40% Of Gen Z Don't Think They Need A College Degree To Have A Successful Career— And They Might Be Right

The tides are changing, and Gen Z knows it.

female college student standing at white board Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

Every generation has its own version of challenges to navigate. Gen Zers, in particular, are coming of age in an era of unprecedented change and uncertainty.

Millennials graduated college into the Great Recession of 2008, an economic downtown that rearranged their first grown-up job search. Gen Z has found themselves in a similar position, but their response involves completely setting college aside.


40% of Gen Z believe they don’t need a college degree to have a successful career, and they might be right.

Data from a global survey found that Gen Z's attitude toward college has shifted in a major way, as many think college just isn’t worth the investment.

The study was conducted by Fiverr, the freelance job platform, in conjunction with Censuswide. The companies surveyed over 7,000 Gen Z workers, asking them to assess their educational and professional choices.

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The results showed that Gen Z’s mindset toward work centers on flexibility and well-being and eschews the so-called traditional path to financial success.

According to data collected by the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, students who graduated from Ivy League universities didn't automatically make a 6-figure salary with their prestigious degree.

The study analyzed median earnings, average annual cost, and median debt of Ivy Leaguers who took out financial aid and found that 10 years after graduating, only two of the eight Ivy Leagues steered former students to jobs where they earned over $100,000.

college students in class Ivan Samkov / Pexels


The University of Pennsylvania and Princeton topped the list of schools where graduates earned six figures, and Harvard and Brown came at the bottom of the list, with alumni earning under $100,000.

Considering the high cost of college and the crushing weight of student debt, it’s no wonder Gen Z’ers are exploring other possibilities.

Gen Z is pushing back against the idea that college is the sole path toward success, and the economic reality they’ve grown up in shows how true that really is.

The National Student Clearinghouse has been following trends in college attendance since 2018, and they’ve found that young people are skipping out on college and whatever traditional opportunities that education provides for technical-vocational studies.

@jareenimam There’s an increase of Gen Z students going to trade schools instead of a 4-year college — and it’s because of money 💰 Carpenter internship@Shanii_mareeLineman makes $200k@ClassetOffice culture now@Jane Eimers#workculture2024 #tradeschools #genzcareers #tradejobs #careerideas #greenscreenvideo #greenscreen ♬ original sound - Jareen Imam

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In 2023, they found a 23% increase in students who studied construction-based trades than in previous years.

Their findings line up with what Gen Z believes is important to their future success: Building their skills to increase their employability, all without the price of a 4-year degree.

student in class RDNE Stock Project / Pexels


36% of Gen Z said that skill-building is at the forefront of their job searches, meaning they’re always looking for ways to improve their minds and marketability in a competitive economic landscape.

Gen Z’ers also reported that flexibility in the workplace and passion-driven work were their top priorities in finding a job, followed by financial security, which has proven itself as a more mercurial benefit in our current world, where wages are stagnant and inflation is high.

The study also showed that 70% of Gen Z’ers believe that freelancing is a viable choice when compared to corporate 9-to-5 work. It’s a belief that captures not only how their professional mindsets may have changed but also how inaccessible finding traditional jobs has become.

For Gen Z to prioritize flexible jobs that align with their moral compasses highlights how they approach work in general.


Their professional priorities show that they place value on having true work-life balance and that they want to make the professional world fit their lives, not the other way around.

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.