Your high school guidance counselor may have been wrong. According to a new study, a college degree does not necessarily mean happiness and success in the real world. The survey by Gallup Education questioned more than 150,000 adults nationwide last year to gauge attitudes about their jobs. "We found, quite surprisingly, that people with college degrees are less engaged in the workplace than anybody else," says Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. Indeed, the study found 55% of college graduates were not engaged in their jobs, compared to 48% of those with a high school diploma or less.
The findings blow a hole in the widely-held belief that getting a college degree is always the best option, no matter what. Busteed says the problem stems from the fact that many with a degree aren't doing what they want to do for a living. "College grads are much less likely to say they have a chance to do what they're best at every day at work," he explains. Another factor is that many college graduates feel they are overqualified for their position, due largely to the weak economy which has resulted in a shortage of jobs.
The study also found that higher earnings does not equal happiness or productivity. "College grads make more money, but it turns out they're less engaged in their job and, probably more damning, they aren't maximizing their own potential because they aren't doing what they're best at," says Busteed. He hopes the study will encourage a change in the approach of the education system, which has been pushing a college degree-or-bust mindset. "We need to make sure we encourage people to think more carefully about what's right for them, and not just what we all automatically assume is right for everybody," says Busteed.