree.”

I’m not trying to offend anyone here, but I don’t know that I automatically equate having a college degree and being smart.  That’s because I know plenty of smart people who don’t have college degrees.

You know me, so I had to look up the definition of smart.  It’s defined as showing mental alertness and calculation and resourcefulness.  Makes sense.  And it explains why a person doesn’t need a college degree to be smart.

And I guess this would mean it’s possible that going to college could help you to become smart.  The whole college experience can teach you alertness and resourcefulness.  Anyone who has gone through the add/drop process would concur.  ha.ha.

But this also opens up the possibility that you could have a college degree and not be smart.

What got me thinking about this conversation was the Harvard Business Review post debating if entrepreneurs need a college degree.  While on one hand, I think “yes” it would be valuable; then I challenge myself to answer “why exactly would it be valuable?”

Granted, there are occupations that you need to receive additional education in order to perform.  Like a doctor.  If I were talking to a high school student who wanted to be a doctor about going to college, the answer is “you have to go to college to learn how to do [insert name of surgical procedure here].

But what about occupations that aren’t like doctors? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  What’s the purpose of a college degree?

Image courtesy of Noel Foster

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