Bunking & Debunking Altucher’s 15 Essential Skills They Don’t Teach in College

According to one internet blogger, there are 15 essential skills for making money. They include the usual things like networking, motivation, creativity, etc.

While the skills are fine (who can disagree with creativity?) the claims about them are dubious and have almost no evidence to back them up. The two claims are:

1. You don’t need to go to college to get the 15 essential skills.

2. Colleges aren’t teaching these skills (or, at least, students aren’t learning them).

Claim 1: You don’t need to go to college to get the 15 essential skills. 

One can make a good argument that you don’t need to go to college to learn. Traveling, reading War & Peace, and conducting home experiments can all take place outside of a classroom.

The claim is dubious from an earnings-perspective, however. This is because skills don’t translate into higher earnings unless a credential is almost always attached to them.

There are plenty of successful people who don’t have degrees. And almost all of them come from wealthy backgrounds. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t get a degree, but they did have wealthy parents and access to college. Most people don’t have the time or money to be unemployed and tinker in their parental-subsidized garages. A college degree is a much less risky bet.

In today’s U.S. economy, the evidence is pretty clear: family background and credentials matter more than skills. Whether skills should matter more is another conversation. If you want to make more money, in general this is what you need to do:

  1. Be born to rich parents.
  2. Get a college degree. Think college is too expensive and that it’s not worth it? Think again. The rate of return from getting a degree is still higher than if you didn’t go to college.
  3. Be mobile.

Skills matter, but credentials trump skills almost all the time. And while it stinks that wealthy kids get a huge head start, education still provides a pathway to a credential and higher earnings for most people.

So, the claim that a majority of people don’t need college to make more money is dubious, at best.

Claim 2: Colleges aren’t teaching these skills (or students aren’t learning them).

There is little evidence to support Altucher’s second claim, and a lot to counter it. An academic research library search of the things the author claims colleges don’t do with the added phrase “college learning outcomes _____ skills” revealed the following number of academic studies:

  • college learning outcomes presentation skills: 783,493 research articles.
  • college learning outcomes quantitative literacy skills: 223,947 research articles.
  • college learning outcomes philanthropy and civic engagement skills: 80,664 research articles.

Altucher has some good points about learning, but investment decisions should be based on evidence and realistic outcomes, not anecdote or opinon.

If your goal is to make more money, your best bet is to learn skills while in college, not out of it. It doesn’t even have to be a four-year degree. Economic returns to associate’s degrees, training certificates, and other short-term credential-granting programs are still quite high.

Of course, if you don’t want to go to college, that’s fine too. Plenty of people without college degrees have happy, satisfying lives. Just make sure your expectations match the outcome.

About rlsmith205

Bloomington-Normal, IL
This entry was posted in Assessment - General. Bookmark the permalink.

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