On Scott Walker and College Degrees

It has come to the attention of most people these days that Scott Walker does not have a college degree. He quit the program before his last year to take a job with the American Red Cross. Now, there are many who are arguing this decision he made 25 years ago needs to be delved into more deeply. There are also those who are arguing that due to his lack of college degree he is unfit to be President of the United States. I have a few things to say to both of those types of people.

First, let’s talk about his lack of college degree. I’ve heard a number of people talking about the fact that they’ve never heard of someone leave college early to start a career. I have. I know of two people personally who were offered jobs while in college. One dropped out to take the job, the other did not. But, the offers were there, were tempting, and left one of them without a college diploma. Was it the wrong decision? That is for them to decide, not me. But, the point I’m trying to make is – people get offered jobs to entice them to leave college and get started right away. They have jobs that need filled immediately and someone who’s a known hard worker is great to fill that position. Why not offer them the job? And in some cases, depending on what your plans are in life – why not take it? For some, it’s a no brainer to take these jobs. For others, it’s a no brainer not to. For Walker, it appeared to be a choice he felt was the right one and he never felt inclined to go back and finish his degree. That’s fine for me and, frankly, I don’t care. It was his decision to make, not mine. His life and I respect his decision he made some 25 years ago. Does he need to offer an explanation? Unless what he did was illegal, not to me.

A lack of college degree does not make you less fit to be President. It also doesn’t make you less qualified. Walker has vast experience as a chief executive, first as a County Executive and now in his second term as Governor of Wisconsin. That’s huge, real world experience which makes him a solid candidate for President of the United States. Would having that additional year of schooling have changed these qualifications? No, in my opinion.

For some people, the decision to go to college is and should be a difficult one. I know, in our society today it feels as though everyone needs a college degree. That said, the truth of the matter is that there are many different career paths we all can take – some of which do not require a 4 year college degree. A Master electrician program generally requires 2 years of training/college followed by apprenticeship programs. Certified nursing assistants go through rigorous training program followed by a certification examination to serve as technicians in hospitals and nursing homes. No college education required. In the construction field, first hand experience goes a long way in some cases far more than a college degree. Welders require speciality training and, in some parts of the nation, are making six figure salaries for their work. These are all valid career choices and only a few I could think of off-hand which do not require a 4 year college degree. There are others and to make this decision not to go to college and instead to follow a trade school or other path should be encouraged as equally valid to a college education. Mike Rowe has a great set of resources state by state for those who are interested in trade programs instead of a college degree.

I am an engineer. A chemical engineer to be exact. For what I wanted to do in life, I needed to get a college degree. There is no way I would be able to do all that I am capable of doing without the speciality education I have. I’m proud of my BS and MS in chemical engineering. But, that doesn’t make my life choice better than friends I know who didn’t get a college degree and are now working full time in different industries. It makes them better for me, but not better in general and my college degree does not make me a better person than them. That said, not having a college degree doesn’t make you better than me either. Going to college for the speciality field I decided to enter doesn’t make me a sucker anymore than a person who wanted to be a HVAC technician isn’t a sucker for going to a trade program to learn those skills. It’s a decision we all have to make about what we want to do in life. Respect the decisions of others and be happy that we live in a nation where we have the freedom to make these decisions ourselves.

Scott Walker’s reasons for never finishing his degree are his and, frankly, I don’t care about them. Regarding his dropping out and accepting another job – that was also his decision and unless it involved some kind of crime, I find it entirely irrelevant to where he is today as a politician, potential candidate for President, and most importantly as a man. I am far more educated than Scott Walker, but I know he is far more qualified to be President than I am or would ever be.

EDIT: Since writing this piece, it has come to my attention that Mike Rowe has also written on this topic. You can read what he has to say here.

About the Author

Matthew Newman
Matthew Newman is an environmental engineer (Professionally licensed in Maryland). He’s also a husband, beard aficionado, Dad of four beautiful children, blogger, and all around geeky guy from Baltimore County. When he’s not chasing his kids or working, he’s probably asleep.

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