Was Your Degree Worth It?

An old work friend told me to maximize the ratio of pay over responsibility.

I really like the topics in engineering. Just kinda made sense to me, school was harder, but I enjoyed it more than working. I just really struggle to stay in task. My current job likes me which is good. Last job, I was struggling at the end. I came up with a lot of intellectual property which got patents for the company (while I was there, a good portion of all the products they developed had my designs in them), but I really struggled with more mundane tasks. I figured my time was limited there so I left.

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so you are in your late 20s and already had 30+ jobs… do you see yourself completing a multi-year degree that contains a lot of boring topics?

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My n=1:

I ended up going to college in my late twenties because I had an injury that prevented me from working, and I still had the GI Bill available to me. So I went to school and started without a major, just taking some basic courses. Eventually they made me choose a major.

I scrolled through the book and picked the one that had the highest starting salary for just a four-year degree. I figured if I was going to be miserable for the rest of my life, I may as well be paid well for it. That was the only criteria I used for choosing engineering as my major.

Fast forward 14 years, and it has all come true: I am well paid, and every day on my way to work I contemplate swerving into oncoming traffic. So there you go.


Degree is in Political Science. Got me a full-ride to law school (which I quit when I knocked up my first wife). I’ve never worked in the field. Having ANY degree helped me teach and work at child protective services. Now I’m in occupational health which probably couldn’t be farther from political science.


Not a graduate (yet) but from my parent’s experience, even if your degree has nothing to do with your job, it could still come in handy.

My dad studied EE undergrad and ECE masters. He then got an MBA and is head of marketing of his company, after working in sales and marketing for 15 years after coming to the states (MBA was obtained 5 years in)

Although he uses none of his engineering background in marketing, it allows him to understand the engineering behind the products (spine/joint implants), so his communication about the product is more convincing to clients/government agencies

For me, my undergrad degree is going to allow me to make a career doing research, which I infinitely prefer to the alternative of finance or consulting if I had studied what I originally planned to


My Mechanical Engineering degree opened a career path that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit. Sent me all over the US and the world for a few years, until it became too much (traveled 60% of my life, which made hobbies/relationships hell). Now I do mostly design work and pull 40 hours a week and don’t travel.

I don’t exactly use my degree often, but the problem solving skills I developed throughout school have made everyday life a lot easier. Once you develop that mindset with engineering problems you can apply it to other fields (medical, history) and then have a better understanding of the hows and whys of the world. I think most technical-ish degrees will have this effect, and they should allow enough mobility to jump into several different fields and contribute.


It seems like Engineering has a lot of job opportunities. It doesn’t take long to find new work if you want it. From the last go around, I think I sent out about 5 resumes, got 3 interviews and 1 job.

With OP moving around a lot, ability to easily get a job in their field seems like it would be important.


Absolutely agree. There is a point in which money is not worth the stress. I am pretty low stress at the moment, all that is missing is the flexability.


Honestly, probably not. I never understood school. You are required to pay thousands to take classes that are not even related to your degree. I did a self-paced high school program and graduated when I was 16 for the same reason.

I get it to a certain extent. Money is not everything, but it does pay for what you do outside of work. And if every job is terrible… Pay matters. I do not like my 70k job any more than I liked the $13/hour ones.

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I really like your pass-through example here. Most people I know do not use their degree exactly, but it got the door opened. You said it even better though, it has helped you outside of work.

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I concur. I have never had an issue finding work and I would like to keep it that way. Engineering does seem broad, and I am really terrible at math, that degree would be awful.

I kinda picked up on that as well. When I burned out on travel I had about 8 departments at the company I work for where I could apply and would likely have gotten a shot at the job. Only 3 were truly technical and/or in my degree field. CIA/FBI used to come to our engineering career fairs because they like people that have the mindset.

I think the monetary value of my degree outside of work has surpassed my cost to earn it. If not, it’s about to. Home repair/remodel, exterior remodeling, building my home gym and understanding of body mechanics, guitar/amplifier building and repair. All of those add up quick.


A university degree is absolutely worth it. But some caveats - you need a good degree (i.e. ideally a 2.1 or higher) from a reputable university.

I did a Journalism degree straight out of the army and then worked as a newspaper journalist for a few years. I landed a job at a top newspaper right out of university, without having to work my way up through regional local papers over many years. So definitely worth it.

I then tried several different jobs, such as advertising, public relations etc - in all of them the degree was not directly relevant but it certainly opened doors.

Then I did an MBA which I completed right after my 30th birthday, and that enabled me to change career direction. I moved into accountancy in a merchant bank, and then eventually ended up in investment banking (specifically asset management) and I’m now Head of Investment Analytics at a London asset manager with $65-billion under management. (bear in mind, I have zero formal math education!)

These opportunities have 100% only been open to me because of the degrees I did. Yes you have to be able to do the job, but in my experience you won’t ever get given the chance if you can’t show your qualifications.

From an employer’s point of view, a degree demonstrates that you are smart enough to successfully handle intellectual challenges and have the perseverance to see through a multiple-year commitment. Good reasons to take a chance on a prospect!

So based on my own personal experience I would say a degree is the single best possible investment you can make in your career. But like any investment, do your research first. Get a GOOD degree from a GOOD university, and study your ass off to get GOOD grades.


This is what holds me back at my current job. I have coddled more than one Quality Engineer into understanding their job at my current employer, yet I am not qualified to be a Quality Engineer because I don’t have a degree. I can talk my way into almost any job if interviewed, but an underwhelming resume will seldom get your foot in the door. Ultimately, you are only as good as your resume and personnal connections

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I appreciate the detail you went into here. I am starting to see the value. The interesting point you made that no one else has is that the school and degree matters. I have always thought any piece of paper would do. That said, most of the responses have been for engineering, which is pointing to a different conclusion.
What did you mean by 2.1 or higher? That may mean something different in the states and I am not sure how to adjust.

I have heard this story many times. That is frustrating. Is that partially why you are switching careers?

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Yes, but it wasn’t really a motivating factor - just something that plays into it… Admittedly, being held back is a phenominal motivator for me and I always excel when confronted with these situations.

This is going to come off arrogant. I’m too smart to be stuck in roles that I feel under-utilized in. I wanted to go the route of management at first, then realized that I wouldn’t be a good fit (not a fan of conniving my way to the top), so I decided to find some roles that I could be an individual contributor in - you know, the kind that gets proportionate reward:effort.

I had a programming class while I was pursuing a BS in Project Management with an AS in Engineering, and that class was a motherfucker. I spent almost 50 hours a week messing around trying to self-teach C# and was dreaming about code lines because it was so frustrating… Obviously the smart choice was for me to get into tech /s/. As tough as the class was (mostly due to instruction format), I was thoroughly interested in it because it was challenging, so here I am pursuing a BS in Computer Information Systems.


Cool thread.
My degrees were both 100% worth it.
Due to childhood circumstances college wasn’t available to me, but the military was. After 6 years I had the GI bill and enough technical skill/training/credentials to just work as a tech for the rest of my life. I was in my 20s, married, first baby on the way, so going to school was hard, but I worked as a tech by day and went to school at night. A huge investment of time and energy, but IT PAID OFF. Having the degree on top of the technical skill lifted the ceiling on my potential for advancement.

Obviously art history and philosophy degrees may not do the same for you, but anything technical - hard sciences, engineering, technology, can. No idea about business and marketing, guess it depends on your field.

Then - and completely unnecessarily - I went for an MBA. Already had a good job, why put in the effort? Well like @mnben87 I have a lot of imposter syndrome and was, at the time, in perpetual fear of losing everything. (Is that something engineers always have? Some of my colleagues are similar.)
So I got an MBA and guess what? Leveled up again in my career.

Everyone always said I’d get a PhD eventually, I laughed them off - I have four kids and am in my 30s now - but last few months I’ve been thinking about it… No idea how it would work… But at this point it wouldn’t be for money, it would be for some kind of fulfillment.

TLDR: Go to college while you’re young enough to do so. Don’t fuck around. Study something useful and actually study, don’t just hang out and try to pass.


C++ was the only class I had to take twice. I liked C, it was the object oriented stuff I really had trouble with.

IDK. It does seem that a disproportional amount of them save / invest a lot (comparing to other fields with similar pay). There certainly are a lot of big spenders in Engineering, but also a lot of them driving 15 year old corollas. One of my engineer buddies was very sad about having to give up his 1994 Mazda B3000 recently. A lot of frugal people in engineering for sure.

I think there is a possibility that since engineering is seen as hard, that some people do it because they feel it will make up for being inadequate in some way. I don’t talk about work unless people ask. I’ve gotten, “oh, you must be smart” a lot when I mention engineering.