By Sharon Jones
The job market is pretty difficult for young people at the moment because they’re often being told that they don’t have enough experience. But the reason that they don’t have that experience is that they’ve spent the last few years getting a degree. For a while, everybody was encouraged to go and get a degree because it was seen as the golden ticket for any job that you wanted. Since then, employers have started to change their mind and put more emphasis on previous job experience rather than qualifications. The increasing cost of education is also putting people off because they don’t like the idea of getting themselves into huge amounts of debt for a degree that isn’t necessarily going to get them a job anymore.
This opens up an interesting question when it comes to the job market; which is better for preparing you for work, qualifications or experience?
One of the things that people often forget about when they’re trying to answer this question is that going to college isn’t just about getting a degree, you’ll also gain a lot of life experience along the way. You’re more likely to move out of your parents house when you go to college so graduates will often be more independent. That’s not always the case but it’s a consideration you should make. College is also a place where you’re likely to meet a diverse range of people from all walks of life which will massively improve your interpersonal skills. In a lot of industries, especially sales based ones, your people skills are more important than ever.
Working to your own schedule to complete assignments gives you another great skill. Being able to work without direction from superiors and use your own initiative to solve problems is another big bonus for employers. People that went straight from school into work might not have had as much opportunity to develop those kinds of skills.
The other thing to remember is that a degree isn’t the only qualification you can get. Even if going to college isn’t the best thing for your career, that doesn’t mean qualifications aren’t important. For example, you could get a leadership mba online which gives you practical skills that are invaluable in the workplace. There are all sorts of vocational qualifications like apprenticeships as well that all teach you skills that can be directly transferred to your workplace.
People that advocate education over experience will often tell you that people with more qualifications are more intelligent and therefore perform better when they’re at work. However, that’s not the case. People that just have work experience are not automatically less intelligent than people that have been in education but they might lack the critical thinking skills that you learn in education. That means somebody with a lot of job experience could tell you that something wouldn’t work a certain way, but they might not be able to explain why that is. That means, once they’ve got a few years experience under their belt, employees with lots of qualifications are likely to be better.
Best Of Both Worlds
Getting a degree doesn’t always have to mean that you’ve got no job experience either. There are a lot of sandwich courses out there where students will study for two years, do a year working in industry and then go and complete their final year. They’ll finish with both qualifications and relevant job experience. Even if you aren’t on a sandwich course, you can still find placements during the summer and do a bit of part time work while you study so getting an education doesn’t automatically mean you can’t have job experience as well.
When employers are hiring people one of the things that they’re thinking about is how much time and money they’re going to need to spend training you. It’s one of the reasons that a lot of employers are starting to look for experience over qualifications. A college graduate that’s never been in a workplace before is going to have to start from square one. Employers need to train them in all aspects of the workplace starting with the most basic tasks. Now if you take somebody that has job experience, the whole process will be far quicker. There will be a few things to teach them in order to fill the new role but they’ll already know the basics.
This is the biggest reason that people are starting to turn away from degrees. You’ve got two options, you could spend 4 years at college and get yourself into a huge amount of debt, at which point you aren’t even guaranteed a job. Your other option is to go straight into work and by the time your peers have finished their degrees you’ll already have 4 years of wages behind you and you won’t have the debts to pay off either. People argue that this doesn’t matter because graduates are going to go into a company at a higher level and get paid more. However, people that go straight into work can easily progress to that same level in 4 years and most graduates are still ending up with entry level jobs anyway.
Everybody Has Degrees
That’s a bit of an exaggeration but the last few decades of pushing people toward college degrees means that there are a lot of people that have them. It used to be that having a degree made you stand out when employers were looking through applications but they aren’t worth anywhere near as much anymore. Spending all of that time and money at college doesn’t guarantee you anything anymore so it’s a massive risk that a lot of people just don’t want to take anymore.
It often depends on the employer and how they choose who to hire so there’s no definitive answer. However, if you’re looking to go into an industry that doesn’t specifically require a degree, you could end up in a far stronger financial position if you just decide to go straight into work instead of continuing with education.