College Degree vs. No College Degree: Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

Updated March 10, 2023

When deciding between a college degree verses no college degree, there are a variety of factors to consider. Depending on your career aspirations, you may or may not need to earn a college degree. By evaluating the potential benefits and job opportunities of each option and weighing them against potential disadvantages, you can make an importance decision about your education going forward. In this article, we define what it means to have a college degree verses no college degree and review advantages and disadvantages, along with job options.

Related: Should I Go To College or Not? Reasons To Consider Both Options

What does it mean to have a college degree verses no college degree?

To have a college degree means to have one or more degrees from a college or university at the associate, technical, bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree levels. To qualify for a college degree program at the associate or bachelor's degree levels, students need to have a high school diploma or GED. To qualify for college degrees at the master's or doctorate degree levels, students need to have a bachelor's or master's degree.

In contrast, to have no college degree usually means students have either completed part of a high school diploma program or earned their high school diploma or GED. They may also have professional certifications or training in a certain field, but they don't hold a college degree.

Related: Average Salary With vs. Without a College Degree

What are the advantages and disadvantages of getting a college degree?

Here are some examples of the potential advantages and disadvantages of getting a college degree to help you evaluate which option works best for you:


Here are some advantages to getting a degree:

  • Creates networking opportunities: When you attend a college degree program, you get the chance to connect with a variety of other young professionals who have similar interests and career aspirations. This can help you build friendships and make important connections. Your classmates can become professional references, business partners and potential employer connections that can drive your job search.

  • Introduces new career interests: Some college degree programs require students to take a range of general courses across different subject areas. During this process, students may discover a potential alternative career path that interests them. For example, a student who wants to major in education may decide to minor in math to work as a math teacher.

  • Helps market candidates to employers: Having a college degree can help candidates standout to employers when they include their degree details on their resume. A college degree shows employers that candidates have the ability to learn and excel with multiple priorities (courses) at a time.

  • Enables students to live and study in unique places: Students can attend colleges and universities on a national or international level, enabling them to live and study in an area they've always wanted to live or visit. Also, college degree programs may offer study abroad or intern abroad programs for students to participate in.


Here are some potential disadvantages:

  • Enhances student loan debts: Some students may have the financial means to minimize student loan debts that they need to pay off after college. However, many students look to financial aide options to afford their education and student housing. Therefore, earning a college degree could cause students to incur student loan debt that they have to pay off over time.

  • Limits ability to switch careers: Because college degrees showcase a student's ability to excel in a particular industry or career field, it might affect their ability to switch careers quickly. They may also need to earn additional degrees or certifications to qualify for other career options.

  • Minimizes work experience during degree programs: Although some degree programs offer internships and work experience, a lot of degree programs consist mainly of in-class instruction. This potentially limits the amount of real-world professional experience that could help prepare students for life after their degree.

Related: How To Make Money in College

What are the advantages and disadvantages of not getting a college degree?

Just like getting a college degree, not getting a college degree can also present a range of potential advantages and disadvantages. Here are some examples:


Some advantages to not getting a college degree include:

  • Limits education-related costs: By not going to college, young professionals have the opportunity to limit education-related costs and debt. This allows them to maximize their earnings and savings.

  • Enables professionals to direct their own education: When individuals don't go to college, they can empower themselves to take control of their own learning experiences and the types of education or training they pursue.

  • Maximizes professional experiences: During the years when some professionals attend college degree programs, those who didn't go to college have time to maximize their professional experiences in the workforce. This can help professionals enhance their resume, achieve promotions or learn valuable skills while others attend college courses.

  • Allows professionals to explore different career options: Not going to college gives professionals the opportunity to try out different jobs and find a career area that interests them without spending money on education.

  • Gives professionals the chance to save up for college: When an individual doesn't go to college, they have the opportunity to gain professional experience and save up for potential future educational experiences at the college level.


Some disadvantages may include the following:

  • Limits the scope of work opportunities available: In many ways, not getting a college degree doesn't limit a person's work opportunities. However, specific careers in areas like law, healthcare, finance, business development and leadership areas may require that applicants have college degrees.

  • Causes professionals to work harder to standout to employers: When applying for jobs without a college degree, candidates may need to provide additional information and refine their application documents to enhance their chances of getting an interview or job offer.

  • Causes professionals to potentially earn less on an annual basis: In some situations, those without a college degree can excel and maximize their earnings. However, it may take longer for them to achieve the same annual salary as those with college degrees.

Related: How To Succeed Without College

Types of jobs you can get with a college degree

Here are the types of jobs you can get at each degree level:

Associate degree

Here are some possible careers for people with associate degrees:

  • Dental hygienist

  • Registered nurse

  • Sonographer

  • Paralegal

  • Air traffic controller

  • Teacher assistant

Bachelor's degree

You can typically get these jobs with a bachelor's degree:

  • Marketing specialist

  • Hotel manager

  • Teacher

  • Accountant

  • Civil engineer

Master's degree

Having a master's degree is often a requirement for these roles:

  • Department director

  • Department administrator

  • Clinical social worker

  • Mental health counselor

  • Chief executive

Doctorate degree

People in these professions usually need doctorate degrees:

  • Physician

  • College professor

  • Research scientist

  • Epidemiologist

  • Psychologist

Related: 4 Different College Degree Levels

Types of jobs you can get without a college degree

Here are some examples of the types of job opportunity you may qualify for without a college degree:

Without a high school diploma

Here are some jobs you can get without finishing high school:

  • Sales associate

  • Plant nursery worker

  • Landscaping professional

  • Artisan or craftsperson

  • Barista

  • Grocery store clerk

  • Restaurant server

  • Housekeeper

With a high school diploma or GED

These jobs are suitable for people with a high school diploma or GED:

  • Security guard

  • Receptionist

  • Trades person

  • Sales representative

  • Equipment operator

  • Mail carrier

  • Transportation driver

With certification course(s)

These positions typically only require you to complete a certification course:

  • Personal trainer

  • Software developer

  • Graphic designer

  • Police officer

  • Real estate agent

  • Makeup artist

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