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Should You Value a College Degree More Than Skills and Experience?

College costs are on the rise, and the amount of student debt loans in 2020 averaged around $37,500. Many people are starting to question whether it is worth it to get a college degree at this time. That is a valid concern because a lot of families cannot afford to send their kids to college anymore, and some of them don’t want the burden of a student loan long before they even start working. Does it still make sense to pursue a four-year college degree, rack up the debts, and pour your heart and soul into your studies only to find out that there are no jobs available once they join the real world?

But the burden does not lie only on the employees. The employers themselves are burdened that many potential applicants are foregoing a college degree to pursue “real-life” experiences. But here is the deal: are real-life experiences valued the same as a college degree? Do applicants learn from these experiences the same way they learn from their professors? If they train long enough with a company, will they soon possess the skills and knowledge needed to bring the business to success?

Facing the Reality

While many people are not pursuing a college degree anymore, a large chunk of the student population still wants a university degree because the truth is that you will get more opportunities when you are a college graduate than when you are not. Also, it depends on what college you are from. Certain college and university degrees are valued more than others.

If you look at the acceptance rate in UBC and find that the program the applicant graduated in is a tough one to enter, will you not put more value to that applicant’s degree? Ivy league and prestigious school graduates receive better offers from employers, while state universities with top-tier programs are also valued more.

Surveys already show that a bachelor’s degree holder has a better chance of clinching a dream job than someone who didn’t go to college. The unemployment rate in 2019 for degree holders was at 2.2%, while those without a college degree had a rate of 3.7%. The difference is equivalent to millions.

The chances to get hired are not the only indicator of the difference between a degree holder and a non-degree holder. Employers are also willing to pay degree holders more. Data shows that the median weekly earnings of degree holders are $1,248 while those only with high school diplomas are $746. For starting salaries, employers are willing to pay 11% to 30% higher if they hire a degree holder.

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Employers’ Requirements

Even though there is also an appreciation for those who don’t have degrees, the number of job postings that include a college degree as a requirement has increased by 10% or more. The funny thing here is there was no difference in the duties and responsibilities between the job posting with a degree requirement and the posting without a degree requirement. So why are employers including a college degree as a requirement when they see no difference in the responsibilities?

Employers believe that college graduates are more job-ready compared to non-degree holders. They believe that college degree holders have both hard and soft skills necessary that they can contribute to the success of the organization. But is this true?

Shifting Norms

Fortunately, a lot of leading companies have changed their minds about requiring a college degree. Tesla, Netflix, Apple, IBM, and Google, among many others put more premium knowledge, experience, and soft skills than on a mere college diploma. Tech-related jobs don’t usually require a college degree mainly because for a time, there was no exact college course for them. It was only in recent years that universities started designing tech courses for artificial intelligence, machine learning, social media roles, and many others.

When applicants have “sufficient experience,” hiring managers are willing to overlook the lack of a degree. Yes, they value a college education, but they are also practical enough to understand that real-life experiences can bring more to the table. In fact, in large organizations, experience is 44% more important than a degree.

There are a lot of shifts happening in the workforce because of the changing norms in the industries and among the people. Aside from valuing experience and skills more, a lot of students are also starting their own companies instead of working as employees. This new generation of workers values work-life balance more than anything, which leads to a workforce that knows and values their worth as employees or entrepreneurs.

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