The Degree to Which Your Degree Matters

You won’t need a college degree to get a job in the future.

Before your brow begins to frown and your pupils dilate at the sheer boldness of a college newspaper –the Incept issue no less –to admit a column into to print that commences to cast a dense cloud over your “promising” future, read further., online home of the renowned Forbes, Inc. and arguably the leading resource for the world’s business leaders, published a column last month titled, “The Jobs of the Future Don’t Require a College Degree.” The title alone has rattled some tassels and birthed several rebuttal columns. The author, contributor Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, goes on to say that the few jobs that will require degrees in the will do so because “we are very dumb.”  

If it weren’t for the absence of a much needed pronoun in the title of his article I’d agree with the author. What he failed to insert—and later tried to redeem—was the pronoun “some”. Some jobs in the future won’t require college degrees. Gobry’s assertion that all jobs of the future don’t require a degree is both misleading and false. But redeeming himself by stating that jobs that will require degrees do so because most of us are essentially dumb is even more misleading.   

But before I disclose why a college degree is essential and not exclusive to Gobry’s fabricated minority group of “geniuses”, let’s explore the alternative: the non-collegiate path.

Many of us will spend four years of our fleeting lives absorbing knowledge that will remain shelved in our mental library.While we are a nation that values intellectual capital, we are also a nation that runs on the tangible service of others.

These jobs –often stereotyped as “low-skilled” and labor-intensive –can provide generous salaries and most, if not all, of these jobs are in high-demand, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this demand is rising.

The medical industry provides an archetypal example of this. People get sick. People will always get sick. As long as we continue to get sick there will be jobs. (I’ll keep this in mind the next time I have a cold.) With some on-the-job training, you could become a medical assistant, working in an affluent practice complete with crushed white linen drapes, a Starbucks coffee maker, and mini waterfalls.

So, Gobry and I agree on one thing: You won’t need a college degree to get a job; however, you may need a college degree to get the job you want. To understand this, think of a college degree as car insurance.

If you’re smart, you won’t drive your vehicle without car insurance. A simple fender bender could leave you financially impaired for months. You may never need it, but when you do it’ll be there and you’ll be thankful that you have it. Having a degree isn’t much different.

Your college degree may be the difference between “You’re hired!” and “We’ll call you.” It may be the only standing difference between you and another hopeful applicant who may be just as eager and capable as you are.

Like car insurance, a degree may cover you when necessary. This is because a degree is more than a bumper sticker or conversation piece during turkey-day.

To many employers, a degree is evidence of a student’s ability to commit. You committed at least four years to an overpriced school. You didn’t join the wave of college dropouts. You stuck with it.

While this may seem miniscule, consider this: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in April of 2013, 75.6% of college graduates were employed while 58. 7% of non-college graduates were employed. At this rate, your chances of employment increase by almost 25% by simply having a degree.

By now, that dense cloud casted over you in the commencement of this column should be well on its way.

And if you thought your major mattered, consider this: According to an employer perception survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education in December of 2012, “Only 19% of employers look for specific majors…while the majority, 78% will consider any major.

If every job doesn’t require a college degree or a specific major and there are more graduates employed than non-graduates, it is plausible to conclude that having a college degree can push your application to the top of the stack.