You can give up or you can stand up. ~ Unknown
For as long as I can remember, working at McDonalds was a running joke as in, “Well, if you cannot get a good job (or you get fired), you can always go to work at McDonalds.” McDonalds, of course, being a metaphor for an entry level job requiring little-to-no education and skills—a job that anybody could get, any time they wanted.
There is no way to answer the question above with complete certainty. And surely the correct answer depends almost entirely on what college and what major. But when all things are considered, it may be a tougher decision than you imagine.
While a full time entry level job at McDonalds only pays about $18,000 per year, after one promotion to manager the stakes rise to $36,000 per year. This comes with a full slate of benefits, including healthcare. If a conscientious person were to start at McDonalds and get promoted after two years, their four year take home would be about $108,000.
Now let’s take a look at college. The average cost of a public four-year in-state tuition is approximately $21,000 per year. It is twice that much for a private school. The total cost for four years is $84,000, meaning the gross difference between going to college and going to McDonalds is $192,000 in the first four years.
Whether the college graduate has the opportunity to make up that amount over time depends on too many factors. And I will not take this opportunity to flood you with unemployment statistics for recent college graduates today, many of whom are ironically “working at McDonalds.” I will not do it because economies change and because there is something else I want you to consider. Something that cannot easily be quantified in the battle between burgers and diplomas, but is very real.
The biggest knock on colleges today is their lack of hands-on experience. You may learn the theory of finance or engineering at college, but rarely will you bring any skills into the workplace. Contrast that to working at McDonalds. Not only will you get real world experience, but you will get something else much more valuable which is lost on all but a few people who actually work there.
Working at McDonalds affords you the opportunity to get an inside look at one of the best run companies in the world. You can learn first hand about customer service, food service, inventory management, process management, human resources, just-in-time delivery. It is an entrepreneur’s dream; getting paid while learning how to run a business. If my goal were to own a restaurant (or any consumer-facing company), working four years at McDonalds would be far more valuable than anything college could offer.
Debt free, cash in the bank, medical coverage, four years of work expense (including possibly management) and a chance to get an unmatched business education. Now how would you answer that question?