Does Success (And Career Happiness) Require a Diploma?

As he sat through his ‘Introduction to Business’ class at Lane Community College in Eugene, Orego, all Devhin Hansen wanted to do was to become a successful business...

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“I could have spent a bunch of money on art school, or I could have done my own thing and see what would happen,” said Meyers, who has owned his professional photography studio for 12 years and does commercial editorial and fine art photography. Meyers, who works part-time as media arts teacher, says, “Having a broad range of skills … is much more important now than it used to be.”

Meyers’ advice for young entrepreneurs is to find your niche and what you’re really good at. “Offer the highest quality of product you can and build fantastic relationships with people. Networking is important.”


Entrepreneurs Pursue Real-Life Experience

Similarly, 22-year-old Athena Ortmann has been an entrepreneur since she was a sophomore in high school, when she launched her local photography business. After graduating, she expanded her network.

Ortmann credits her decision to finding her niche and passion early in life. There wasn’t an epiphany or exact moment that prompted her choice to forgo college; she just knew college wasn’t for her. To this day she’s happy about the decision she made.

“I don’t ever want to work for anyone besides myself, and I don’t need a degree to work for myself,” said Ortmann, who is also currently working as a photographer and social mediator. “I feel bad for preaching ‘don’t go to school’ to people because that’s not always true. I’m really lucky and grateful for what I’ve been given.”

Ortmann does contend that getting a degree in what you love can, however, prove beneficial for many people; depending on their preferred career path it may be necessary.

“If you want to be a doctor or go into any other technical career path then of course you’ll want to have a degree,” Ortmann said. “There are many more opportunities, perks, and benefits if you’re a student..”

Ortmann who also co-owns a store, Remix Apparel Exchange, with her mother suggests: “If you don’t care about what you do, it shows,” she said. “You have to really like it— it’s a reflection of you as a person. Why spend your life doing something you don’t like doing?”


The Verdict

It’s entrepreneurs like Hansen, Meyers, and Ortmann that shed an opportunistic light on the case for pursuing passion in lieu of a college degree. Whether one believes college is a necessity or an optional path, many young entrepreneurs prove college isn’t for everybody, and experience can be as valuable, if not more, as obtaining a degree.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Christina Lee is a business writer and junior at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. She is currently studying magazine design and feature editing.

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