Is A College Degree Important In My Job Search?

A college degree used to be the main prerequisite for good employment. Everybody from your guidance counselor to your parents said it was important to have one, otherwise you wouldn’t get hired. But the workforce is changing very quickly. We are now at a point where you can get fired by a robot if you don’t meet your quota — and that robot definitely didn’t earn its four-year bachelor’s degree in a prestigious university. More than that, though, is that in-demand professions and skills of today do not always come from the hallowed halls of academia. With enough experience and the right training, you can land a job in several fields and succeed in it.

The value of a college degree

That said, college degrees aren’t exactly obsolete. For select industries, a degree is a basic requirement for employment. These are true for medical, legal, or financial fields, where having a college diploma is only the first step. You will also need other forms of licensing, certifications, and further studies to move forward with a successful career. There are industries though where specialized training is not necessary, but can be learned on the job.

If you ask hiring managers, they would say that, other than formal education, completing a college program says a lot about a person’s character. It shows that you can say yes to a long-term commitment, you can work alone and collaboratively, and you can respond to leadership the right way. Of course, there are other ways to demonstrate these qualities about you, but a diploma is already written proof of that. That’s why many still use degrees as a standard for hiring.

Another benefit of going to school is how it prepares you for the future of work. This is especially true for online education, given that the set-up is already similar to where the workforce is currently headed — remote and tech-dependent. Case in point: the computer science industry. Online computer science programs are teaching students to build expertise in cybersecurity, software development, and other related disciplines, while also preparing them for a remote working future. Online schools have been innovating in terms of collaboration and learning labs — all done online — which can help equip professionals with the necessary digital skills and soft skills required to thrive in an evolving workforce.

With the acceleration of remote work, the position of ‘head of remote work’ has also been created. These are people who can lead their teams successfully even on a partially or completely remote basis. As the environment of work becomes more digitally enabled, employers will value candidates who have experience with working in similar environments, such as those who studied via an online course.

What higher education can’t offer

But a college degree is not always an advantage. Some critique degree programs for being too broad that graduates end up taking more specialized courses after receiving their diploma.

It might not even be necessary to get a degree if you want to pursue a career based on a trade or craft. If that’s the case, taking up a vocational course in a trade school, which usually only lasts two years for a fraction of the price, is more ideal. There is still stigma when it comes to enrolling in a trade school instead of a traditional college. However, experts say that considering the earning potential of a future job compared to the costs of college or university degrees is a must too. There are many high-paying jobs that don’t require degrees and offer on-the-job training. Here, you can develop additional skills later on by taking short courses or online programs. That way, you don’t have to stall your career and miss out on key learning opportunities at work.

All in all, having a degree is advantageous to some but unfavorable to others. Whether you would need a diploma in your record ultimately depends on what field you’re in. However, do remember that today’s employers are looking for candidates who are adaptable to the changing nature of work. So, focus on honing those skills and you’ll be more successful in your job search.

exclusively written for By Jean Harmon