Degree Discrimination: Do You Need a College Degree to Get Hired?

“Go to college, get a good job.”

For decades, or longer, that has been the mantra of parents, educators, and everyone espousing advice to young people.

Millions upon millions have followed this seemingly common-sense advice. Many have succeeded with their degrees, but many others are swimming in student loan debt, barely keeping afloat.

This post asks: do you need a college degree? Is degree discrimination a real thing, or is a college degree necessary?

In this post we’ll tackle these topics:

  • Degree Discrimination
  • A Degree Isn’t Everything
  • Finding a Job without a College Degree

Degree Discrimination`

Unfortunately, it appears that degree discrimination is rampant in today’s hiring landscape.

Employers claim they see a four-year degree as evidence of a candidate’s commitment. They like to see applicants who can demonstrate the ability to set goals and see a project through to the end. In periods of high unemployment, such as after the crash in 2008, employers also can use degree discrimination to cut down on the vast numbers of applications they receive.

An objection to this rationale is that a four-year degree can also indicate the ability to pay tuition for four years. Non-degreed candidates might point to real-world experience and achievements as evidence of their commitment to goals and their dedication to a career path. However, getting their resumes past an HR professional trained to dismiss non-degreed candidates might prove more daunting than sitting in class for four years.

A Degree Isn’t Everything

But, wait, not everyone who has a successful career carries a college degree.

In the field of computer science, for instance, there are many programmers who have learned their craft on their own. They might have degrees in music, English, or history, but also have a passion for developing web apps, for instance. In fact, some hiring executives desire programmers with experience performing music,  non-paid programming projects, or completing a long-term, serious project.

To make yourself distinguishable from other candidates, consider learning a new skill that can be used in real-life application. Some examples include learning to speak and write a second language, completing a certification program in accounting, education, finance, law or technology, or sharpening your computer skills on C++ or Javascript. Studying abroad, paid internships, or working for free can also get you closer to full-time employment.

Finding a Job without a College Degree

Those who are entering the job market without a college degree are facing an uphill struggle, to say the least. However, there are alternative paths to a great career.

Young people who are driven and focused can often achieve just as much as their degreed friends. They might not earn as much starting out, but they also won’t be carrying a crushing debt load. Without debt influencing their decisions, job seekers can focus on making connections, taking lower-paid jobs to gain valuable experience, or working on an independent project that will have recruiters and hiring managers calling them.

While some professions, such as law and medicine, will require a degree, most do not. Rather than going into debt for a four-year degree, young people can focus their time on acquiring skills through the cheap or free resources on the Internet. They can also augment informal learning with a few college courses at their local community college.

With a little entrepreneurial moxie, anyone can succeed.

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