How School Fits Into The Bigger Picture

How School Fits Into The Bigger Picture

Everyone has a dream of what they want out of life. Maybe it's lots of money to buy fancy cars and big houses, traveling the world helping in impoverished countries, or simply living comfortably with a spouse we love, three wonderful kids and a white picket fence. The difference between having the dream and living the dream is one's ability to effectively analyze, plan and execute the steps necessary to make that dream a reality.

It would be unrealistic and unfair for anyone to say that school (and higher education in particular) is a requirement for happiness, wealth, or prestige. However, it IS true that we live in an increasingly competitive world, and any leverage we can accumulate for ourselves can give us an advantage.

One of the most important steps you can take for your career is educating yourself on national trends and changes in the national and global marketplace that may affect your employment in 5, 10 and 15 years. The following review of national and global trends in education and employment can assist you in your career analysis and planning, identifying ways to level the playing field and set you on the path towards your dreams.

A Minimal Requirement

Anybody who watches television news reports, reads the newspaper or follows politics knows that the United States is in a state of crisis when it comes to education. Many parents feel they can't rely on public (or private) school systems to educate their children sufficiently. Many students, though they may work on the education they receive, are being greatly disadvantaged by school systems that fall short of developing them into individuals with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to succeed in the global marketplace. According to one report published by the nonprofit Strong American Schools, "America's schools are not keeping pace with the demands of today's world. Our schools are failing to prepare all students for college, for careers, and for life. And they are failing to prepare our nation to compete in today's high-tech global economy."

Gone are the days the baby boomers enjoyed where a high school diploma was enough of a qualification to set them up for success. For the purposes of good employment, the college bachelor's degree is the modern day equivalent to the old high school diploma. Students who are seeking careers in most mainstream industries may be best served by earning a bachelor's degree or its equivalent. Rather than a shining star on your resume, it is most frequently a minimal requirement.

A Trend Toward Technicians

For those students who are drawn to less conventional careers, or who are disinclined to pursue a college education, a growing emphasis on skill rather than knowledge may serve to give you an advantage over those with bachelor's degrees. For many employers in industries where there is more demand for skilled technicians (therefore less competition between candidates), if you can prove you can get the job done, it doesn't matter what education you have. Associates degrees, training and certifications from career schools, experience, and portfolios go a long way in setting you apart from others competing for the same position.

By getting started as soon as possible working in an industry that is rewarding for you, you can be making money and developing a persuasive resume while others are going into debt and learning about topics that don't directly apply to what they want to do. Once you're established in a career that you know you want to pursue, you can get a bachelor's degree relevant to your career, have savings to help pay for it, and perhaps even get your employer to pay for your tuition. Again, this works well for less competitive industries, fields where there is great demand for skilled labor, and non-traditional careers that are more receptive to non-traditional job seekers.

A Global Marketplace

The United States (though only a teenager in age when compared to most of the rest of the world) is a global leader in many ways, serving as a role model for developing countries. As a nation, we've experienced much success and longevity. In education, though, we have been outpaced by countries less developed than our own.

BRIC is an acronym used on Wall Street to represent Brazil, Russia, India and China. These four nations are in rapid growth mode and their economies are helping to significantly drive the global marketplace. Their educational systems are constantly evolving, and they have all made great strides where the US has not. At the same time, these countries are supplying US-based companies with employees to fill many positions that would normally be available to US citizens.

In order to compete with candidates in other countries who are applying for positions at the corporate headquarters down the street, job seekers are forced to pursue higher levels of education. However, even with the best education, you are unlikely to be able to compete against someone who may work for a third of the cost. So being creative with your career planning, and choosing a career that is difficult to outsource overseas, is important.

How Education Can Help You Stay Ahead of the Pack

There are four additional benefits to higher education that can help you compete in the global marketplace, and ultimately achieve the milestones along the path towards your dream. You may have the opportunity to:

  • Expand your knowledge base - Bachelor's degree programs in particular are designed to develop a baseline of knowledge across multiple areas. They typically require students to take classes in a variety of fields in an effort to expose them to a breadth of information spanning many fields. Students traditionally spend the first two years of their coursework learning these broad topics and then their remaining two years focusing on one area of specific expertise.
  • Change the way you think - Taking the above a step further, education does more than give a student a bunch of information to memorize and regurgitate. Higher education challenges you to think strategically, to look for sound arguments, to appreciate different perspectives, and to understand the basic building blocks of reason. These skills cannot be learned so efficiently anywhere else.
  • Identify and capitalize on resources - Back to more than regurgitation, higher education prepares you to constantly seek out reliable resources, to back up what you say with proof, to look for supporting documentation and indicators that then allow you to make educated decision, and strategically set yourself for continued success.
  • Make the most of mistakes - Secondary education emphasizes independent thought, and personal responsibility for successes and failures. Students learn to value not only their own mistakes, but the mistakes of others, for the inherent learning opportunities they represent.