Talking about the value of education is something most of us are a part of in some way. But it is often our views of what education entails and encompasses that can be vastly different. A literate person can teach themselves much on their own and educating can take place in so many different settings from early childhood through the end of our lives. Yet the reality is that most of us need formal training in something.
In an earlier post I explored different yet valid options for education and training. Some careers present a student with clear expectations of education level. If your ambition is to be a doctor, you know that the route is a bachelor’s degree, followed by medical school and residency before practicing medicine. There are no alternatives available, no shorter paths. But some career paths are more flexible in education requirements.
Since we are a culinary training institution, let’s consider our industry as a first example. A student interested in becoming a chef will find more than one option for their education. The most popular choices are an associate’s degree or a certification program. As in many areas of modern education, we often assume “more is better”.
This isn’t always the case.
Tuition for an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts can easily be double that of the tuition for a certificate in the same. This could be a difference of tens of thousands of dollars at some schools. But is that amount of money worth whatever added benefit the degree affords?
Generally, salaries are not much different. Employers aren’t valuing a degree enough to want to reward the graduate significantly in most instances. So there are some key issues here:
- The student spends much more money and at least an additional year in training and education.
- They give up the decent salary they could have earned during that year.
- In most cases, they aren’t earning a higher salary as a result.
Similarly, if you want to train to become an electrician, you have the option of certification programs and apprenticeships. But some students want to earn an associate’s degree. The hourly rate for an electrician completing either option is basically the same. Again, if you chose to finish a degree, you would be in school longer, spend more on education, start earning later, and earn roughly the same once employed.
There are situations when obtaining an associate’s degree helps the student. In fields where the cost/time vs benefit weighs in favor of the degree, a student should be encouraged to pursue it. However, let’s first encourage students to stop, explore, and analyze information about whether or not degree programs are the right fit, instead of degree programs being the default option for everyone.
Education is important. We can all agree on that. But we need to continue discourse about diverging paths and options, and make sure that students get a chance to decide what’s best for them.