The value of a college degree



In May, I will graduate with an undergraduate degree in finance. Four years of work and quite a bit of money have gotten me here. How valuable is this degree? Not very valuable at all.

That is what my finance professors are telling me. A bachelor’s degree today is the equivalent of no degree a few decades ago.
It turns out there are a whole lot of students graduating with undergraduate degrees in finance and they are all competing for the same jobs. So when employers get hundreds of applications from college graduates, they are not impressed.

That is not what I wanted to hear from professors who are intricately familiar with the industry. During the most recent Student Finance Association meeting, the finance faculty informed us that another degree or certification is the only thing that will differentiate us. For students who do not love studying and taking exams, i.e. most of us, that is not a great message to hear.

The prospect of more schooling is loathsome. Graduation feels like it should be the end of learning and the start of practicing what we have learned over the past four years. I want all my hard work to start working for me.
So how does one stand out in a saturated job market?

The Chartered Financial Analyst certification has been strongly recommended by faculty. Unfortunately, CFA certification is becoming less of a differentiator and more of a requirement. In the first 50 years of the CFA program, 100,000 people took the exam. In the last year, 200,000 have taken the exam.

Also unfortunate is the exam’s difficulty. It consists of three exams taken over three years. All three exams have average pass rates below 50 percent. The level one exam has an average pass rate under 40 percent.

So the CFA is extremely hard, takes three years to obtain and is my only hope of making my résumé stand out.
My other option is getting another degree. This is equally unattractive as it is costly and strenuous. And going back to school just seems wrong.

I can only hope that it will all be worth it. Whichever route I choose to take, if going through all of it results in me becoming a more productive, intelligent and successful person, then I have no reason to complain.

I think it comes down to this: How far am I willing to go to accomplish my goals? If they are truly my goals, then I should be willing to go as far as it takes to get there.

Luckily I have the support of the finance faculty and their expert advice to rely on. It is reassuring to know that our faculty is well versed in the industry standards and willing to help us every step of the way.