Do you really need a degree?


It’s the age-old debate – do you really need a degree to get a good job?

The answer is simple – it depends on what profession you want to enter into and then the question of whether this profession needs a degree is for professional bodies or employers to answer.

But then even if the professionals decide they need or want you to have a degree in their field, do these university courses really provide more than on-the-job training?

I personally didn’t go down the degree route. It just didn’t seem like something that would benefit me at the time. To this day I have no regrets – I have a career which I love, I continue to learn on the job every day and I have a fortune of experiences which have helped shape every choice I have made to get me to where I am today.

The one regret I might have is that I missed out on the “student experience”. And no, I’m not talking about the outrageous parties and discounts your student card; I understand the value in demonstrating that a person has the ambition and drive to get the job done.

University or higher education isn’t easy. It demands long hours, concentration, motivation and discipline. And so many employers will be looking for someone who has a degree, whether it is relevant to the job or not, simply because it proves that they can see something through, and this is a quality employers look for in candidates.

But you can’t teach someone the qualities of being ambitious, driven and entrepreneurial, these are attributes that are either part of an individual’s personality DNA or not. And finishing a university degree is definitely not the only way to use these attributes to their highest potential.

As a mum I’m torn on knowing what the best option for my son is. His education is important to me but I would never choose a piece of paper over being savvy, street smart and commercially aware.

Some people are simply better at learning on the job with practical experience. Some people are clever enough to talk their way into anything. Some people are savvy enough to move forward in this world without having to be schooled for an extra three to six years.

And what about the incredible amounts of debt these students are racking up taking on a degree that they don’t necessarily need? Personal debt is a reality that affects huge number in the UK. The education system is forcing graduates to start their working lives with as much as £50,000 of debt, with the typical graduate owing around £16,000. And if they’re not starting their working lives with this debt, they’re falling into an expensive unemployment when they graduate.

The unemployment rate for graduates as it stands is at about 18.9%, meaning that one in every five new graduates is unemployed. Even those who are employed tend to be employed in jobs they are working out of necessity. The Graduates in the Labour Market report shows that nearly 36% of recent graduates are employed in lower skilled jobs.

As a recruiter I know how tough it is for graduates to get a job. Employers are increasingly making their job requirements harder for a graduate to meet. All too often an entry-level position will require some level of experience.

The best advice I can offer if you are a graduate, is to make the best use of your holidays and spare time that you possibly can. Get experience in the industry you want to work in by going in and helping out a few days a week or month.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – practical, hands-on, thrown-in-the-deep-end experience is invaluable.

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