Education a money racket

Hello Fellow Rational Skeptics

It seems that in America some people are thinking that it is not worth getting a degree nowadays. I know of an American man with both a physics degree and a philosophy degree. He currently works in a warehouse it seems. Although he did consider a teaching degree, that would require him to further his studies which are very expensive. I do not think he is going to study further. I think the greatest problem America is facing is that it is to service orientated and does not produce enough goods. But I am not an economist and I am sure the answer is much more complicated than that.
The answer I think is in specialization. I myself am considering specializing in a software program that is very well used in South African small businesses. At least then I can offer software support. I currently have an office job and the thing is, I want to get out. Hopefully being able to do software support it will help me to get out and go around to other businesses and see more people.
I don’t think in SA a degree is worth it either. A degree means nothing if you can’t practically use it in the job market. An example would be having a psychology degree. It does not mean much if you are looking for a job today. It would have been better to have saved the money and started work earlier to get job experience.
I do feel more confident in a National Diploma since most of these courses are geared to getting a job but that does not mean that you will get one. It only helps and a lot seems to have to do with your own drive and determination to succeed.
It also seems that in the future online courses will become more and more popular. It does currently have a bad reputation in SA. Education is just so expense in SA and it seems that it is a money racket. Another interesting thing that I have come across (which I do not think is totally true) is the idea that not all people are degree/study types. There seems to be some discussions about the type of mind you have. I am still not completely won over by this argument but I know that some people do have a harder time learning from a book.
I hear a lot of people in SA are doing some very entrepreneurial things but sometimes I think of myself as a regular job kind of guy but somehow I will have to get more courage and step out of my comfort zone.


It’s a lamentable fact that education, and tertiary education in particular, has become more a business than a vocation. Students must be processed according to set rules (but only if they pay their fees), and they are little more than product upon their graduation, a process that in most cases preferentially assesses their ability to cram for exams before their actual comprehension of the study material.

That said, a degree and, to a lesser extent, a diploma, especially in a technical discipline, are still an objective and fairly reliable indicator that the holder can fulfil a minimum standard in terms of meticulous thinking and analysis, and that they aren’t entirely averse to hard work and self-discipline. This is not to say that those without a degree or diploma can’t meet those criteria, or that graduates can’t be sloppy thinkers and lazy. It means only that a degree or diploma provides a surer sign that the potential employee will be an asset to the employer.

Sadly, employment agencies and human resources practitioners all too frequently miss this bigger picture in their singleminded insistence on the right qualifications and the right experience. The purpose of a degree or diploma is not to teach the students a job. It is to teach them how to think in appropriate and useful ways about the broader aspects of the field in which they aim to work and to equip them with a detailed understanding of the field’s governing principles. The essentials of most jobs can in any case be learned by normal people through hands-on training and exposure within a few weeks or months, provided that they have the necessary willingness. The main problem facing the new job seeker is that s/he is an unknown entity to all potential employers, a problem that is aggravated by SA’s labour and employment laws, which make it a tricky gamble to employ someone, especially for SMEs. However, none of this negates the fact that a person with a tertiary qualification is a more attractive employment proposition than one without.

Education in SA is still relatively cheap compared to other parts of the world. As that saying goes, “If you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance.”


It would have been better to have saved the money and started work earlier to get job experience.

I find this said too often and IMHO this assertion is without merit. I’ve read the average income of someone at age X (I forget the number… 30?) following the methodology above is about R6000 in SA, vs about R25k for someone who went with an appropriate degree.

But this also means some thought on the behalf of the person taking the course. No, a degree in philosophy or poetry won’t make you any richer later in life. As the jest goes: Go study philosophy if you want to think deeply about being unemployed. BUT I am positive that people who procure technical/medical/engineering/built-environment/etc. degrees go on to do well for themselves. I know a lot of people like this. You do mention the pivotal ingredient:

have to do with your own drive and determination to succeed.

Varsity won’t give this to you. A lot of people, even from the above programs I mention, have a entitlement mindset that won’t help them progress and succeed. After varsity I took a low-level position for average pay. And it seemed that I’d wasted 4 years (back when a degree was 3y and Hons. was 1y - I got the Hons) since my un-“educated” peers were getting the same. However 7-8 years later and I am VASTLY out-earning them. Varsity gave me the tools to see beyond my immediate day-to-day work and progress into higher positions much more rapidly, since I already knew what was going on. I do run into an individual at my current level every now-and-then who did not study. But they are rare and truly special people… the exceptions if you will. And only because my field (software development) does not REQUIRE formal certification as a prerequisite. You couldn’t, for example, practise medicine or (non-draughtsman)architecture this way.

Aggregated over a lifetime my opinion is a degree pays for itself many times over, IF the person has initiative and drive.

Some of the people who started with me down the ranks still hold the position I did back then. And to my observation they don’t really care enough to do much about it.

As for the pricing, it’s a simple supply vs. demand equation. Demand in recent times for formal education has gone up, and so has pricing. And while it IS expensive, as Mefi points out, it’s FAR lower than other developed nations. People who want to stand out must start to realise that standing out does NOT come from average effort and investment.

Just read Faerie’s post on ‘I’m despondent’ I know how she feels.

I have my own question but did not want to hijack her thread.

What do you guys think of CompTIA, something I have myself been considering doing:

You can basically buy the books, self study, book for the exam and then get your certificate. Yes! I do not have to give Damelin a cent of my hard earned money.

I hear it is recognized in the Industry and I like the flexibility.
One complaint that I heard is that it is hard to get a booking for an exam.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

The education system itself isn’t necessarily the problem in my opinion. The market tends to become saturated in sertian fields based on the popularity of said field at any given time. For argument sake, I was one of the thousands of people world wide that jumped on the I.T bubble back in 99/01 and like many of those i soon discovered that the influx of students in that paticular field saturated the market. In turn this directly affected the basic salaries of almost all tier 1 fields within the sphere of i.t. Nowadays it is IMPOSSIBLE to do anything in I.t if you do not specialise in more than two fields. This is just an example, as I.T is afterall a technical field and has since those days grown exponentionally.
But as mentioned in a prior reply, the H.R companies are really making themselves a sort of double edged sword. Outsourcing in many aspects of a company is common practice by now and H.R is one of these industries that are sky rocketing. Your name basically becomes a faceless set of data that is provided to a client. Thus applicant A might have a degree behind his name, while applicant B has a none. Even if applicant B has a stable and growing work record, applicant A will pass the filters first. Wether A maintains a good work ethic or not. The fact that unemployment rates and the availabillity of jobs are never positive doesn’t help the scenario in any way either…
In my experience it’s proven heart-wrenchingly challenging to get into any field of the job market without any qualifications behind your name. The old ideals of getting into a tier 1 position and then working your way up are all but gone. Those oppertunities are extremely rare.
The decision then remains to do some propper research and pick a field to specialise in - get those diplomas! Even if you end up not going into that specific field, you will atleast have that on your C.V to show that have tertiary qualifications. You need to be geared towards working with a highly evolved, highly callous HR system in the country who favours the employer. Understand that they will NEVER refer you if it will cost them rep and a potential client.

Well, that and the entire thing collapsed in 2001. Which I think is the main reason. I sat unemployed (fresh out of varsity) for about 6 months at the time. However once I got that one good foot in the door, for one good interview, I got to prove myself and my salary and position escalated rapidly. This industry has a catch-22 much like most. Go look at what it takes to be a professional pilot, or CA, etc… Some professions leave their young folk in apprenticeships for YEARS. IT is actually easier than most. To get ahead in this world it’s worth to suffer some pain at the start.

This is the thing with IT… people think they can get a draughtsman’s diploma and go work for an architect’s salary (OK bad example, I know some seriously loaded draughtsmen). “IT” is such a misnomer these days it’s almost sickening. This is a “field” that actually consists of various fields and specialisations. I abhor people who say “Should I study IT?”. Well, that depends, are you going for PC technician, Systems Administrator, Business Analyst, Software Architect, Software Developer, Database Programmer, Support? Those have vastly different pay-scales and promotion opportunities. But no, people hear that “IT is the thing”, go get an A+ certification, and wonder why they’re suddenly over qualified to be unemployed.

Here’s a helpful tid-bit for almost anything in life: It’s lonely at the top, competing at the bottom is hard because there’s millions of people to compete with. But if you compete at the top, it’s almost like shooting fish in a barrel, employers come to you.

So, yes, people keen to get ahead need a degree, it’s worth it, And I don’t mean “just” to get the job, the knowledge comes in really handy at unexpected times.

yea I suppose I.t as a whole is currently the easiest or safest bet to get in. Though I imagine it’s purely due to the pure scale of it. And still, the higher end positions within the industry are (like any other) highly cliche orientated. Without a good established rep you wont easily get in, besides the point.
And yes, the term “going for i.t” is unmod. Though generally speaking you kind of have to swot just about all of it to even stand a chance in the industry at the moment. A+ is pretty redundant in my opinion. On its own it means nothing, unless you are willing to work for 3k a month @ a matrix warehouse or something of the sorts. A+ might as well be a subject in school or a precursor to any other technical line within the industry. Its a shame really, techies earn next to nothing in this country (and abroad).
Thing is, like I said, times are rather different now. Young ones now cant afford to drift around for 2-3 years to discover what they want to do. You have to start planning before you even finish school. Not wait untill after to reassess what your “Dreams” are. Building a career is a cuthroat bussiness :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Yonks ago, I did the A+ at Damelin college, solely because I was curious as to the innards of the machine. I still know squat about the innards of the machine, but sort of know where to stick what should a crises arise. I’ve been in HR a while now, and the A+ and N+ doesnt impress us much, its assumed that most people have at least a vague idea of how to manage either of those fields (same for having at least a rudementary ability with MS Office), we generally look for a more chewy qualification completed at a more esteemed institution that encompasses more than one “IT area”. Programming being the most sought after qualification - and this is another thing to consider, kids can learn Delphi in Matric, but this does not count as a “qualification”, its pretty pointless actually as we wont consider them for a permanent position at all, the best they can compete for is a learnership, where they’ll be repeating what they learnt at school all over again and then being slapped with a NQF5 level qualification.

I am doing N+ in order to specialize in a software package (the identity of which I wont let out) N+ will only be a stepping stone. I did not have to do it but I wanted the background, I did my research and it helps a lot. Finding out that I did not have to go through Damelin to do it was an inspirational event in my life.