woman speaking in car with caption 'I have my literal business marketing degree' (l) and I make more serving sushi rolls cause I was' (c) woman speaking in car with caption 'the pay cut is insane insane' (r)

@fitnesswithalison/TikTok Remix by Caterina Cox

‘I make more selling sushi rolls’: Server says she would be taking a pay cut to use her college degree

'I would take at least a $500 pay cut A WEEK if I used my masters degree.'


Braden Bjella


Posted on Sep 20, 2023   Updated on Sep 21, 2023, 8:11 am CDT

When Millennials and Gen-Z were growing up, they were given a simple message: get a college degree, and it will help you earn more money.

While that message may have been delivered with the best of intentions, its impact hasn’t always been positive for those who have chosen to follow it. After graduating from college, the average degree-holder can now expect to have almost $35,000 in debt—in 1996, that number was just $12,750 (around $25,000 after accounting for inflation).

Additionally, while college degrees are seen as a necessity for many jobs, workers have found that they do not provide many financial benefits when initially entering the workforce. For example, the average starting salary for recent graduates is just under $56,000. While this is a significant number, there are numerous jobs that pay more than this without requiring a degree—and workers in these positions have the additional benefit of not being saddled with college debt.

Recently, a user on TikTok sparked discussion after complaining about the difficulties of entering the job market, and the pay disparity between jobs that require a degree and those that don’t.

“I have my literal business marketing degree that put me in a cute $80,000 in debt,” says TikTok user Alison (@fitnesswithalison) in a video with over 25,000 views. “And I make more serving sushi rolls.”

@fitnesswithalison somebody, anybody..make it make sense. #servinglife #serving #collegedegree #debt #brokeasf #servelife #server #mentalhealth ♬ original sound – Alison Johnson | Fitness

Alison continues by noting that she’s been looking for work in her degree field. However, all of the jobs require experience—something she does not have, given that she was first in school and is now working to earn money while searching for an in-field career. Additionally, accepting an entry-level job would be a pay reduction from what she makes in her current job.

“I’ve been applying to marketing jobs…for weeks now, and the pay cut is insane,” she says. “But the jobs that are, like, a cute $150 to $200,000 a year? I’m not getting those. I’m an…almost 25-year-old chick going against corporate a** America. People with so much experience. All I got is my degree.”

In a later video, Alison voices her view that, given this experience, “a college degree is useless.”

Commenters largely agreed with her assessment.

“SAME! I would take at least a $500 pay cut A WEEK if I used my masters degree,” wrote a user. “I feel youuuuu.”

“As a teacher I feel this. Target assistant manager makes more than me,” shared another. “I have 41k in school debt.”

“Have my literal Masters and work full time but work a side catering gig since I don’t make enough for my city’s cost of living,” claimed a third.

“I have a masters and I’m still serving because I would take a 1-2k pay cut a month if I switched using my degree,” echoed an additional TikToker.

A few noted that they had either left school or were considering not going in the first place to avoid this issue.

“That’s why I quit school,” stated a user. “I’m gonna be this much in debt to make the same money I’m making now. Make that money work for you in the future.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Alison via Instagram direct message.

Update 8:10am CT Sept. 21: In an Instagram DM exchange with the Daily Dot, Alison offered some advice for those considering college.

“I would tell a 16-17 year old who’s thinking about college to understand that the Degree is not the experience when it comes to getting jobs later down the road,” she wrote. “They need an unpaid internship as well. If not more.”

Without experience, acquiring a job can be hard, she said.

“My period of job searching has been insanely difficult,” Alison detailed. “It is unfortunate to not be given the opportunity that I got my Degree in, in the first place.”

“College is a dumpster fire of debt and it is nearly impossible to get an unpaid internship when you are in sports in college and [with] the economy is the way it is right now,” she concluded. “Things will continue to get more expensive, while our Degree holds little to no value. It is simply not fair.”

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*First Published: Sep 20, 2023, 2:31 pm CDT