Are College Degrees Really Necessary?
If we talk about what do Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jack Dorsey have in common? These billionaire technology pioneers have all dropped out of college. Yet if you apply for a position at the companies that they have founded Facebook, Microsoft, Apple or Twitter, you will most likely need a college degree to even appear for an interview.
By the year 2020, employment experts predicted that 65 percent of the jobs will require post-high school education, 30 percent some college or an associate’s degree, and at least about 35 per cent will require a bachelor’s degree. According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE), India’s GER was 27.4 per cent for 2017-18. This, in effect, means out of the total population in the age group of 18-23 in India, 27.4 per cent attend college and university. Given that the 27.4 per cent of Indians have attended some or the other college, this doesn’t seem unreasonable or problematic. But do the remaining per cent of people who haven’t (save future tech titans) need to be eliminated from your consideration or be rejected simply because they have not attained a formal under-graduation or post graduation?
Like many HR questions, it depends on various factors.
When a degree might not be a requisite
The growth of any company (may it be large scale company or even a small scale company) is supported and usually led by the individuals who possess either a bachelor’s or an advanced degree. However, some employers who hire recent college graduates find them lacking in skills like written and oral communication, or adaptability and problem solving. Employers have also reported that they look at internship and job experience more closely than the college performance.
Performance in college is not necessarily an indicator of the job success. It may so happen that a person was somehow unable to attend a formal graduation but possesses the skills that the employer is looking for. Or, it may also happen that due to being a studious student a certain someone was able to top all of their exams but does not possess the required skills for the job profile. In that case, the person who does not have the formal education but has the required experience and knowledge fitting the job profile will be considered. But, it also depends on the company’s laws. After all, college completion could be affected or interrupted by a myriad of different factors, for instance, illness or family crisis. To top off the argument against college, some well-educated influencers have come out in favor of “school of life” education. Peter Thiel’s fellowship for the young people to forego college at the age of 18 is a popular example. There are even online courses on courser and udemy which are university affiliated. Nowadays companies even consider these courses.
For some of the occupations, schooling and/or certification provides the necessary knowledge for an individual to do the job. Many jobs in the field of science, medical fields and education have minimum degree requirements. For some other fields, like marketing, sales, consulting and retail, completion of a degree is less important than an employee’s ability to communicate and solve the real-world problems.
If your company frequently and regularly sources entry-level employees from universities, there’s no reason to stop. Universities are a filtering mechanism on its own: a student’s acceptance indicates some level of achievement, and degree completion indicates the individual’s ability to stick to goals.
But if your evaluation criteria (or even your ATS) without any legit reason needlessly eliminates potentially qualified candidates based on a strict degree requirement, your company could be missing out on its next top performer. In addition to this, looking for candidates that only have degrees in specific fields like marketing or business could also limit you from highly qualified liberal arts majors, particularly those from the colleges that don’t offer professional majors.
How to determine degree necessity
When you have hundreds of applicants for each and every position, a degree is a filtering mechanism to narrow and eliminate the field. But the more work experience a candidate has after college age, the less a degree really matters.
When you are hiring for positions that don’t have an obvious certification or degree requirement, ask the hiring manager if a degree is absolutely necessary for the position. If not, probe into the critical skills needed to perform the job. Perhaps there’s a hidden and concealed, hoped-for talent or unnamed quality that degree completion might not encompass. If so, add it to the job description or list of screening questions. Competence with the detailed job tasks, subject matter expertise and the communication finesse and expertise are all the skills that schooling may not teach one. Some of the employers modify the job requirements to “BA or equivalent,” rightfully noting that experience matters as much as the education.
If you are concerned about an otherwise qualified candidate’s educational background, ask them about it. You might undercover and unravel surprising facts, such as an underutilized skill that could benefit your organization, or life lessons that could translate into higher levels of empathy.
With the student loan debt rising, thoughtful young people may be more likely to opt out or delay their post-secondary education. They are rightfully questioning their ability at the age of 18 to make a far-reaching (and expensive) decision to choose a field of study or career that is supposed to last for a lifetime. The training they receive from their employers at that age may be just as influential as the skills they will acquire from college or university. After all, it’s really experience and field work that helps you in honing and sharpening your skills in any field.
If the knowledge conferred by a degree isn’t an absolute requirement for a certain position, there’s no reason to exclude the candidates without one from your consideration.
Thank you for reading this blog! I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day!!
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