U.S. News & World Report: "Ditch the Degree? Many Employers Are Just Fine With That"

Colleges have moved away from teaching the skills Employers need.

Makes me think of the Ad…
Sorry Charlie, Starkist does not want Tuna with good taste,
they want tuna that tastes good!!!

US employers have used educational certifications as a shortcut to disqualify job applicants for many years… They’ve come to rely on it to the point where it is hurting their bottom line.

It’s a case of assumptions based on assumptions which are based on the biases of those people who establish the hiring policy. A person with a college degree has proven nothing more than that they are capable of getting that college degree. To get the college degree that person probably had to get a high-school education. And to get a high-school education that person likely had to accommodate the average factory-floor model of US K-12 schools. Not much of that process comes close to really preparing the applicant for the job for which they are interviewing.

So when the bottom line exerts pressure on hiring requirements, they get real, then the truth comes out… it’s that simple.

I’m retired now and I do not have a college degree. Because of changes in the hiring requirements, I wouldn’t qualify for the job I held for 20 years. I was lucky to have come of age in the days where an employer would “take a chance” on you. I was in IT and many of the best programmers (I was not a programmer) didn’t have a degree either.

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I am in IT and have been for 25 years. When I get resumes the only thing I am looking at is project experience and technology experience. I do not even look at the education section.

There are certain professions where I would want to have people with formal education and advanced degrees and medical is at the top of the list.


But really, the quality of the work experience after graduation is more important than the institution they graduated from- even in the healing professions. Accurate diagnoses result more from experience than classroom instruction.

I have noticed that very little that I learned in college has been of use in any of the jobs that I have held.

Here’s something - one of my favorites.

In 1985 I was hired as an I.T. ‘Engineer’ for Hewlett Packard. A freind had worked there for years and encouraged me to apply. I held back because of the title ‘Engineer’ and I never finished college. When I did finally apply it was with a Manager I knew alreeady. I had extensive computer experience in the same systems they wanted me to manage. I would work second shift, overseeing the computers which did regional accounting and also those sent financials to Wall Street, etc. I was interviewed by at least 5 people (Finance, programmers, IT, and so on). I also was self-taught in multiple computer languages and was a Ham Radio operator, so I also had electroniocs background.

The company paid me well (probably more than I deserved :-). We had periodic work reviews. They also paid for me to get college credits towards an I.T. degree. They compared salaries and required educational qualifications with other companies (Zerox, IBM, etc) so that I would be qualified and paid the same.

I eventually worked there 17 years with no official degree.

I once volunteered at the University of Richmond campus radio station. A guy came in with a First Class FCC license which allowed him to be an engineer at any Radio or TV station in the U.S… He had the book learing but had no idea what an ocilloscope was. That equipment is a pience of test equipment commonly used in almost any type of electronics company. You have seen them, the little TV screen with the sine waves and squigly lines on it (it measures voltage, curent and frequency of electrical signals).

I personally believe that real world experience and exuberance can often be a better fit than some degree.

It depends. I still use my formal university education every day as the foundation upon which I do my daily job. The technology is obsolete, but the physics is the same. I would never downplay a solid Bachelor of Science / Master’s degree in STEM. That can be worth $$$. My kid got her BSEE almost four years ago and she is doing really well, she was wined and dined and hired right out of school by a global engineering firm. As was I in… 1986.

I wouldn’t have my career in tech without a degree. Plus as I look back my college years were the most fun time of my life. I also made many lifelong close friendships.

Blanket statements like “Ditch the Degree” aren’t helpful. People need to be more prescriptive about their choices. Yes, a trade school or military can be great choices. Local community colleges followed by a state school can also be a great choice. If you can go to an expensive college without crippling yourself in debt go ahead.

Colleges have not moved away from teaching skill employers need. It’s getting to be the opposite. More colleges are are partnering with private industries to provide a education that is better aligned to their needs.

The advantages of a college degree have, in many cases, been oversold. The real problem is that having that sheepskin has become an easy item to add to the checklist of requirements in an over-educated labor market.

I was able to land a job with IBM as a field tech without a high school diploma. That position allowed me to land a job in sales. At that time IBM was requiring a minimum of a 4-yr college degree with a strong preference for MBAs. I competed daily with those MBAs and eventually moved on to specialize in K-12 educational marketing and planning.

I had to overcome the objections of many people within the company who were convinced that a degree made a difference, in my case it didn’t. Those academic bigots threw a lot of obstacles in my path, but I enjoyed a successful 30-year career with IBM.

During a discussion with a guest speaker during an IBM management-candidate development class at IBM’s Sands Point facility, the negative results of forcing such a hiring filter was brought to my attention. When I asked the guest speaker “what overriding characteristic do you observe in the IBM people you come in contact with?”… He answered: “a remarkable lack of imagination.”

It’s highly unusual for someone to work in technology sales at a major corporation without any college. You must have the right people skills and someone was willing to take a chance on you. So good on you. I have noticed people who didn’t get their degree (but did attend at least some college) often work harder because they feel they have to make up for their lack of a degree.

If someone wants to rise in the ranks of a corporation they absolutely need a degree. Many fields it’s required. Finance, accounting, most anything medical, engineering, computer science, teaching, law.

Too many people choose to get degrees in humanities that don’t prepare them for much. Great if you can afford it but if you bury yourself in debt and then cry about how you can only get low paying service industry & retail type jobs that’s just poor choices.

Your statement mirrors most folks’ beliefs and attitudes about what it takes to succeed in any career requiring advanced knowledge and critical thinking skills. During my IBM career the subject rarely came up with my fellow workers and never came up in my relationships with customers and clients.

My personal opinion of what it takes to be a successful participant in any endeavor requiring the selling of any idea, concept, plan of action or product revolves around how that salesperson’s thirst for knowledge manifests itself in pursuit of that knowledge. ie: How do they learn how to be successful in that selling effort?

People’s learning styles come in many flavors. But they all depend on the student’s willingness to absorb what is being taught by the teacher. Students learn by satisfying their innate need for knowledge based on their individual learning styles. Teachers usually focus on the what, the how, the where and the when of processes, techniques, theories and skills they teach. I think that why-oriented people have an aversion to being taught the “how” and “what” of a thing without accepting the “why” of the matter.

Here’s some notable dropouts:
Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Evan Williams, Ted Turner and David Murdock

Your examples are all people who started their own companies and wildly succeeded. Pretty rare thing to do. It’s like a kid saying he’s going to be a famous musician, actor, athlete, etc. It could happen but it’s unlikely.

A college degree is still the best and easiest path to advancement and success. It’s not for everyone and if you cannot afford it you shouldn’t go into debt to do. Or take a less traditional path. I don’t make the rules so don’t bark at me. Maybe it’s changing a bit but maybe not.

Lots of people will tell you college was the best time of their lives. They may have met their spouse there and made lifelong friendships. I can’t imagine having missed out on that experience. You have your whole life to work. You are only in your late teens and early 20s once.

I’m retired now, but I don’t have a college degree. I was in tech for 30 years. I started out in banking and one of my coworkers married a guy who was a recruiter for Electronic Data Systsm. She called me and said I needed to apply in their community banking division. She said they were looking for bank experience and not IT. When I started I did everything by the book when one of the other reps asked why I didn’t just let the computer do the work for me. I learned to write basic code for an IBM System 36. I automated the installation process for all types of conversions. I moved up, learning system management and performance on an IBM AS/400. I learned from those around me, and with the advent of the internet, was able to learn some rather complex things fairly easily. I worked for county government, that had their own IT department, but I was in house IT for the Health Department. A lot of the guys in IT said there is no way they’d want my job…they specialized and I had to know about hardware, software, networking…pretty much everything. When I retired, IT was looking for people who could do…pretty much everything.

But as I said in another post - They changed requirements and I could not be hired for the job I held for 20 years because I lack a college degree.

I’ll go along with your statement that a college degree is the easiest way to most higher-paying employment positions. It took luck, eight years and some kind & thoughtful advocates to get me into a marketing position with IBM. With a 4-year degree it probably would have taken half as long.

But the same class distinctions experienced by BA graduates of run-of-the-mill institutions when compared to MBA graduates of NYU and UC Berkeley exist in the minds most folks when they learn a person does not have a 4-year degree. And for a HS dropout that goes double.

But hey,… I wasn’t complaining… I was braggin!.. :nerd_face:

As in SQL? … or did you master RPG?

In 1983 I sold eight S/36’s on announcement day… the most in the state of Texas for first-day sales.

I learned in steps. The first thing was writing procs in OCL. In learning that, I learned how to pass parameters and I used that to automate the Installations at banks. I knew basic RPG - Since I had to support the software, I learned to read RPG and could usually find where a program was burping. I loved the System 36. We had one in KC that ran a real time order entry system (all remote) In KC, St Louis, Des Moines, Omaha, Wichita and Oklahoma City. We had 512MB of memory and less than 1 GB of disk., Yet the performance, even remote, was impressive.

We had 3 regional machines that I migrated to the AS/400, Then I learned performance management on the AS/400, which made me a a popular guy when I went to work for a local consulting firm… We came off the AS/400 about 2002. Goodbye green screen - hello GUI.

I sold lotsa AS/400s. The largest was to a County Govt/School District combination of two mainframes, lotsa storage, printers and terminals in 1989. It came to a little over $2M. I got to spend spent a week in Hawaii in implementation planning with their crew. Those were the good ole days. :nerd_face: