I have two degrees. I’ve carried on studying with Open University. My degrees helped me get specific jobs. I love studying. I’m still fascinated by some of the stuff I studied at universities and I’m still inspired by some of my lecturers.
But. I’m not convinced I couldn’t be in a very similar role, earning similar amounts of money, without the degrees.
I’ve worked with plenty of people who have taken alternative paths. And those of us with degrees have all got wildly different degrees so it can’t be the subject matter that matters.
There must be other things I could have done with 4 years and the money spent that might well have made up for the lack of certificate.
Most of the non-graduates I’ve worked with have perceived their career paths blocked by their lack of a degree. I once knew a VP of a billion dollar multi-national who felt hampered by his lack of a degree. He was hardly hampered from where I was sitting.
It will certainly be true that specific roles will not be open to non-graduates, although many (good ) employers are increasingly relaxed about their academic requirements. But that doesn’t mean you’ll do worse overall, and it might even save you from damaging your career by working for a bureaucratic, old-fashioned employer who isn’t clear what qualifications their employees actually need to do a good job.
Even if we know graduates earn more, we don’t know they earn more because they are graduates.