BA, B.Sc, BEd, BASc… All BS?


It’s fitting that this post should come so close to the graduation ceremony for the University of the West Indies, which begins on November 4, 2011. Let me take this chance to congratulate all of my fellow graduates and to my classmates say it was such an honour spending the last three years of my life growing with you all.

I’d like to pause in the midst of all the excitement and anticipation, however for a brief reflection  on what these degrees really mean to us. How many of you, like myself, in high school believed our parents that once we worked hard, did all our extra-curriculars, took these great summer jobs and other activities to beef up our resumes that indeed, after all our hard work, we’d end up with a nice dream job, a good salary, and the life our parents never had? Now how many of you, like myself, have found the reality to be much different? How many of you have been through job application after job application only to find yet another disappointment? How many of you have actually gotten jobs and realized that the respect you imagined you’d get as a degree holder is just that…imaginary?

Let’s talk money for a minute. Who knows the average annual income for a first degree holder in Jamaica? 1 Million Dollars. Let’s work that out: Divided by 12 that works out to be just over 80K. Now, let’s sit a minute for Caesar to take what is his. Cue N.H.T (National Housing Trust), Education Tax, N.I.S (National Insurance Scheme), Income Tax (25% or ONE QUARTER). There may be one or two other fees depending on your status. You’re left with just over 60K (these are from various persons kind enough to show me their salary slips for this  post).  For my EC peeps, 60K is the equivalent of about EC$2,000 (divide by 30).

So, someone who went to university for about 3-4 years, spent anywhere between 600,000 and 1.5 Million, graduated with a first degree (First or second class honours isn’t taken into consideration for pay arrangements by the way…or even job placement for that matter) can expect to earn anywhere between 60-90K per month after taxes in Jamaica. If I have to explain why this is absolutely crazy, you might as well stop reading.

Now, let’s step away from money and talk about something even closer to my heart. How many of us will eventually find jobs where we have to either sit behind a desk or run around taking orders from someone who doesn’t respect us? How many will work over 40 hours a week, with 2 weeks vacation time, up to 3 weeks sick leave, a 1-hour lunch break, all the while having to ask permission do anything related to your own life during “company time”? Today, after being denied the day off to attend my own graduation ceremony, I found myself asking “Is this the life I’ve worked for?“. All my childhood and adolescent life I was told I had to work hard, go to school, get good grades, beef up my resume, speak and present myself well so that I can get a good job when I leave university. *looks around*… Is this it?

O.K let me set a little perspective for you. Yesterday, I had a talk with an acquaintance of mine who happens to sell marijuana for a living and did not attend university. For the first time, I sat and spoke with him about his choice of career and essentially compared it dollar for dollar with mine. Here’s what I learnt about a weed dealer’s life in Jamaica:

With a simple wholesale purchase and retail resale system, you can make more than double investment on any one pound of fresh, quality Western Jamaica marijuana. A pound, costing roughly JMD$5,000, can be resold for up to JMD$16,000 – a cool profit of JMD$11,000.  Let’s bear in mind, according to our weed guy, that when you buy over 3lbs, you can get it at a reduced rate so 4lbs can cost about 16K and 6lbs for around 20-25K.

Now let’s really get into some numbers:

6lbs= 25,000

1lb brings a profit of 16K

6X16 = 96

96 – 25 (initial investment) = 71

So for a $25,000 investment, you’ve made a profit of $71,000 …. more than the average income of a degree holder.

The smart people will ask: Yes but what does it take to move all that product? Dollar for dollar it may earn more, but hour for hour is it worth more in terms of effort and time?

Well I asked him just what it takes to move his product, and if he could easily move 6lbs within a month. His response: Easily! It’s weed in Jamaica! He explained his market strategy:

First of all, the simplest way to get rid of it is to sell it either by half pound, ounce or a whole pound. With a resale at 7-9 K you still make a pretty good profit. Secondly, with a simple distribution system where you break it down for your high-end and street customers, it could be off your hands in no time with profits of more than 200%. He actually explained his market and distribution strategy in very intricate detail but I’m not too sure if I should reveal it (Legal purposes). So I’ll have to find an off-air way to relate that if people are really interested! 😀

The point of doing all that was really my twisted way of showing that it may actually be a lot more worth it to consider some sort of entrepreneurial venture (hopefully legal!) that could benefit you and bring in some real profits. The truth is that the typical work lifestyle that our parents and teachers have groomed us for is inadequate and unjust to anyone who values their creative and intellectual energy more than what can be shoved into 8 hours working for some (pardon me) asshole.  In fact, here’s a quote from Mr. Weed:

“Anything legal even when it pays well doesnt compensate you equivalent to the work you’ve done.  Peons in a company might do invaluable work but they’re standardized or non executive and so cant earn shit. The point: to make good cash legally, work 50 years, have entrpeneurial capital or win the lotto”. 

There you have it. Is Mr. Weed not enough? How about this. A dear friend of mine who was nominated for this year’s Valedictorian published her entry speech online. She made reference to the fact that thousands of UWI students graduate each year and most are able to just scrape by hand-to-mouth with poor jobs.

“Quite clearly, UWI does not have a lack of brilliant, ambitious students who care about the world around them- they are, in fact, sitting before me. And yet, for all the brilliance in the world, for all the good grades we might have striven hard to achieve in university, there are many of us still without jobs; there are many of us contemplating migration; there are many of us who no longer feel the sense of possibility and of enthusiasm sparked during our education at the University of the West Indies. And how can we, in a region in which a large number of its highest earning businesses are owned by foreigners? In a society in which it seems that one cannot prosper unless one is well-connected? “

My aim is not to encourage anyone not to attend university, or to bash degrees or even to go sell weed! My aim is to encourage anyone reading this to think carefully about the life they intend for themselves. Note, I did not say the life your parents, teachers or community intended for you but the life YOU intend for YOURSELF and to consider whether or not you are moving towards that or just fitting into a mold that has been created for you. Will you be happy or fulfilled in that mold? Are you prepared to accept what has been prescribed for you by some company finance executive and run around following orders all your life? Do you still believe that YOUR dream could have possibly been worked out for you by a series of persons who’ve never met you? Is your degree the best tool you have to achieve the things you want for your life?

All comments and questions are welcome! Don’t forget to share and subscribe!

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  1. Hey thanks for the feedback everybody! Just making it clear, though, that my intention was not to claim that there is no hope for University graduates and that the only option is to fly out or run a hustle. There are those who do enjoy the structure and ‘security’ (don’t know what that means) of the typical work life. And some do in fact find great jobs with awesome bosses and they love getting up for work every morning. The crux of what I want to bring across is that a University degree is expensive yet it doesn’t stop us from being subject to the whims of fat cats who want to pay and treat us as they please. So 1. do not think that your degree is your ticket to a good living and 2. Be CERTAIN that you’re not just falling into line as according to someone else’s plans and that you’re ultimately doing what you LOVE doing.

    • Shanniel Shakespeare
    • November 3rd, 2011

    A real eye opener..I’m on the last leg of my undergrad degree….I am seriously considering learning a skill when I leave or joining the bandwagon of the many people who have sought “farine money” overseas….cuz mi nuh innna di bruk pocket ting cuz NCU nuh cheap!!!

  2. lol! touched that you referenced my speech. And you make a point. Your friend looking to hire?

    • bagogyul
    • November 1st, 2011

    i’ ve believed even though money doesn’t grow on trees….there is actually a money tree….so plant a ‘pot’ in your living room watch it grow and change your life….for better or worse….

    • Kevin
    • November 1st, 2011

    Well, well, well…this is was a sound dose of reason for who it may apply to, the sad fact is that it applies to almost every University graduate short of those sitting those long professional courses such as the MBBS programme. An even is those prestigious sections, rumours flare that the dreams are not quite what we have grown to believe, at least not financially. Thought provoking read, thanks much

    • Conrey Hanson
    • November 1st, 2011

    Great insight Bro. It sad that this is the reality. The question is, what roles should parents play in their child’s personal and proffessional developement? Are parents supporting their child career choices?

    Getting a good education is what parents will fling at you. Ask yourself this question, do parents ask there children what is it that you want to become in life?

    Many parents put a lot of pressure on there kids to go the best schools. Honestly, some of these top schools is primarily reponsible for the for the career choices university students undertake. They lack the entreprenueral capacity to feed student with technical|Skills base training.

    High schools and Universities need to stimulate students in undertaking technical skills|entreprenueral training. Believe it or not, society believes that this area of study is for week students who are not academically fit. But if you check statictics, this area brings out a lot of the engineers, builders, entreprenuers.

    • the Diplocrit
    • November 1st, 2011

    I have been hearing Entrepreneurship for some time now, and it is apparent that we need to look at that avenue. What is surprising to me is that after the first degree and all the frustration over the lack of opportunities, some people heed the advice to go on to postgraduate study. Imagine their surprise when they come out and are facing the same problems that we first degree holders are facing.

  3. Really good topic bro. All truth in there! Sad but its the reality of the world we live in today! I liked the fact that you compared the entrepreneur to the degree holder and showed what fringe benefits one can derive from such an option… Working for yourself is really the way to go. It really does make you ask if this is the life you worked so hard for…. Well done bro!!!!!!!!

    • Jodi Red
    • November 1st, 2011

    and that makes too of us exsept that’s what I’m kinda doing write now. LOL…..I know about the errors above but Jah know, I never pick up on “lifelihood”, talk about the pot calling the kettle black *runs and hides* lol

    • Jodi Red
    • November 1st, 2011

    Dudddddde, the math makes sense. We have to be be creative instead of counting on someone else to make our lifelihoods but we do need to start somewhere. I support the idea of pointing out the obvious fact that working for someone else doesn’t add up. Good going Klieon. P.S. Do a likkle editing of the article plz 😀

    • Yeah Jodi the working for ppl thing is a trip for reals. Thanks for the input! N I’ll edit it sure… guess I cnt make a good “lifelihood” out of writing! 😉 lol!

  4. Yes I love it except we don’t want to give ppl the idea that an illegal venture is a better alternative evn though you have made it clear. 😀 great post and I agree.

    • Lol Of course we wouldn’t wanna imply that selling weed is the way we should go (Biiiiiig PR Grin)! But I was really shocked when he broke it down for me so I had to put it in there. I just think it’s kind of unfair that Degree holders should have to batta-batta for an honest living when it’s more profitable to just break the law.

      Thnx for the gree-ments! Share it up!

  1. April 20th, 2012
    Trackback from : MediaMoguldom

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