College Degrees or Skills: What do Employers Value more?

Published On
September 28, 2023
Read Time
4.5 minutes
OnBlick Inc.

Several companies consider a college degree to be necessary for job positions. The past few decades, however, have seen a shift in this regard. Having a degree may give job applicants an edge in getting hired. However, in an attempt to be more inclusive, employers have been ditching college degrees for employment lately. It is established that not every job requires a specialized degree and employers can undergo the rule for such positions.

In this blog, we discuss the trend where companies today have been dropping college as mandatory qualification, and how it affects the job market.

Why are College Degrees Considered Relevant?

It cannot be denied that college education provides individuals with a unique set of experiences and development. Some of the pros of college degrees include:

Thinking Skills: College education provides individuals with the ability to expand their understanding of different things. It prepares them to work around complex work issues and enhance their problem-solving skills.

Work Ethic: Students are expected to maintain discipline and reach their end goals by working hard. Even if they are unfamiliar with certain job roles, candidates may have the tenacity to accomplish tasks.

Teamwork: Individuals are often expected to work in groups for team projects in college. They learn to take responsibilities and handle interpersonal conflicts to achieve their end goal. It provides them with the ability to manage projects better and cooperate with others despite differences.

Prominent Firms Ditching College Degrees

Several leaders have stated how a large number of jobs requiring a four-year college degree, may not even need that level of education. In the words of Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., “Black Americans, in particular, are often left unprepared by the U.S. education system, and companies could help by hiring workers without a degree and giving them training”. He further explains that there are people who may not have had an opportunity early in their lives but it does not make them any less capable.

Enrolment patterns for universities in 2020 show a steep decline since the onset of the pandemic. The rise in college costs and the growing number of high-value alternative courses may have contributed to the decline in the same. Earning a college degree can bring students years of debt that may delay major decisions for them. Certificates and diploma courses that cost lesser than a graduation degree can be supplemented for a variety of jobs. Work experience as interns or volunteers may also prove to be useful for job applicants.  

Are College Degrees Necessary?

Leading companies like Apple, Netflix, Penguin Random House, and Google have been hiring employees who possess the right skills, even if they do not have college degrees. The SVP of Global Affairs for Google, Kent Walker wrote in a blog,” We need new, accessible job-training solutions—from enhanced vocational programs to online education—to help America recover and rebuild”.

Tech giants like IBM have been hiring people without bachelor's degrees. These firms test people for their cognitive and technical skills and train the managers supervising these employees. They believe that by getting rid of the mandatory degree requirements, they are making space for growth and innovation in the company.

Business executives point out that hiring college graduates solely could mean employers’ may miss out on the following:

Specialized Skills- Some people may have ditched college degrees to pursue certifications for specific skills. These candidates may have obtained expertise in certain areas that can prove to be useful for particular organizations.

Training Resources- Certain businesses invest highly in their training departments. These departments have in-depth programs to prepare new hires for the roles they would be undertaking. Training programs are a great resource to understand the company culture and improve the candidates’ skills.

Top Talent- Work experience or individual attributes and skills can be a good judge of their abilities. Some individuals may perform well despite a lack of educational qualifications.

Employers Seek Soft-Skills and Experience

Talent acquisition managers believe that a college degrees make it seem like the candidates are interested in pursuing a profession. Although they do agree that only 35% of entry-level jobs require a four-year degree course but it's expected from a large number of employees.

Employers expressed that educational programs today do not always teach the candidates the important skills needed for the profession. Soft skills can only be learned by candidates on the job. This highlights the importance of work experience obtained by people while they finish their college education.

According to HR professionals, with the advancement of machines and focus on task-based jobs, soft skills would become necessary.  Following the AI trends, colleges today have been offering courses integrating transferable skills in their curriculum. Certificate courses focusing on communication and critical-thinking skills have also taken new heights.

In Conclusion

Industry experts emphasize that one-time certification or degree courses may become irrelevant in the future. Employers would require their workforce to become lifelong learners to stay relevant in the future.

Certain leaders state that college degrees are relevant and education produces well-rounded candidates. They think that educated candidates are prepared to communicate with high-level employees in a corporate environment. While many leaders agree that mandating college degrees is not necessary, they fail to take a step to undo the same.

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