Will a College Degree Still Be Relevant in the Future?

How important is a college degree to success in the workforce of the future? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world..

Answer by David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics and Associate Head at MIT, on Quora:

A college degree is extremely important. It's not the only route to the middle-class, but it's the most surefire route. For example, see this figure from today's WSJ on unemployment rates by education.

The unemployment rate is three times as high among less-than-high-school adults as among college-grads, and twice as high among high-school-only adults.

The earnings differential between college and high school has doubled since 1980.

And the lifetime value of a college degree net of tuition has increased by roughly a $300K since the 1960s.

There's every reason to think that highly educated workers will continue to be in high demand for decades to come. Prospects are much weaker for workers without specialized skills.

But it's worth noting that there are good non-college jobs that will be around for quite some time:

  • Skilled trades (plumbing, electrical, etc.)
  • Many medical technical jobs (require vocational training not a college degree necessarily).
  • Skilled repair.

Note that all of these jobs require specialized post-high-school skills, but not necessarily in a college setting.

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