Special Video Edition

Do employers shoot themselves in the foot when they require college degrees, especially for jobs that don’t seem to warrant them? In today’s job market, is it reasonable for an employer to treat a college degree as an indicator of ability to do a job? Or is this people filter just an inadequate proxy for more effective candidate assessment methods?

I’d like to hear your thoughts on these questions. But first, a video to provoke you.

Do college degree requirements promote better hiring?

college degree requirementsWe’ve discussed the college degree requirement in hiring and getting a job many times in this column. Recently, my good buddy Paul Solman did a segment about the subject on PBS NewsHour: Jobs requiring college degrees disqualify most U.S. workers — especially workers of color. You can watch the segment below, or read the transcript. Yours truly appears briefly at around 3:40.

My contribution to Solman’s story is that perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the keywords “college degree required.” In general — even if a job really would benefit from a degree — the degree requirement is often just another way for employers to filter what comes out of the digital fire hose of job applicants. In other words, if you don’t have the degree, ignore the requirement, because it serves more to reject you than to select viable candidates.

Pursue the opportunity anyway but, of course, use the methods we discuss here. That is, read the job posting, then don’t apply at all. Instead of meeting the keyword monster in the applicant tracking system (ATS), approach the hiring manager through a trusted contact. In spite of a degree requirement, the manager may conclude your abilities and acumen are sufficient to hire you. The keyword monster will merely spit you out.

In this segment Paul Solman takes another approach on the matter of college degree requirements. He asks, Do they unreasonably filter out good candidates? Do people seeking better-paying jobs really need a degree to get ahead?

Questions for you

I’d like to hear your thoughts and reactions on this NewsHour story.

  1. In today’s economy, when employers can’t fill jobs, would they do better to eliminate college degree requirements?
  2. Is vocational training or certification sufficient for an entire career?
  3. Will the people interviewed in the segment — who all work in computer software — eventually have to get degrees if they want to move up?
  4. Is Solman’s message valid for welders, pipe-fitters, baristas and bricklayers?
  5. Has the college degree become just another keyword to aid in rejecting job applicants?
  6. What do you make of the assertion that un-degreed workers earn 13% less over a lifetime, while those with a degree earn 13% more?
  7. For those that want to earn as much as degreed people without getting a degree, are there enough such jobs?
  8. What do you think of the comments about the value of college degrees offered by the philosopher toward the end of the segment?
  9. If you have a college degree and have been working for some time, do you think your degree has been essential to your career success and income?
  10. If you don’t have a degree but do have vocational training and are successful at work, do you think at some point your lack of a degree will hurt your career prospects and income?

Questions for employers

Another buddy of mine, Peter Cappelli, is a labor and employment researcher at the Wharton School. His research suggests one of the key reasons employers have difficulty filling jobs is that over the years they’ve dramatically reduced or stopped providing employee training and education.

  • If you’re an employer, how do you respond to Cappelli’s findings?
  • Can on-the-job training and development substitute for a college degree?

Where does this leave us? How does — or should — education fit into a successful career and earning a good salary? How many more questions like these could you possibly consider after reading this column?

: :



  1. For 98% of candidates, yes. There’s a few fields where a degree is a requirement, such as highly-specialized workers (doctors, lawyers, etc.) but for everything else, even highly technical workers, all a degree is is certification of one’s ability to memorize information and spit it out for tests and papers. It’s almost no marker of ability.

  2. How do we know at age 18 or 21 what you work you will be doing at age 40, 50, 60 or beyond? My field did not exist when I was 21. I used my relationship with insiders and my degrees to get my foot in the door and around HR. Then I learned the organization and where I wanted to work. My work ethic and success (sometimes failures) led to other opportunities. Still at my 4th job in 40+ years.

  3. This topic hits close to home since I’m a college graduate (BBA Michigan ‘84) while my children have varied success with college. Number one son went for two years said; not-for-me and got hired with major local business as a sales rep. . . He now runs the sales department and is making multiple six figures. Number two son took a different route in trades and learned a skill set in concrete that pays wages twice above average and gets off-season vacation time. Number three son is now back in college due to a grant and finishing his BA in accounting with a high paying internship that has much promise. All three are extremely happy and productive in their work.

    Myself – I retired from corporate life and now run a small business providing handyman services. My corporate career would never have happened without a college degree. I was recruited from Michigan my senior year through an internship and stayed on for 18 years in growing capacities. The company required a college degree for any position above a certain pay grade. Those without a degree were excluded from the top ranks in part because all the top ranking officials had multiple degrees from prestigious universities.

    I was fortunate to graduate with no debt. Today, the cost of college is insane and out of reach for most, luckily my son received a grant and we are picking up the incidental costs — ($500 parking permit – no joke).

    My dad, a WW II vet, graduated from college on GI Bill. He admits he would have never otherwise gone to college and would not have had the opportunities in corporate life if it wasn’t for the degree. On the other hand my mother didn’t finish high school due to the depression and later got her GED. She went on as what is now called a solopreneur and amassed above average wealth.

    So I applaud those featured in the PBS video. Follow your dreams… we’re all built to do great things … be a life long learner, take risks, be creative, never give up, be humble and pass it on.

    • @Paul: Your comments and other observations of my own make me wonder whether a college degree was a bigger deal 30+ years ago than it is today.

      “Those without a degree were excluded from the top ranks in part because all the top ranking officials had multiple degrees from prestigious universities.”

      So is it a “club,” or do highly educated managers want/need/prefer college graduates, and why?

  4. My personal experience is that when there’s a demand for college degrees for jobs, even when the jobs don’t merit having college degrees, that said employers have an “elitist” snob culture and caste system. Experienced it multiple times over the years, whether in actual work environments, or in the hellish job interview processes. Especially true with the heavier hitters.

    I sense the frustration of these men in the PBS interviews, and I can certainly personally relate to their stories. These are working guys, not “silver spoon” types, who’ve busted their chops, and taken their blows and slap downs. The feeling of inadequacy that’s been beat into their heads for not having a college degree is a false and twisted premise. I once bought into it as well.
    The fact that these guys did get OJT earn while you learn opportunities is more than I, and many others, have ever received. On that part, I’m not too sympathetic with these guys. One of the guys stated he “wants a career”. Looks like he has a career to me. I’d be grateful for having more than many others have. Nothing says what he, or the others are doing, is a death sentence either. Jobs (careers) come and go, especially today, and like the saying goes “adapt and improvise”. I have both a two year technology degree, and a four year technology degree, and I can say unequivocally say that both have never served me in any capacity, either in landing a job, maintaining a job, or advancing in a job.

    For me personally (as well as many others I’ve known), its been “shake the bushes”, and whatever falls out, you go with, or keep shaking the bushes until something else falls out, if it even does. I don’t buy into the concept that networking, or its who you know, especially today, has great validity or success, despite those on here who tout this.

    I have a customer who’s two sons (ages 25 and 30 respectively) both served Millwright apprenticeships. Both average 3,000 hours annually (you make your bank with OT in trades and hourly blue collar work) and both earn up in the six figures. Their buddies with degrees their age live at home, work low-level jobs, and have huge student loan debt. Enough said there.

    • > My personal experience is that when there’s a demand for college degrees for jobs, even when the jobs don’t merit having college degrees, that said employers have an “elitist” snob culture and caste system.

      A year or so ago, I saw several ads that specified “college degree required” and then went on to state which elite, Ivy League-type schools’ degrees they were looking for. So, yeah, it’s not hard to imagine that you’d find a “snob culture and caste system” at those employers.

      • Many years ago, as a much younger man, I worked for a large Fortune 500 petrochemical company.
        I worked in one of their manufacturing plants in the Plant Engineering department in a small midwestern town. Contrary to popular misconception, these heavy hitters generally offer decent benefit packages, but uncompetitive wages, and are really not all that great to work for. My title was “Technologist”, which was a then recent innovation they implemented to save $. Simply put, I did the job of an M.E, but got paid considerably less. At that time, I only had an AAS from a CC in a somewhat unrelated technical discipline. The Plant Engineer (an M.E. who was the classical “bad boss”, and who gave me bad vibes during the interview) had a way of looking at things like this “you went to MY alma mater, and you pledged to MY fraternity, otherwise you weren’t worth your salt”. Of course, I as a guy with a two year degree from some no name back water CC was the center of his ire, and condescension of his engineers. While I learned some skills in the 2 tumultuous years I was there (from the skilled trades/crafts people, which really irked him and his engineers as I had absolutely nothing to learn from them), I was glad to move on. I ended up in a small second tier state university 2 more years to earn a BS in Industrial Technology. At 64, nobody looks at my education anymore, and for that matter, I leave it out of any discussions.

    • Interesting to see the comments regarding “elitist” and “snob” as it relates to workplaces that require college degrees. One of my biggest culture shocks when I first went to college was how many of my classmates weren’t smart. I had never heard of “open enrollment” at that time, where some schools will basically take anyone who applies. I went to a state school on a full scholarship as an out of state student, and most of the in state students weren’t that bright.

      I don’t know if it makes me a “snob,” but I grew up in a low income neighborhood where graduating high school was a big deal. I always saw college as the door opener to the type of life I only saw on TV. The fact that I ended up with two degrees, I believe, is something I should rightly be proud of, and I believe, also in my mind rightly, that the fact that I was able to achieve this after not being surrounded by college graduates, means that I have proven myself worthy of opportunities in high paying jobs for which my education is applicable.

      I wish I had known before or during college, that employers had changed the rules and would not consider hiring you, even with a college degree, so that I could have planned my future accordingly.

      I am amused by all of the people who bemoan the college degree requirements, since they are not aware of those of us who have the prerequisites but still don’t get a shot. I am proud of my educational accomplishments and I just see it as anti-intellectualism when people get mad at colleges and education, or at employers who require it.

  5. I had a colleague who made it mandatory that anyone working in his department had to have a Ph.D. It didn’t matter what field it was in. It turned out having a Ph.D. was not a predictor of success but a great way of pushing your agenda through the executives.

  6. I am not sure college degrees still have the value described by the professor. College today seems like an expensive box to tick, especially with the shift towards online programs, many of which are a shadow of in person classes.

    My B.A. was in a purely academic field that has nothing to do with my career. A second degree was slightly more relevant to my work but purely box ticking. The networking was worth more than anything I learned in the classroom. That degree may help my resume get pulled from a pile and that’s the only reason I got it.

    A bit of a tangent, but a friend teaches at a local university. As an untenured professor, he earns about 3k per course, per semester, which is roughly what each student pays to attend the class. Interesting math with forty kids in the classroom, no? There’s something sick about college in the United States today.

  7. I’ve come to believe that any discussion of education should include the idea summarized in this 3-minute article: “Op-Ed: What students know that experts don’t: School is all about signaling, not skill-building” … which can be read at, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-caplan-education-credentials-20180211-story.html

    In this post, Nick, you say, “In other words, if you don’t have the degree, ignore the requirement, because it serves more to reject you than to select viable candidates” and to apply anyway.

    I’ve spent the past 45 years advocating for and teaching job-seekers this very philosophy / method, but I’m afraid this way of seeking and granting employment may be on the way out. Why? Because it appears that an employer who posts a degree requirement in a job ad, and subsequently hires someone without a degree, and concurrently does NOT hire an applicant for that job that does have a degree, will be in violation of the relatively new federal OFCCP rules and regulations (Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs). These are relatively new rules, it seems unclear exactly what they mean and how they will be enforced, but it appears that the “handwriting is on the wall” and that the way you and I have been advising job seekers to seek employment may be no more.

    • @Chris: Perhaps the OFCCP will motivate employers to write job descriptions and ads that are clear, unambiguous and honest. Of course, this means hiring managers and HR will actually have to work together…

  8. [REDACTED] It is true, that many low-level jobs do not require a degree. They do require common sense and the ability and desire to learn. I have seen first-hand that the knowledge college degree makes one invaluable in a decent company. That is, one that rewards achievement. I know one man who found a way to get 10 million dollars before I saw blade company in Ohio that was going out of business. This was because of his knowledge. Another man made a contribution toward employer that net of the employer 550 million dollars in the first year. Those contributions were not made by idiots with no knowledge. If you ever talk to somebody with a degree and compare that with the same conversation with somebody without a

  9. POLLING EVERYONE: Are you experiencing problems when you click Submit Comment? Do you get a message that says:

    Error: You have entered an incorrect reCAPTCHA value.
    Click the BACK button on your browser and try again.

    HINT: If you click BACK, you will find your comment is not lost. It’s at bottom of list of all comments, ready to be posted as a new comment, even if you attempted to REPLY to someone else’s comment. If you Submit again, or copy your comment and re-submit it on the thread you intended to comment on, it works. Sorry for the hassle!

    *** This should be fixed now! Sorry for the inconvenience! ***

    This is all due to software I use to block comment spam. (When this is turned off, thousands of huge spam comments leak thru!) I’m working on finding an alternative solution. Thanks for your patience! Suggestions from WordPress experts welcome!

    – Nick

  10. In Oregon the inverse is true re education. Minimum standards are regularly a GED. More than that and you are regarded as overqualified and that way the locals are given preference as underqualified,undereducated,undertrained and undersocialized applicants. Salary is also much lower regardless of high housing costs. Pretty clever.

  11. For me, as someone who holds a master’s degree and tried for 6 years to launch a career that makes use of the degree I earned before finally giving up and trying to change careers to a field where I have no education or experience, my problem is not that companies require college degrees, it’s the fact that even if you have the exact degree they say they are looking for, you often times can’t even a simple job interview for the specific position you studied in college to land.

    • I know someone who became an attorney, with the goal of continuing in a specialty he’d already worked in as a paralegal.

      A lot of law firms wouldn’t hire him because he hadn’t already done this type of work as an attorney. Even though he knew his stuff inside and out. I have the feeling no one ever did.

      • Since I didn’t go to law school, it’s hard to understand why. If you just got out of law school, you haven’t done ANY type of work as an attorney, so how are you supposed to get experience? I thought that law schools were good about placing their graduates, so it’s surprising that whatever contacts he made during law school, or the law firm where he was a paralegal, didn’t open any doors for him.

  12. I was never able to get a job related to my college degree as passing a physical was mandatory for many good jobs. I had health issues so I could not do this. My college offered no help with job placement as it was a small private place that had financial problems for years, and was closing down. I did do an internship but was not offered a job. At that time, this did not bother me because I did not want to work there, anyway.

    I was in debt for my education, as were my parents for over 10 years. I do not feel like it was a waste though. I have a liberal arts background so I am a better writer than many with other degrees. I also had other classes which made me more open minded and better at multi tasking than many I knew.

    I did do volunteer work and had a part time job for a number of years that utilized some of my skills.

    I did go to the community college and attempt to get training in a more practical, 2 year degree. However fate and my health caused issues with finishing this. I had 2 years of computer classes and learned to be computer literate. There were never a lot of local jobs for people who had finished this degree.

    A lot of my problems were caused by the area of the US I lived in and available jobs and careers. The ones that paid the best all required scientific degrees and many people had Ph Ds. There were not a lot of these jobs however, and getting one was difficult for many. The other people in my area who had good jobs were self employed professionals or in a medical field. I was unable to relocate to another city and find a suitable job. My husband was never able to find a job a suitable job in another state either.

    • @Trish: “I have a liberal arts background so I am a better writer than many with other degrees. I also had other classes which made me more open minded and better at multi tasking than many I knew.”

      I agree that a liberal arts degree reflects writing, communication and problem-solving skills that can pay off at work. I think employers devalue these skills when they emphasize specialist degrees (computer science, business, etc.) — thereby making people reconsider getting a liberal arts degree.

      Not to be cute, but could this be one reason why job descriptions are so crappy?

    • @Trish: Like you, I majored in one of the “liberal arts” (which is quite a range of majors, from biology and chemistry to English and history to French and Japanese and more), and found that it helped me with all of my jobs, even though liberal arts majors are often looked down (as in “what can you do with THAT fill in the blank for major) but as you noted, those majors teach the “soft skills” that employers claim they want (writing/communication, reading and reading comprehension, and critical thinking/problem solving skills).

      I think too many employers don’t know what the job entails, if the duties have changed, if new or different skills are needed, etc., and they don’t bother to do periodic reviews, sit down with the people who held those jobs and noted exactly what they did and how (what skills were needed) they did them. Worse still are the employers who turn writing job descriptions over to HR, which doesn’t work in those depts. and hasn’t got a clue what is needed, whether it is in terms of education or hands-on skills.

      Yes, I think far too many jobs list “college degree required” when it isn’t if the job can be done with some on the job training. I’ve seen jobs for receptionists requiring bachelors’ degrees. This makes no sense. You’re answering the phone, transferring calls, serving as the first person clients and customers meet when entering the business. No college degree or course will teach you how to answer the phone. So why make it a requirement for employment? This is the kind of job a high school graduate or high school dropout could do.

      I agree that for some jobs and professions, a degree or degrees are absolutely required. If you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a pharmacist, a nurse, an engineer, a teacher, then you need to have whatever degrees are required for those jobs and professions. If you wish to go into one of the trades, then you’ll require some kind of post high school (I know if vo-tech school students who wish to become electricians, plumbers, automotive repair, etc. can do this at the high school level. In my area, it was once enough provided that you followed the curriculum for those trades, did the state required apprenticeships and worked as a journeyman, plus passed your exams for licensure, but not now–those who want to work in those fields go on to the local technical community college or other vo-tech school). I think degree creep (with jobs requiring ever more education) is very much a thing, but I wonder how much of that is because of declining standards at the K-12 level, leaving colleges, particularly the community colleges, to do much of the work that high schools used to do.

      I, too, have heard of employers who will only hire people from certain colleges and universities. There are some law firms in NYC that will only hire Harvard Law School graduates. Some businesses will only hire business grads from other highly-ranked schools (or from the schools that their current big wigs attended). That too is ridiculous–as if people who attended other schools have nothing to offer.

  13. Nick,

    Nice piece; something different. There are plenty of job postings listing a degree requirement that aren’t valid. Just like playing The Keyword Game, it’s a way to cut down on the ATS flood created by HR. What a college degree *does* demonstrate is that you have the ability to apply yourself and achieve a goal. That’s a skill that applies in the workplace. It’s a very expensive way to demonstrate your ability, but it’s the current standard, for better or worse.

    My personal story is I worked in Engineering for about 80% of my career (and still use those skills in the startup where I work). It may be unfair, but your chances of landing a job in that field without a degree are very slim. It’s different for software, as shown in the video, because you can get away with a less rigorous approach. (I’ve been a Software Engineer, too, so I’m not dumping on the profession.)

    What gets ignored now are the trades. You can make a very good living that way, and those subjects were once available in high school – but I don’t think that’s as true now. It still takes time and effort, just like college.

    The truth is, you’re probably going to make less money without a college degree. And you’re probably going to be inhibited in your climb up the corporate ladder as well. Remember, you can always start your own company, or join a startup and bypass that problem. Also, ask yourself just how much money you really need and why. You could be very happy living a moderate lifestyle instead of chasing the almighty dollar to your grave.

    Bottom line: Yeah, a BS is probably BS for a good number of professions.

    • @Larry B: “What a college degree *does* demonstrate is that you have the ability to apply yourself and achieve a goal. That’s a skill that applies in the workplace. It’s a very expensive way to demonstrate your ability, but it’s the current standard, for better or worse.”

      In general I think that’s very true, but it’s a sentiment that’s often lost nowadays. Succeeding in college does mean something, and I think you encapsulated it.

      Maybe college is (used to be?) boot camp for the working world? I also agree that once upon a time in high school there were two tracks: academic (you’re going to college) and vocational (you’re preparing to work in the trades) — and once upon a time there was no stigma in the latter. And once upon a time there were lots of people in the trades that had B.A. or B.S. degrees.

      I think some of the uncomfortable debate about the value of the college degree stems from whether a college graduate actually uses what they learned — and whether people realize that skills accrued in, say, a liberal arts program have nothing specifically to do with any particular kind of job. Such skills are important in any kind of job.

      • College hasn’t been that way for quite a while now. Yes, there are technical schools that offer degrees (I went to one) and the technical school part of it is useful, but most colleges now are glorified adult daycares. This has been particularly true in the last few years, and even when I went 15 years ago the stuff outside the technical classes felt more just like showing up and checking a box.

  14. Unless your profession is vocational, a degree probably didn’t provide you with the skills to be wildly successful. Most positions will have some on the job acclimation and a way of doing things, even among similar roles in similar industries. The degree probably won’t substitute real applicable experience. What a degree does provide (again barring technical vocations/certifications) is proof that the candidate can start a task that takes a long time and finish what they start. That might be a very desirable trait in the candidate. The difference between candidates with a degree and without is like a candidate with six jobs in the past two years vs. a candidate with one job the past two years.

    Real talk though, having the degree absolutely helps you get noticed in the circus that is a hiring process with recruiters. I hold a masters degree. I have been on the search for a career twice in the past 6yrs. I know that I have gotten to a hiring manager or pushed through the process because I had the MBA on my resume. I have the experience to discuss my qualifications once I get to the hiring manager, but recruiters are using software to weed out candidates. If they can check a box and take the candidates to review from 500 to 100 by selecting education level they will. I always looked for a person when I hired, not a checklist. So the degree shouldn’t matter if you bring the skills, attitude, and work effort of the right candidate to the employer.

  15. Degree requirements frequently work against older employees because they are are narrowly tailored to skim off all but a few younger applicants while experience is given short shrift.

    Nick, I went to your alma mater in the early 70s (DC 7?), majored in a liberal arts field. The courses I took required a great deal of reading and a lot of writing. Grades were based on how well I could synthesize the subject material to participate actively in class discussions and write about it cogently on exams and papers; how well I wrote and spoke were taken into account on grades. On-campus recruiting got me a job at graduation (a rare thing in those days) with an insurance company which needed employees who could write and think critcally; the company trained us in the subject matter.

    I turned that on-the-job training into jobs in benefit administration, with a side of some HR duties. I was lucky in my first benefits job to have a boss who taught me and allowed me to learn to grow my job far beyond when I started.

    Fast forward to many years later, after a hiatus to raise a child, when I was working for a goverment contractor. There was an opening there for a benefits job I was qualified to do by virtue of my prior experience and training (both on the job and in formal certification programs) and my then-manager encouraged me to apply. A college degree in HR or related field was required in addition to several years of experience.

    Because of gov’t contractor hiring rules, I had to go through an automated system which asked questions about experience and qualifications. When asked if I had a degree in HR, I truthfully answered “No”, expecting a follow up on my degree but there was none. I got an automated response telling me that I did not meet the minimum qualifications due to no HR degree.

    Shortly after, the HR person handling the hire called me very concerned that my application had dropped out. (We worked in the same location and had numerous, work-related intereactions.) I told her that the system only asked if I had an HR degree without pursuing any further. I then pointed out that I believed the question discriminated on the basis of age because, to my knowledge, no HR degree programs existed at the time I went to college and the standard practice was that training was provided on the job in various entry level positions. I also pointed out that my substantial prior experience coupled with passing exams in a number of recognized industry courses should serve as having the specialized knowledge the position required.

    Very quickly, I was informed that I met the posted job requirements and my degree would be considered as a related field. I was told to go back into the automatated system and answer “Yes” the degree requirement question, which incidently had already been changed to include “or a related field”.

    I did get the job and later solidified my HR bona fides with an industry certification.

    • Go DC!! I spent more time there than on the RC campus though I was an RC student. At 20, it was an easy calculation. There were more girls at DC and the cafeteria food was better than at Brouwer!

      So it seems that while your academic credentials failed you, your acumen and personal contacts got you through!

      • RU Rah Rah!! While I question your assessment of the cafeteria food, DC was (and still is) an ideal place for a young woman because of the constant encouragement to achieve. While it was nice to see RC guys around, I did marry an Aggie.

  16. I got my degrees through non standard path. I stated college studies but went into the military. I left the military after a couple years and obtained an HVAC diploma. Worked doing Maintenance and HVAC jobs for a few years. I decided to go back to school and got an Associate degree in Electronics (Used Military funds to help pay). My thinking at the time was the HVAC equipment was having a lot more electronics in it. The potential employers stated I was overqualified for HVAC due to my new degree. I decided to go into high tech as a Engineering Technician. After 3 years, I took night courses and got a Bachelors degree. I obtained several certifications as well.

    Things learned from the above training etc.

    Low end HVAC jobs do not earn very much. Owning your own HVAC business does not equal success if you do not run it like a business (even if you have good skills). I ran it like a charity and did not make it successful. Need a business mindset.

    Having a boss promise you a promotion (even having the new position shown on slides in weekly meetings) does not mean you will get the promotion. I also learned that I do not need to put up with that and can leave the group.

    Backing individuals in a business does not equal success if they also run the business like a charity.

    Degrees matter some times. If I did not have my degree my current employer would not have brought me on when they purchased my old company. Also, the knowledge I got from my degree helped me in my job.

    Certification are more important for the knowledge they impart. Target certifications for what you want / need now or near term. Server and network certifications helped my job performance. My 6 Sigma certification helped with analysis of systems (system stability). Other areas of 6 Sigma did not help my job. Some other certifications, such as PMP (Project Management Professional) helped with short term raise and promotions but not long term on the job at this point.

    I guess in summary, learning is a tool to help you obtain your goals. Focus on learning that will advance yourself. Helping you on annual reviews is a valid reason to pick up a certification or degree. If you can go into the corporate world and have them pay for your Tuition that would be better for your pocketbook (if you are unable to get a full ride). Make sure you allow some breaks in college learning if you are taking night classes. Taking too many credit hours with large hourly work load can lead to burnout.

    Hope this helps.

    • Interesting how your journey kind of parallels my own. I went to a CC in a neighboring state in the mid-1970s and received my AAS in HVAC. The school I went to touted themselves as the finest trade school in the nation, but it was anything but that (was a major clown show, and today they tout themselves as the preferred trade school in their state). Like you pointed out, contrary to common misconceptions, HVAC jobs are LOW paying (unless one gets into the pipe fitters union), and like you said, while having your own HVAC business may be a path to make better bank, many HVAC techs aren’t business saavy. I also got a BS in a technology field from a university at age 30, and it’s not opened any doors for me. Skills sell (as I’m sure you know), and a roll of the dice.

    • @Curtis: Thanks for the insights on how degrees do and don’t work into some careers.

  17. People make college degrees today, because they dont know what to do in their lives. If you feal passion about something you go to technical school instead of high school. Then after SAT/matriculation test if you still doesnt know what to do with your live you go to day time college. Conclusion after 3 college diplomas..for menageres colleege yes…4 specialist not neccesary. Contrary, you cant focus on 1 thing having potencial to comprehensively analize everyting.

  18. I think the answer is “it depends”. Some professions you require a degree to practice in the job. Some professions use the degree as an assumption of base level knowledge, and an ability to study and apply yourself to a task, for entry level positions. Some places just want a way to short cut everyone that applies for the job.

    Everything should come down to experience and ability but, certainly with entry level positions, the degree will weigh heavily in the favour of getting the entry level job. Once you have experience then the degree should have much less weighting. Possession of a degree should not be an automatic cut off for a job that requires experience. However, the reality is the people most likely to have the experience are those with the degree. In my case I started my career as part of a graduate recruitment program so my degree was vital. After that everything was based on experience and ability.

    The thing I do find bemusing is the sports scholarship. I can understand the concept of scholarships if you show academic ability, and an aptitude for the profession you want to work in, but providing a scholarship for someone who is good at sport seems to run counter to selecting the most suitable candidate for a degree.

  19. After reading the comments, I have come to the conclusion that higher education only wants our money and are not interested in what happens after graduation.
    I worked for a company that required a degree for any management position and then payed manager’s salary at HALF of what hourly workers made. SERIOUSLY. This was a union shop and there was CONSTANT friction between salaried and hourly all because they needed a degree to be a manager and hourly was earning close to 6 figures. It took months to get a grievance resolved. Usually it was resolved before the local NLRB and the company usually lost. Managers were a revolving door. When a manager was complaining to me about the inequality in the company I told him to polish his resume and get out….two weeks later he was terminated.
    The company went private and was purchased by a private equity company and moved to Mexico.

  20. 1. Employers should never have started using the college degree requirement, or have stopped as soon as they began.
    2. It should be, but it is not.
    3. Only if they want to move into the business side of the company.
    4. Absolutely. If you want to quit doing that and start doing something cleaner.
    5. Yes.
    6. Absolutely true. The degreed managers can’t see giving the same pay to the “unwashed masses”.
    7. Yes, but they are in providing legitimate services. Diesel engine mechanic, plumber, HVAC, etc.
    8. Pure unadulterated virtue signaling. Absolutely the last reason’s why anyone should go to college.
    9. Does not apply.
    10. It already has. But since I no longer am hunting IT jobs, it no longer matters.

    • It’s pretty funny that employers have used a degree as a search criteria for finding qualified candidates, but I’ve never seen a job board have a “degree required” field for finding positions. The job board might have an experience level filter, but not usually an education filter. Shows who has a priority on education level and if it really matters. If it was really important, job seekers would be able to fill out a profile on a job board and see only the employers that have similar requirements to both their education level and experiences. If it matters to one side of the table it should matter to all sides of the table.

  21. One night, I found myself sitting across a licensed shrink. We had been introduced earlier that evening by name and occupation only. I was discussing films with the person next to me. In just a short while, the shrink began to look at me with a most puzzled expression. I caught the expression, and with a look of concern asked, “Is everything OK?” He maintained his puzzled look and asked, “Are you sure that you’re a Warehouse Manager? You sure don’t talk like a Warehouse Manager . . . ”

    I smiled, and assured him that I was indeed a Warehouse Manager. Considering that I had only knocked off three years of an undeclared major at a state college, I took his comment as one of the best compliments of my professional career.

    To answer the question at hand, however, I think that having a college mind-set is more important than having a degree. I’m sure that more than a couple of people have run off with a college degree but without the attendant maturity or expanded scope of mind that one would expect from a graduate of “higher education”.

    The only time that I have regretted not having a degree was during our “keynote recession” circa 2010ce, when the early numbers indicated that most degreed people had dodged the economic bullet. This was short-lived, however, as 2010 revealed how badly we really messed things up. As the recession dragged on, the college grads began getting hit as hard as us poor un-degreed slobs.

  22. My late father was a WWII era guy, and a journeyman machinist. He had a HS diploma (back in the day when it meant something) and served a United Steel Workers apprenticeship. He had two patents out with Minneapolis Honeywell (never saw a dime of any profits, nor did he seem to care). I’d put him up any day against any PHD I’ve ever had. College is over rated and a scam, and I think more young people, especially young men, are seeing this.

  23. Random note from 6-29-2021 found 11-23-2021

    Instead of college-level education, college-level thought processes and emotional maturity.

  24. We really should think of degrees as just a 4-year training certificate. Maybe a broad-based certificate, but still the same.

    1 In today’s economy, when employers can’t fill jobs, would they do better to eliminate college degree requirements?
    Employers need to understand that a degree is a way to measure that a person has had some sort of schooling in a given field. How a person got that training and how it relates to the job is more important than whether there is a 4-year degree.

    Most hiring managers understand this, but because HR doesn’t understand the jobs they are hiring for, they impose this base requirement. The degree requirement is for HR, not the hiring manager, and not the employee.

    2 Is vocational training or certification sufficient for an entire career?

    No, to progress in a field requires a constant program of upgrading knowledge and technique. Technology and techniques change, and workers need to adapt. Companies need to recognize this, and evolve their employee base, instead of swapping out employees like they are changing parts in a machine.

    3 Will the people interviewed in the segment — who all work in computer software — eventually have to get degrees if they want to move up?

    That depends on what you mean by “Move up”. Again, a degree is a measurement of training, and a degree in, say, Computer Science, doesn’t prepare someone to be a supervisor/manager. (Do you know who gets a lot of training in how to be a supervisor/manager? People in the military. HR doesn’t recognize that, because,,,well because they don’t want to).

    4 Is Solman’s message valid for welders, pipe-fitters, baristas and bricklayers?
    Technology in metals, plumbing, and building techniques are constantly evolving. Coffee? Maybe, for all I know.

    5 Has the college degree become just another keyword to aid in rejecting job applicants? Absolutely, especially for older workers.

    6 What do you make of the assertion that un-degreed workers earn 13% less over a lifetime, while those with a degree earn 13% more?

    Probably about true. It isn’t, in my experience, a reflection of production or accomplishment. It is often a way to retain degreed workers.

    7 For those that want to earn as much as degreed people without getting a degree, are there enough such jobs?
    Are there such jobs? Yes. Enough?, no.

    If you can get past HR, and the hiring managers are daring enough to stand up to HR. Most managers now cannot cross HR, or they will be on the next RIF list. Managers also find tasks like discipline and who gets cut tedious and unpleasant, and abdicate their responsibilities to HR. HR loves cowards. HR runs most companies now.

    8 What do you think of the comments about the value of college degrees offered by the philosopher toward the end of the segment? I don’t think people who run businesses put much into what a Philosophy Professor says, especially if it doesn’t add numbers to next quarters profit margin.
    Make what
    9 If you have a college degree and have been working for some time, do you think your degree has been essential to your career success and income? N/A

    10 If you don’t have a degree but do have vocational training and are successful at work, do you think at some point your lack of a degree will hurt your career prospects and income?

    Yes, it already has. And more so as I got older. It is an excuse to not hire, to not give raises, to not promote and to discriminate. When people (especially HR, but not exclusively) want to hire a particular person (or type of person, i.e., someone younger, or someone who doesn’t know their value, or is lower cost), they will look for a reason, not having a degree gives them one.

    Let me add that I don’t have anything against degrees, or degreed people. Degrees are a perfectly appropriate way to enter the job market, and colleges provide (to varying degrees) good training. I work alongside many college grads, and find that many know more about say, statistics and programing and theory than I do, I also find that many cannot string more than a paragraph or two together that make sense. Make what you will of that. But that doesn’t mean a degree is wasted.
    I also find that HR thinks that while the vocational training I had 30+ years ago is no longer relevant (meh, yea, some), the training that comes with a college degree never expires. If you have that sheepskin, you are golden.

  25. Brian —

    You say, “Most hiring managers understand this, but because HR doesn’t understand the jobs they are hiring for, they impose this base requirement. The degree requirement is for HR, not the hiring manager, and not the employee.”

    If this is true, and if hiring managers are in fact only concerned with a candidate’s ability to do the job, then the problem, the glitch, the fly in the ointment, is easy to identify and easy to solve.

    The problem lies squarely at the feet of hiring managers.

    And the solution is to cut HR out of the hiring process, with the exception that HR should make sure that hiring rules and laws (OFCCP, EEOC, etc) are being followed.

    If hiring managers feel that the HR-driven process doesn’t work, is burdensome, and if hiring managers are unwilling to cut HR out of the picture, then I would argue that hiring managers are to blame for any ensuing difficulties.