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Why U.S. College Degrees are no Longer as Valuable as they Once Were Return to Homepage


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This article is meant to act as a lens into the future workforce of industrialized society.    This article is not meant to embarrass or put down those who see college as a future stable career, as even I went to University and studied sociology, English and gerontology, but this article is meant to be a reality check on how a person who wants to support themselves in the future by having a stable income, wants to be up to date of the changes that are occurring right now and where we as a society are headed.

We all agree there is a tremendous shift taking place. Many jobs that were once secure and paid well are now becoming automated and taken over by computers or robots.  These were jobs that once paid well and required high level skills.  Jobs such as paycheck clerks, accountants and law firms representing the computer industry and financial markets and others are gradually being out phased by technology that is better, costs far less and delivers more.

The future that is coming towards us is going to be a much less complex one, with computers running many tasks in the background that we won't physically see or interact with.  The future jobs that were once in high demand such as computer programming, and other high tech jobs are becoming outdated or outsourced to other nations who will do the same job for less.

We can think of this transition as an inverted pyramid.  That in the last century the high skilled and high tech workers were very few and occupied the top half of the pyramid, while the blue collar workers filled the lower half of the pyramid.  Well now the blue collar sector is becoming mid to high tech due to technology becoming more efficient and robust and the new generation of workers intuitively know their way around technology better than the previous generation.

During the technology boom that peaked in the year 2000, things were much more complex due to the newly emerging systems that nobody knew anything about.  The technology seemed more complex then, so corporations and people were willing to pay high bucks to help them when things went wrong or they wanted a new system installed or built. This was especially true for those who had jobs as Computer Programmers, Information and Software Law and similar.  So we can expect these jobs to grow more rare and few and high complex jobs that require manual labor and machinery operation and system installation to grow. Many of the new software written today is going open source, which means no one owns it, but each programmer contributes to it, making it better and better over the long term.

Thus during that period in the late 20th century a college degree was valuable and worth a lot more than it is today.  These people once controlled a great number of the emerging technology resources, so they commanded high salaries.

Tomorrow the new skills will be the ones that harness resource harvesting, or having the know how to operate machines and equipment to mine the earth and build new sustainable cities using new machines built with the technology developed around the late 20th century.

As we progress further along into the 21st century, the reversing pyramid is going to have the high tech workers at the bottom of the pyramid and the blue collar workers at the top part of the pyramid.  This means manual labor jobs are going to pay as much or more than the white collar jobs and the white collar jobs will soon pay as much as the blue color jobs did in the 20th century.  This is already happening with millions of computer programmers in India and other developed countries having the same skills as a U.S. Computer programmer.  

This transition is going to, and is already causing major stress, tension and embarrassment to those in the white collar sector who were proud that their college degree brought them prestige and security.  If you are one of these I advise taking some time to reflect, relax and get a hold of the reality of this shift that is occurring and make any appropriate lifestyle changes because this change is going to happen no matter what.  It is a natural stage of evolution for this re-distrubition of resources and occupations to take place so that further progress in the long run can occur.  

This means that our lifestyle is going to become much more simplified due to technology maturing to the point of where things are managed in the background more efficient and with far less resources.

The Pyramid is Gradually Reversing. Super Skilled Workers will be Another Category of High Paid Workers in the Future

Occupations that demand extremely high skills such as Network Administrators, Information Management Consultants, Information Analysts and similar will continue to be in demand and command high salaries because this newly emerging infrastructure is going to need people to understand the structure to program and put these newly emerging systems in place.  Someone still has to set the settings, install the software, perform upgrades and system maintenance etc..  So we can expect these super high skilled jobs to be few and rare, but high paying.

Germany has recognized this newly emerging trend and has started to stress the importance of apprenticeships, especially the higher level technical apprenticeships. This means they are now fully prepared to meet the demands of this newly emerging infrastructure.

The Newly Skilled Worker

All the newly emerging form of infrastructure is coming from groups and organizations investing in and searching out alternative forms of energy, especially those that are sustainable, as well as new oil, gas and mineral discoveries made possible by advancing technology.

All this new equipment used to harvest newly discovered resources has come from the previous generation of workers who laid the groundwork in the 20th century. Many of the jobs of the newly emerging infrastructure need skills of how to drive large moving mining trucks, as new resources are mined and processed from the earth.

There is a high demand for people who have the skills necessary to operate the machinery to process, sort and package the newly harvested resources. This includes crops and ocean related resources.  The people who possess the skills to manipulate equipment, specialized tools, and similar operations will command high salaries. These new workers will have obtained their skills from on the job training programs, apprenticeships, and trade schools. They won't require a college degree, and due to the high demand some will command six figure salaries.

This means the new infrastructure will build itself without the need for lawyers, or other unnecessary office workers, but instead be built by electricians, plumbers, pipe fitters, welders and machine operators technicians.  Most important of all is specialty engineers, whose ability to rapidly adapt and understand the new infrastructure will be in great demand. This adaptability is key because as technology expands, so to will the need to understand it.

I want to insert in this article here that the United States Job Corps which has been looked down upon for so long, happens to train young people ages 18 to 25 at no charge in many of the skill categories just mentioned. Therefore if you happen to be a Job Corps student studying plumbing or how to be an electrician and than went to college and studied engineering, than your financial stability and job security for at least the next 35 years would pretty much be more secure and stable than say that of an accountant, wall street lawyer or similar. This than means that the best trade schools of today will expand and grow in new enrollees and students and will gain recognition.

We are already witnessing severe declines in enrollments in the liberal arts schools, especially those in law and business.  We can expect this trend to continue into the foreseeable distant future. These new skills just covered are going to be seen as more useful and important than say drafting legal documents, or filing accountancy reports, all of which will soon by fully automated by the year 2025 or sooner. Even new websites are now being built by voice command or keywords input by users.

The super complex skills which command great mental reasoning and education will continue to see their salaries increase. This includes as previously covered, specialty software developers and engineers who design specialized computer networks and systems, information researchers managers, geologists, and applied mathematicians. These people will posses the rare and in demand skills who will apply their expertise to design, upgrade and maintain the newly emerging technology that will discover tomorrows mineral deposits, connect the new computer networks and the like.

This whole new transition and shift will severely shift industrialized society from the pre-present one consisting of brokers, fund managers, analysts and financial advisers to one of discoverers, innovators, researchers and explorers. This means wealth will be re-defined.  Wealth will be defined by the ability to see the value in specific blocks of information after sifting through huge mounds of it. This chosen information, much like finding nuggets of gold in tons of ore will change the way society structures itself by discovering and implementing new, efficient and sustainable ways of making life better for all.  This will be achieved without entire flocks of wall street lawyers who once demanded their cut. This is where the next wave of self made billionaires in this newly emerging simple society is going to come from.

This means future wealth will become defined as the amount of or volume of useful information and or commodities one controls.

I hear people complain "there is too much information on the web and it is overwhelming" this is actually a blessing in disguise.  One everybody is contributing at least something to the world wide web.  Those who can make use of the nuggets in this huge information storehouse will profit tremendously from it.

Without new storehouses of information, future gems would not be possible.  You can't have it both ways, creating better things with limited information or exchanges. The simplest and most profound inventions have been the result of years or decades of people improving upon or waiting for the right conditions to make that invention a reality.  Would the airplane have ever been built if it were not for Leonardo Da Vinci's thousands of drawings that happened hundreds of years ago (and thank god someone kept them safe), and if not would it have taken longer for the airplane to have been built?

The really good news is lifestyles in developing nations will continually improve.  The bad is lifestyles in the developed world will continue to decline. This decline in developed nations is a result of excess and over dependency caused by unchecked credit issuance. Thus we can expect our information based society to transition over to a more simpler, efficient,  sustainable and community oriented one. Wealth redistribution will also contribute to this simplistic lifestyle, as the blue collar worker starts to outearn his white cooler peers. The end result of this process will be a newly reformed social order. Wealth will no longer be defined by how much "stuff" one has, or how much or fast one can consume, but instead by how much self-fulfillment one has achieved.

Once a person has achieved the basic necessities of life which are food, warmth, energy, self sufficiency and health, they naturally move on to pursue goals related to community enhancement and building and development or investing in new forms of social capital. This than fulfills the individuals need for self esteem and confidence and than leads eventually to self actualization.

So in conclusion, as long as we don't blow ourselves up out of fear or ignorance, we can look forward to a more simpler and less stressful cycle, much like the 1950's or 1930's, but on a global level and without having to worry about energy or food, as technology will be working seamlessly behind the scenes to fulfill these needs.



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