Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Is A Degree Worth It?

If you think a university degree is going to get you a job just because you have got one then you might be very gullible. The BBC report today that the Graduate Jobs Market Is Tough Competition. I have problem with the whole idea of a 'graduate jobs market' because it suggests that it is somehow separate and different from any other form of employment. A job is a job is a job.

 An investment in a higher education is simply a personal investment that is about developing your intellectual capability. There are of course 'practical' elements to most courses, but the point of higher education is to develop the way you think about the world, problems and yourself.  This might have a tendency to set you apart when applying for a job but it can never guarantee a job. It might make you more employable but it will never get you employed. You can also create a mistaken sense of superiority (hubris) by thinking that there are 'graduate jobs' and other jobs. There are plenty of good forms of employment that demand every day practical knowledge. A higher education provides a capability for conceptual thinking and of sure many courses include lots of applied work too.

The fundamental point is that assuming you stand more chance of getting a job because you have a degree is misleading. Sure the big corporates sift applicants for their corporate 'soldier' jobs by 2:1 status. If ever there was an example of like recruiting like by like there it is. Of course many Public Service roles filter applicants by educational level,  to develop an academic career you need academic qualifications, and vocational professions demand higher education qualification is a necessary part of the professional career.  This I suppose is what is meant by the 'graduate job market'. But think small medium sized enterprises (where many graduates go job hunting) and they'll foreground 'you' and background your certificates.

For holders of more general social science based degrees its easy to be duped into thinking that we should 'love' our work (and the the employer will love us back). Nonsense. A job is primarily to earn a living. Now that said if you have a university degree, they can't take it away from you. Use it to your advantage. The priority is to get into paid work first, then use your education and that income stream as a platform for change. And if you land a corporate job? beguiled with promises of bonuses and fast track managerial careers? and corporate cultures that emulate the some of the excessive behaviours of The Apprentice then keep this blog in your bookmarks and come back when your 35 and tell me all about it.

Oh yes, and natural science degrees are different. Aren't they? If you do choose to go to a university then it is wise to find out more about them, hopefully this free Best University Guide will put you on the right track. If recently graduated, then how about using all that intellectual horse power to start your own business. Now that would be standing out from the crowd!

1 comment:

  1. A college education has other benefits besides the tangible one of a high salary. Some people enjoy learning for the sake of learning; it exposes you to new ideas and concepts. A degree also shows prospective employers that the candidate is tenacious and has the ability to set a goal and execute it.

    I agree with you that earning a degree is about earning a living. Few of us have the luxury to be intensely passionate about our field of study.