When It Comes to Job Qualifications, Are Skills More Important than a College Degree?

Annie Holmquist | December 21, 2015

When It Comes to Job Qualifications, Are Skills More Important than a College Degree?

Instead of immediately pursuing college when I graduated from high school, I took several years off and focused on other things, one of which was operating my own business. Yet when I sought to apply that business experience in another job, I found that I could only receive minimum wage because of my lack of college credentials. 

Frustrated, I threw up my hands, went to school, and emerged several years later with the required piece of paper.

My experience leads me to wonder: does our reverence for the almighty college degree need to be re-evaluated? 

Jeffrey Selingo ponders the same question in today’s Washington Post:

“The problem is that when employers see a job candidate with a bachelor’s degree they are assured of only one thing: that the person had the self-discipline to complete 120 credit hours to qualify for the degree… For employers and the public, a diploma from a top school is a signal that the graduate had to at least survive a rigorous game to get past Go.

A degree, however, doesn’t tell us anything about what a person actually learned. Yet students and their parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for the two pieces of paper they leave college with – a diploma and a transcript. When was the last time an employer actually looked at either as proof that job candidates actually knew what they claimed on a résumé?

The basis of the bachelor’s degree is based on the currency of higher education: credits. Credits are earned by time spent in a seat and when added up over time – in the right sequence and often from the same institution – equal a degree. 

But credits demonstrate very little about what a student learned or the skills they mastered. Skills are acquired through practice, and most students don’t receive credit for hands-on learning outside of the classroom in college, except for perhaps the occasional internship.”

The cost of college is extremely high and employers increasingly recognize that the credential does not necessarily create a smart, hard-working employee. Is it time for businesses to move away from the “college for everyone” mantra embedded in their hiring practices? 

Image Credit: iinet



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