Is A College Degree a Waste If You’re Self-Employed?

A question that I am often asked now that I am self-employed is if I think my college degrees were a waste. I sort of wrote about this last year in Is a Business Degree a Waste? As a reminder, I have three degrees – my undergraduate degrees are a B.S. in Business and a B.A. in…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

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Find out if college is a waste if you're self-employed. What do you think?A question that I am often asked now that I am self-employed is if I think my college degrees were a waste. I sort of wrote about this last year in Is a Business Degree a Waste?

As a reminder, I have three degrees – my undergraduate degrees are a B.S. in Business and a B.A. in Management. And then I also have a Finance MBA.

I understand why people are asking this. I mean, technically I do not need any college degree to do what I do since I am my own boss. I also spent a lot of time and money (I had $40,000 in student loan debt at one point!) towards my college degrees.

Here is why I don’t think my college degrees were a waste of time or money:

I think my college degrees led me to where I currently am.

I won’t lie, I believe if I didn’t work towards my college degrees, then I probably never would have started blogging and freelancing.

Keep in mind, that I started freelancing online because I wanted to pay off my student loans. So, if it wasn’t for my student loans, I’m not sure if I ever would have even thought about freelancing online.


A college degree can help give you experience.

Unless you know exactly what you want to do when you are fresh out of high school, a college degree can give you good experience with what you want to do. College isn’t completely useless either, you actually learn about different things as well!

For example, if you want to start your own business, you may not start it right away. Instead, you may decide to work for someone else and gain experience and industry knowledge through that position – but, in many cases you will need a DEGREE to get that position.

Don’t get me wrong, I think experience is always a great thing, but sometimes in order to get that experience, you need a degree. Funny how that works, eh?


My college degrees help me talk about finance.

Since I have multiple business/finance degrees, it helps me talk about finance on my blog and the websites that I staff write on. My degrees will also help me work towards certain financial certifications if I decide to go for them in the future.

No, having a college degree is not a requirement for personal finance blogging, but it did help me learn and understand financial topics that I may not have thought about until I came across it in my personal life.

My degrees also help me with the backend of my business as well, as I know a decent amount about how to run a business, the accounting side of it, and the legal side of it as well (my financial analyst job that I used to have, had to do a lot with business law). All of this really makes it a lot easier to run my business efficiently and effectively.


The networking is great.

No, I did not go into $40,000 in student loan debt to hang out with other students, but it is a small benefit of going to college. The contacts that I made in college helped me when I had my financial analyst career, and they are also helping me with my current business as well.

Depending on the business or industry that you are in, networking when you are in college can really help your business. Some people don’t put any effort towards networking, and I just don’t understand that!


What do you think?

Are college degrees a waste of money and/or time if you’re self-employed?


Image via Flickr by Tamuc


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. I think this question doesn’t hold much value unless we are discussing it BEFORE someone goes to college. The fact is, even if you are self-employed now or employed in a job that doesn’t use your degree, it’s not really worth the time to look back and think “shoot, did I do the right thing?” Now, if a high school graduate was debating this in his or her head it would have some value to it. Problem is, how many high school seniors REALLY know what they want to do for a career? They’re too worried about prom and grad parties.

    1. I agree DC! I won’t lie – I think it’s almost a rude/weird question to ask someone also since it’s already happened. No, they were not a waste!

  2. I’m with you, education is never a waste. Sure, it’s an expensive way to figure things out for a few years, but you learn so much and get real life experience from university/college. Even if you end up self-employed, it often gives you more credibility as well (depending on your field).

    1. Thanks Charlotte!

  3. A good college degree is never a waste of money. A bunch of them? Then I had a friend who collected degrees. He was so afraid of going out into the real world. What a shocker as far as his student loans . I think your education got you where you are today. You’re making far more than most, and that’s admirable. I wish you continued success.

    1. Haha yes, collecting them and never gaining any actual real experience is probably not the best way to go about it 🙂

  4. I’ve been asked the same question myself now that we’re self-employed and have come down to the same basic thought. I had no clue what I wanted when I got my undergrad, but looking back I would’ve done something related to business. Getting my MBA really opened my eyes up to what I could do, as well as the networking opportunities so it was worth it in my opinion. Plus, my employer at the time paid for a huge chunk of it so that was nice. 🙂

    1. Glad I’m not alone John! 🙂

  5. Start Fresh SA

    Good Question! I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I started my degree {Communication Studies}. Today, as a freelancer and blogger, I am applying what I learnt on a daily basis. A degree on its own is not enough though, to be a successful freelancer you need a variety of skills that can only be acquired through self-study and living life.

    1. I agree! You worded it perfectly “to be a successful freelancer you need a variety of skills that can only be acquired through self-study and living life.”

  6. Connie

    I don’t think it’s a waste as all. Aside from the valuable life lessons you get, an education helps get your foot in the door – whether you’re self-employed or working for someone else.

  7. I think a college degree is always worth something, even if it’s just important to you personally, ya know? It’s a huge accomplishment, and it is more than just a piece of paper. Also, you never know when it will come in handy for a future business or professional move.

    1. Yes, you are right. I am very proud of my accomplishment.

  8. Love this topic. I don’t think a degree is a waste if you are self-employed, however I think it can be a waste depending on what type of school you go to. If you get a degree at a community college or in-state school and are able to pay for most of it up-front through grants, scholarships, or a part-time job (NOT loans), then that is great. However, if you opt for private school or out-of-state school and wind up with thousands upon thousands of dollars of debt, I am not sure you will see quite a return on investment, especially if you are self-employed. I made the mistake of going to private school (i.e. now I have student loans) and wish I had just gone to a normal in-state school or community college. I would have gotten the exact same degree!

    1. Yes, there are times I wish I would have gone to a state school for my undergrad degrees. I could have saved so much money!

  9. I think if you see value in it, then sometimes it can be worth it. I think mine were well worth it! 🙂

  10. Candice

    I believe the same thing you said. My degree helped me think more critically and led me to the life of self employment. Since I’m from a small town it really motivated me and helped me by allowing me to networking and meet successful people. Very interesting… I think I’ll blog on this subject sometime in the next week. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Thanks Candice! You’ll have to send me the link to your post 🙂

  11. I think college as it is is a waste for many people. Comparing the cost and what the expected return is (often a job right upon graduation) one should investigate all possibilities. Certificates and diploma’s from a wide array of training programs and community colleges can often be very helpful for those self-employed, if we are not talking about blogging. As far as blogging is concerned, I’m sure many have zero qualifications for their writing and largely few readers take notice. Both parties learn as they go.

    1. I think learning as you go is very important. Experience is key!

  12. Joshua

    You know, I missed out on a lot of the subtle joys in life…like going to college. These days, I’m a business owner and simply put…I don’t have time to go on top of everything I do. Nonetheless, I wish I could. I wouldn’t make any more money as I own the company. However, knowledge is power and I feel like I could definitely learn a thing or two.

    1. If you are already a successful business owner, then college is probably not a need for you! I am all for first-hand experience 🙂

  13. I totally agree with you… everything happens for a reason, everything is an experience that leds to another and another. I’m not using my degrees (I have three-B.A. in Psychology, B.A in Communication, and M.Ed in Mental Health Counseling). People always laugh at me or question me (well, not all the time) but are curious to why I am not pursuing it. I loved the experience of my master’s degree and how it helped me grow as a person, but I am much happier doing my own thing–having my own photography business.

    1. It seems like your photography business is going well! I follow you on Instagram and it looks like you are doing great 🙂

  14. I’m not going to say the degree is a waste but I know for a fact that I would have done some things differently knowing what I know now.

  15. Calin

    It’s difficult to say that a college degree is a waste in the case of self employed persons. I too believe that my degree led me towards blogging (in my case, it was Journalism and blogging was called, funny enough, “new media” when I was studying) but honestly, I don’t think it would’ve been too different if I had a different degree or none. However, few of us really have the guarantee that they’ll become successful self employed persons, and for that – as a back-up, it’s better to have a degree in your pocket.

  16. Education is never a waste.

    I know one successful real estate agent who dropped out of college after day 2. He’s really successful today but I know he second-guessing not getting a college degree. He worries about people asking about his (lack of) education.

  17. I agree. Many people end up doing something different than what they received their degree in. I never thought I would be doing this!

  18. Ha I know! I don’t know why I have such weird (and sometimes rude) questions asked sometimes. I was thinking the same recently as well… I wonder what people want to ask me but are holding back, because I can’t see it being much more out there than what I’m currently hearing!

  19. I don’t think they are a waste at all. I learned a lot about myself simply going to college and not counting my degree. I learned how to prioritize and that I can handle a lot more than I ever thought I could.

    When it comes to my degree, sure some of the classes have yet to pay off, but I was a business major and that helped me a lot when it comes to running my business. I don’t think my business would be where it is today without having my degree.

  20. Not at all. I’m never actually used my degree but I’m sure that without it, I wouldn’t have had the experience that I’ve had. I wouldn’t have lived in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and I definately, wouldn’t have been an expat in Germany.
    A degree gives confidence and an ability to stand up in the world with an accepted agreement that you have a certain amount of academic intelligence, and are willing to work for it LOL!

  21. Tarrence Scholarships

    I think a degree is a waste if you are self employed; if you want to learn just teach yourself. Study others in the industry, read books, use the internet. I never understood entrepreneurship majors.