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68. What education does the employer want?
Degrees are not required for good incomes. A good education is valuable for many reasons, and it can enhance a career dramatically. But, don't expect that having a degree is going to guarantee you a better income (or a better career). The problem is that the education industry (make no mistake: it is an industry) goes to great lengths to market its product, and people swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker.

Here's the key: pick the industry, business and job you want. Then go talk to the relevant employers and people who do the work you want to do. Ask them what sort of education is necessary, sufficient and useful. You might even ask what kind of education pays off best. Then pursue that education. (Popular business magazines regularly run surveys listing the MBA programs that deliver the most bang for the buck. Big deal. What they fail to discuss is all the other ways talented people can be successful.)

Don't misunderstand me: I don't knock education. I believe that, generally speaking, people with college degrees (and MBA's) earn more than those without them. But, I really get bugged when schools and the media tout "the relationship" between degrees and income. Depending on the person and the situation, it's not always clear that a degree (or yet another degree) is necessary. I hear from lots of people who are disappointed that the degree they worked so hard to earn hasn't paid off.

So, before you get a degree, talk to people who do the work you want to do, and to their managers. Ask which credentials really matter to them. If you're going to school because you want to learn for learning's sake, that's wonderful. But, if you're getting a degree to get ahead, the ultimate customer of the education industry isn't you -- it's the employer you go to work for. What education does the employer want?

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