The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Are Your Degrees and Certifications Really Worthless?
Put it this way: If you were carrying around a certification or a degree in anything with recognition to your name, and you walked up to someone and asked whether they would like to buy it, how much do you think they would offer you for it? Whatever they give you is the value of that piece of paper in your hand. I can only assume that 99% of everyone would probably find it meaningless and useless. It has your name on it and it means nothing to them. They did nothing to earn it and all they did was pay for a piece of paper that can do nothing for them.
Turning that around: If they had a college degree or certification in something and offered you the chance to buy it from them, would you offer them anything for it? Probably not. It’s completely worthless to you.
It is like a lottery ticket: Until it wins, it is just a paper with some random numbers on it. As useful as toilet paper, but worth nothing until it actually wins.
Your Mom and family might be proud of the fact that you obtained it. Your wife would be proud as well. A few friends might cheer you on, though they probably don’t really care one way or another. It is the same for companies, businesses, jobs, etc. It might mean something to you and very few others, but it is completely worthless to them.
The only thing that actually has value is your High School Diploma. Try and get a job without a formal education. You might find some employer who will take pity on you and hire you, but you will look better if you have completed high school or at least obtained your GED. Most of the business world looks down on those who could not even get through high school.
This means that everything else that you earn in your life, in regards to licenses, certifications, and degrees, is completely worthless, and the only value it has is to the one who gives it value.
That, unfortunately, means that your expensive education was probably way overpriced or a waste of money, but at least it makes you feel good, as it should. It also depends on the experience you got from college. If you attended college and applied yourself, learned a lot, made friends, than you certainly had a wonderful experience, and then it was just an overpriced experience and not really a waste of money. If you went to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or any other university, even the not so prestigious ones, and graduated, would you not feel proud of that worthless paper that has your name on it and recognizes you for attending and completing such an institution? That is certainly an achievement that deserves recognition!
If your boss went to the same institution, he may empathize with you, and that might help you get ahead or establish better network connections with people, but other than that, that piece of paper you earned means the most to you. You may be able to mention your degree or certificates in conversation and you might even be able to apply them to certain situations, definitely making the knowledge of that certification worth something.
Do not get me wrong: I am not saying you should not strive to obtain a degree, license, or certificate. By all means, the knowledge you can obtain and how you apply it to your life can be very meaningful, helpful, and useful in your life. If you are thinking about attending college, you should definitely consider going. If you need to attend a few courses to obtain a license for something, than make sure you attend! If you are about to hit the purchase button for an online course to dedicate yourself to the time of learning something new to become certified in something, than please continue pushing that button and earning that certification.
Am I saying that the degree your doctor holds is worthless? Absolutely not. Further and specialized education is different and far more valuable than a general education degree. There are also plenty of people who hold medical degrees and are not doctors, nor are they in jobs where their degrees were even required. Are those degrees valuable? Only to the holders who make them worth something.
What I am saying is: The degree or certification by itself is worthless. It is YOU who give it any meaning and value at all. Just because you have a piece of paper that says you accomplished something does not mean that is who you are. I know a few people with college degrees who lack common sense and cannot hold a steady job. I also know many more people without college degrees who use common sense, are extremely intelligent, and are responsible enough to have held their jobs for years.
Not to pick on you psychology majors, as I am one too, but if you have a Bachelors degree in Psychology, you may have a great understanding of the aspects and elements of psychology. You might have a greater understanding of the human mind, and you can probably help someone, but you cannot claim to be a psychologist without further education and eventually a practice.
The knowledge of what you learned at college is something that helped you along the way to become who you are today, but does not define you. Whether you maintained a 4.0 GPA or a 3.0 GPA in college, the paper does not have any more or less value than what you give it. If you want to proudly show it in the hallway of your home, or at your desk at work, feel free to proudly display your progress and achievements, but it is all in the experience and expertise you bring to your life and your job that mean something.
Groupon and many other websites are loaded with plenty of discounted opportunities to earn online degrees and certifications. From Mixology, Teaching English, Scuba Training, Interior Design, Nutritional Therapy, Microsoft Office Training courses, and IT certifications, you can find just about anything you want to learn online and earn a certificate of completion in it.
Do these certifications carry any more value than a college degree? The answer is subjective: It is only the value of what you learned that is applied to your life and skills that make any of those certifications important.
The certifications that are more specialized and focused on specific areas may be valued if it relates to a specific skill set in a job, but if you obtain a Mixology certificate and you get a job as an Office Assistant, the certificate may not hold any value for that position, but on the weekends, you can definitely impress your friends, or perhaps attend your second job as a bartender.
It is highly recommended and encouraged that you further your knowledge and skills and take a few courses to learn something in order for you to apply it to your everyday life. Should you list these certifications on LinkedIn or your resume? Absolutely! You definitely can and you definitely should!
If you are unemployed and not finding any steady work, the best place to turn to is these online certificates to improve, advance, and enhance your knowledge of becoming a more well-rounded individual. Will you land a job because of these certificates? You might and you might not. For example, acquiring a certificate of completion from Team Tree House may not make you a professional expert software developer or engineer, but it has certainly given you a better understanding to what you spent time learning and may help you on the right path to getting a job.
On the other hand, if you are aiming for a promotion or are currently unemployed and trying to get a job, and can market yourself as a potential candidate, you might want to bring up certain certifications that relate to the job and speak about your experiences, your challenges, and how you might apply what you learned to the job, etc.
If you have a large gap in the employment section on your resume, you may need to explain that to your potential employer. Why not fill those gaps up with certifications? Instead of looking like you did nothing for whatever time you were unemployed, even if you were really looking for a job, you can explain that you spent that time learning new things, and actually have something to show for it!
A degree or certificate in itself has absolutely no value at all until you give it value. By applying the knowledge you learned from the degree or certificate to your current situation, your degree or certificate is still just a piece of useless paper, but what you learned from it provides you with all the value in the world.
Matthew Gates is a freelance web developer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.