Over 5,000 janitors have doctoral degrees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those overqualified janitors have plenty of company in making their living at jobs which do not require higher education. In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Vedder provides detailed statistics on about 17 million Americans who are currently doing jobs that could be performed with simply a high school diploma or less.
They include 317,000 waiters and waitresses, 80,000 bartenders, and 18,000 parking lot attendants. Many of those also acquired an average of $30,000 in student loans, which they will have to pay off working at jobs that earn them less than they expected to be making after college.
That brings Vedder and other observers of the higher education industry to conclude that for a growing number of Americans, the return on investment (ROI) for a college education is downright negative, after you factor in the loans. Therefore, some suggest that students be warned that college might not be an efficient or effective way to obtain career preparation. That might be achieved more directly and successfully in a trade school, community college, free job training, and apprenticeship program for types of work ranging from nursing to welding.
Simultaneously, it also needs to be explained what it is students can gain from attending college. That includes developing skills in critical thinking, which may or may not be applicable to problem solving in the workplace. In addition, some organizations still demand the completion of college to even be considered as an applicant for a job or, later, for promotions. Also, there are certain professions such as communications -- as in writing and editing -- and accounting, which are learned in college and are skills that can transferred to the work place.
Clearly, students and career changers owe it to their futures and their pocketbook to assess the best kinds of preparation for them to earn a living. That might be very separate from wanting the rite of passage of going away to college. They might wind up doing both. But before they do, they should be aware that they may be adding extra time and expense to eventually becoming self supporting.