What's the Value of a College Degree for Employers?

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Human Resources, Recruitment

As tuition costs continue to rise, young high school graduates face a difficult question: is it worth the burden of debt to achieve a college degree? 

The average cost of a 4-year degree in the United States is just over $100,000. Is the return on investment worth it? Are you going into a field where a college degree is typically required? Do employers still care about a college degree with this current, ever-waning talent pool?

The overwhelming majority of employers still seem to value applicants having a degree. A degree can answer potential questions about how you may fare as an employee. A degree is more than an expensive piece of paper; it represents the work you've completed over several years. It means you can commit to a goal and endure it for an extended time. 

Simply obtaining a degree answers underlying questions that employers don't even have to ask, such as, "are you able to arrive on time," or "are you able to complete work on time"?

Do Employers Value a College Degree?

The short answer is: yes, but with a caveat; it depends on the industry you're attempting to work in. There are certain fields that you absolutely cannot work in without higher education (healthcare, for example).

Most hiring executives still value higher education on an applicant's resume. According to AAC&U, 82% of business executives and 75% of hiring managers feel that a college degree is necessary for success. 

The Employability Report confirmed that employers still value a degree, as 62% of employers still believe a degree is essential for new hires. 

Some employers have admitted that a degree doesn't necessarily predict whether or not a new hire will be a good employee or whether or not they will stay with the company longer, which is a contradiction. 

Due to how quickly technology and information distribution are changing, it seems that degree requirements may be lessening in the coming years. Micro-certifications may soon suffice where an upper-level degree was once required, especially in more niche positions.

Why Is a College Degree Important to Employers?

A college degree isn't important to employers because of the information you've learned in your area of concentration. It's important because of what achieving the degree implies. An employer can glean unspoken information about qualities a candidate has simply with the knowledge that an applicant has a degree. Earning a 4-year degree involves a multitude of smaller tasks that all add up to a 4-year education. 

Over the years, you'll demonstrate perseverance, discipline, tenacity, and other character traits that are only developed by committing to a long-term goal. Of course, all of these are qualities that employers expect from someone they hope to work with for a long time. 

Team Working Skills 

College classes integrate team working and group projects into the class curriculum. It could be something as simple as making a presentation or writing a paper together. But achieving that simple task takes coordinating meet-up times, doing your fair share of the work (and doing it well), reviewing work, being considerate of other members' time and commitments, presentation skills, delegating work, and splitting up tasks. 

A degree implies that you've had decent experience working as part of a team, so an employer knows they can count on you to work well in a team on the job.

Problem Solving Skills

Depending on your concentration, you've probably been asked to come up with a solution to a problem or develop a research topic and write a well-thought-out analysis. You've probably been faced with a difficult task you didn't immediately find an answer to. Figuring out answers to difficult questions yourself, asking professors or classmates for help, encountering a problem, then struggling to find a solution: these are the tasks that build resilience and strengthen your ability to problem solve. 

When employers see that you have a degree, they expect you've been faced with such tasks and surmounted them.

Tenacity and Work Ethic 

Completing a formal college education implies several things: 

  1.  You've committed to accomplishing a long-term goal that was further than the immediate future,
  2.  You stuck to that goal for four years,
  3.  You demonstrated that you can work hard towards something big, and 4) you demonstrated all the necessary tasks to complete your goal. 

Achieving any goal that takes more than a few days to complete, carries a higher level of discipline and perseverance that others may not have. Is a college degree the only way to showcase these skills? Of course not. But, as soon as an employer sees a degree on a resume, they expect that you have certain marketable skills. 

Should Employers Require College Degrees?

Employers seem to recognize that having your diploma doesn't actually translate to job readiness but continue to require degrees regardless because that's what they've always done. 

This "degree stigma" discourages young graduates from applying for even entry-level jobs because they feel unqualified. 

The lack of applicants is causing a vast labor gap which will affect profits in the future. Requiring a 4-year degree is also turning away potential talent for the sake of "it's always been this way." 

Unfortunately, the question of whether employers should or shouldn't require degrees ends up being irrelevant. If the job you want requires a degree right now, you'll have difficulty convincing the hiring department differently.

How Can Employers Verify College Degrees?

Honesty is always the best avenue of approach when filling out an application. Employers can verify education by conducting an education background check: this verifies courses attended and degrees attained. They can verify high school attendance as well. 

The process is completed by getting the necessary information from the applicant (name, age, address, and name of the institution). Then, the employer either has a 3rd party verify this information with the educational institution or the employer contacts the institution themselves and confirms that the information you gave matches what the institution has. 

Final Thoughts

While degrees are still required for certain fields of employment, many employers are shifting towards certifications instead of 4-year degrees. Why does this matter to you? It means you should apply for whatever job you feel you can succeed in. If the hiring managers are impressed with your experience, they may opt to help you get a certification in lieu of a traditional college degree. Experience in the workforce is invaluable. Employers also know that a 4-year degree doesn't necessarily mean you'd be able to pick up on the job faster than someone without a degree.

If you are an employer looking to verify the education claims of your applicants, look no further than ScoutLogic. Contact us today!

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