Degree or Experience?

Is a degree essential to get a good job?

From a UK perspective, the answer is simple – it depends on what profession you want to enter into and then the question of whether that profession needs a degree. Overall, it’s for professional bodies or employers to decide.

However, even if the professionals decide they need or want you to have a degree in their field, do today’s university courses really offer better preparation than on-the-job training and hands-on experience?

University or higher education isn’t easy. It demands long hours, concentration, motivation, and discipline. Many employers will be looking for someone who has a degree, whether it is relevant to the job or not, simply because it displays these important characteristics.

Another argument in favour of the university degree is the “student experience”. And no, I’m not referring to the discounts from your student card, nor to the generic partying lifestlye that an alarmingly high number of students choose to adopt. It has to be mentioned that living at university installs a great deal of self-confidence, independence, resourcefulness, and incredibly useful inter-personal skills – all of which will undoubtedly help you in life ahead.

Nonetheless, you can’t teach someone the qualities of being ambitious, driven, and entrepreneurial – these are attributes that are either part of an individual’s personality or not, and finishing a university degree is definitely not the only way to use these attributes to their highest potential.

For some, a university degree is invaluable, but for others there is no question that being savvy, commercially aware, and having a business acumen are qualities far more essential than simply having a piece of paper (albeit framed) in your hand.

Some people are simply better at learning on the job with practical experience. Others have the ‘gift of the gab’ and can talk their way into anything. Many are shrewd enough to move forward without having to be educated for an extra three to six years. The truth is that an increasing number of employers are far more interested in those who are already well informed and who have specific goals in mind about exactly what it is that they want to do. Hiring someone who has had either previous experience in their field of expertise or who has already had required training can be both far more appealing and economical for these employers looking to fill job vacancies.

And what about the incredible amounts of debt students are racking up by taking on a degree that they don’t necessarily need? Personal debt is a reality that affects a huge number in the UK. The education system is forcing graduates to start their working lives with as much as £50,000 of debt, with the typical graduate owing around £16,000. Additionally, with fewer and fewer graduate jobs available, these students are falling into an unavoidably expensive unemployment.

Employers are increasingly making their job requirements harder for a graduate to meet. All too often an entry-level position will require some level of experience.

As a working student, the best advice I can offer is to make the absolute most of your holidays and/or spare time that you possibly can. Get experience in the industry you want to work in by going in and helping out as often as you can.

There’s no argument that practical, hands-on, thrown-in-the-deep-end experience is simply invaluable for current employers offering positions in their companies.

So whether you’ve chosen to go to university or not; get planning, be proactive, increase your employability, and put yourself in the best possible position to get where you want to be.

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