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I think college degrees are overrated.


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I can say a that bit easier since I have an EE degree. Over time I came to doubt the value of degrees in tech work.

 

When I first started work and was promoted to a manager and suddenly had a bit of hiring authority I thought degrees were a near requisite. Then I started noticing that people with degrees were often not all that capable. The good programmers and engineers turned out to be people that, well, just loved what they did. Perhaps this was because tech was changing so rapidly that education became dated quickly. Perhaps it was that people that loved tech lived and breathed it and were always on top of things.

 

In any case I eventually got talked into starting a business by a colleague who's "degree" consisted of a GDE. He turned out to be a great partner. After work we would often spend an hour in the parking lot kicking ideas around, evaluating the competition, and otherwise dreaming and planning. He had an incredible ability to see opportunity.

 

Things went well. Very well.

 

OTOH, perhaps the best techie I ever worked with had a doctorate. I didn't hold it against him.

 

There are many paths but the common ingredient is a fire to learn and grow rather than any specific credential. At least in tech fields in smaller companies.

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It is a bit of an extreme to say college degrees are overrated. A better statement might be that, in some fields, the requisite for college degrees is too extreme.

 

But a good degree shows you know much more than your field of study. It shows you follow through, that you are capable of complex thought processes, that you have a well rounded knowledge base, that you can research and report findings competently, etc.

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There are a lot of worthless or at least dubious majors out there. And in some fields that aren't worthless, there are slackers. I think the most glaring example of that is in the computer industry. Tons of worthless people and some of the best people out there don't have degrees.

 

In my field, however, a degree is required to play because the state licensed us. So, I don't think my degree is overrated.

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To be fair, my degree is often called "useless." I triple majored in English, History and Communication. There have been a few times when I have to justify how that degree qualifies me for a job. But I can do it. And I can do it because of the education I received. Does that mean I think my field should require a degree? Absolutely not. A self-taught person can do this job just as well as I can.

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I received my degree a little later in my life (38 to be exact). I was in the Marines from 1990-2000 and then fell into a career in Human Resources. I worked my way up to Manager with a government contractor without a degree. As soon as I graduated I got a 10% salary increase but later was part of a reduction in force during the recession in 2011. Since then I have changed jobs twice and now work for the Government and my salary has increased a total of 30% since getting my degree.

 

It also has opened up a lot more opportunity for me within the Government and public/private sector in terms of being more qualified for senior manager and executive level positions.

Edited by ericgunit
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To be fair, my degree is often called "useless." I triple majored in English, History and Communication. There have been a few times when I have to justify how that degree qualifies me for a job. But I can do it. And I can do it because of the education I received. Does that mean I think my field should require a degree? Absolutely not. A self-taught person can do this job just as well as I can.

 

I agree with much of this. A degree does show an ability to stick with things and follow through. There are also areas where a degree is pretty much an essential. For instance when we needed to hire a CFO. When a company is tiny it really doesn't need a CFO but as a company grows at some point there needs to be someone that spends increasing amounts of time on financials. A CFO also needs the wide range of education provided by an MBA. Especially as a company gets bigger, has foreign subsidiaries, the complexities of a public company and such. These are the natural evolutions that occur with growth.

 

Degrees, and more importantly, education and knowledge, are important and even necessary in certain areas. In other areas they are less critical and often people that are not degreed perform quite well. Some even excel perhaps because they don't have a degree and are more continuously drive to excellence. I saw this in sales, marketing, and engineering.

 

To summarize, a degree is an indicator but not sufficient. We hired, promoted and paid people based on their ability. More often than not these people had degrees but just because people had a degree was not determinative. What they contributed was.

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What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

 

There are many paths but the common ingredient is a fire to learn and grow rather than any specific credential.

 

 

Unfortunately when you apply for a job nowadays it is a box that has to be checked for a lot of positions.

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What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

 

There are many paths but the common ingredient is a fire to learn and grow rather than any specific credential.

 

 

Unfortunately when you apply for a job nowadays it is a box that has to be checked for a lot of positions.

 

What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

:good:

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There are a lot of worthless or at least dubious majors out there. And in some fields that aren't worthless, there are slackers. I think the most glaring example of that is in the computer industry. Tons of worthless people and some of the best people out there don't have degrees.

 

In my field, however, a degree is required to play because the state licensed us. So, I don't think my degree is overrated.

 

I suspect that, as a small, initially private, company we benefited from a surplus of capable but non-degreed peeps that were locked out of larger companies, especially ones that contracted with government agencies where degrees were a factor in the ability to do business.

 

There are a lot of slackers in any environment. We didn't tolerate them. They were a drain on the entire employee base and impaired our ability to grow and reward contributors. The higher up in an organization the more negative the impact of slackers are and we demanded the most from those higher up in the organization. This isn't easy but it is necessary.

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What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

 

There are many paths but the common ingredient is a fire to learn and grow rather than any specific credential.

 

 

Unfortunately when you apply for a job nowadays it is a box that has to be checked for a lot of positions.

 

We were fortunate in that many companies had such a box. We didn't so we got to evaluate and hire some good folks that couldn't check that box in larger, more rigid, companies. Good for us and those peeps we hired, not good for those, stuck in the mud, companies.

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What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

 

There are many paths but the common ingredient is a fire to learn and grow rather than any specific credential.

 

 

Unfortunately when you apply for a job nowadays it is a box that has to be checked for a lot of positions.

 

What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

:good:

This is really true when you are fresh out of college. You are untested and a degree does indicate a certain level of capability. The value of a degree tends to decline after that and what you have accomplished becomes the more critical factor.

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What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

 

There are many paths but the common ingredient is a fire to learn and grow rather than any specific credential.

 

 

Unfortunately when you apply for a job nowadays it is a box that has to be checked for a lot of positions.

 

We were fortunate in that many companies had such a box. We didn't so we got to evaluate and hire some good folks that couldn't check that box in larger, more rigid, companies. Good for us and those peeps we hired, not good for those, stuck in the mud, companies.

There are definitely some great hires out there who do not have degrees. It sucks that some employers require it. I got mine so that it would not be a factor, but unfortunately many people do not even get the to the interview process because of it :( With the way the economy is and how people are fighting for the good jobs the empoyers have to weed out the application pool some way, and unfortunately that is usually one of the first.

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What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

 

There are many paths but the common ingredient is a fire to learn and grow rather than any specific credential.

 

 

Unfortunately when you apply for a job nowadays it is a box that has to be checked for a lot of positions.

 

We were fortunate in that many companies had such a box. We didn't so we got to evaluate and hire some good folks that couldn't check that box in larger, more rigid, companies. Good for us and those peeps we hired, not good for those, stuck in the mud, companies.

There are definitely some great hires out there who do not have degrees. It sucks that some employers require it. I got mine so that it would not be a factor, but unfortunately many people do not even get the to the interview process because of it :( With the way the economy is and how people are fighting for the good jobs the empoyers have to weed out the application pool some way, and unfortunately that is usually one of the first.

 

Yep. This is why I believe skilled people without degrees should consider small companies first. They tend to be the most flexible re degrees and the hiring person tends to need particular skills more than just filling a slot. The latter is more common in larger organizations.

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I now work for the Postal Service at HQ. I am directly involved in all of our professional hiring and many people do not know that we are the 2nd largest employer in the US (behind Walmart). I would feel safe to say that 80-85% percent of our professional jobs do not require a degree or should I say not a requirement for the job.

 

It really boils down to having the qualifications to do that job at the level it is listed (whether degreed or not) and how well the candidate does in the interview process. I have seen non-degreed professionals get the job over degreed on several occasions but all in all I will say that if you have two finalists (one degreed and one non-degreed) and one of them has a relevant major and has had good career progression in that discipline; that person will get the job most of the time unless they bomb severely in the interview and are just not a fit for the organization.

Edited by ericgunit
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I now work for the Postal Service at HQ. I am directly involved in all of our professional hiring and many people do not know that we are the 2nd largest employer in the US (behind Walmart). I would feel safe to say that 80-85% percent of our professional jobs do not require a degree or should I say not a requirement for the job.

 

It really boils down to having the qualifications to do that job at the level it is listed (whether degreed or not) and how well the candidate does in the interview process. I have seen non-degreed professionals get the job over degreed on several occasions but all in all I will say that if you have two finalists (one degreed and one non-degreed) and one of them has a relevant major and has had good career progression in that discipline; that person will get the job most of the time unless they bomb severely in the interview and are just not a fit for the organization.

Good! Many large organizations don't have that flexibility. What you describe makes good sense to me.

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What I was always told was that college showed an employer that you were motivated enough to go to college and you were teachable if you got your degree. It does not necessarily make you better or smarter than anyone else. Which makes your last statement make sense to me...

 

 

There are many paths but the common ingredient is a fire to learn and grow rather than any specific credential.

 

 

Unfortunately when you apply for a job nowadays it is a box that has to be checked for a lot of positions.

 

We were fortunate in that many companies had such a box. We didn't so we got to evaluate and hire some good folks that couldn't check that box in larger, more rigid, companies. Good for us and those peeps we hired, not good for those, stuck in the mud, companies.

There are definitely some great hires out there who do not have degrees. It sucks that some employers require it. I got mine so that it would not be a factor, but unfortunately many people do not even get the to the interview process because of it :( With the way the economy is and how people are fighting for the good jobs the empoyers have to weed out the application pool some way, and unfortunately that is usually one of the first.

 

Yep. This is why I believe skilled people without degrees should consider small companies first. They tend to be the most flexible re degrees and the hiring person tends to need particular skills more than just filling a slot. The latter is more common in larger organizations.

 

:good:

I now work for the Postal Service at HQ. I am directly involved in all of our professional hiring and many people do not know that we are the 2nd largest employer in the US (behind Walmart). I would feel safe to say that 80-85% percent of our professional jobs do not require a degree or should I say not a requirement for the job.

 

It really boils down to having the qualifications to do that job at the level it is listed (whether degreed or not) and how well the candidate does in the interview process. I have seen non-degreed professionals get the job over degreed on several occasions but all in all I will say that if you have two finalists (one degreed and one non-degreed) and one of them has a relevant major and has had good career progression in that discipline; that person will get the job most of the time unless they bomb severely in the interview and are just not a fit for the organization.

I didn't know USPS was the 2nd largest. hmmm... I am glad they do not require degrees for people to get jobs. I definitely can't stand the people who graduate and think there crap don't stink, or that they are going to go get a job make bank money just because they got a piece of paper. Kills me...

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But yet...they do tend to have a better opportunity to make....what was that you called it? Bank Money? If they have a degree....than say someone who doesn't know a trade and ends up as a cashier somewhere. So yeah, between the two, I'd feel alot better with that degree.

 

Besides, people who go on to get BS and above, are usually more educated, know how the world "really" works, and have better critical thinking skills. Or at least that is the way it used to be....not so much anymore. That is why many of the Universities abroad are pushing out students that can run circles around ours. Then again, they don't require as many years for secondary school. Those that are only geared for being a shop clerk are let out earlier so that those that remain will get heavy duty education. Their last 2 years (6th form) are equivalent to the first 2 years in college here in the US.

Edited by Tigz
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But yet...they do tend to have a better opportunity to make....what was that you called it? Bank Money? If they have a degree....than say someone who doesn't know a trade and ends up as a cashier somewhere. So yeah, between the two, I'd feel alot better with that degree.

 

Besides, people who go on to get BS and above, are usually more educated, know how the world "really" works, and have better critical thinking skills. Or at least that is the way it used to be....not so much anymore. That is why many of the Universities abroad are pushing out students that can run circles around ours. Then again, they don't require as many years for secondary school. Those that are only geared for being a shop clerk are let out earlier so that those that remain will get heavy duty education. Their last 2 years (6th form) are equivalent to the first 2 years in college here in the US.

 

Yeah. Grade inflation goes along with credential inflation. Seems that the mindset is that if you put in the time and, most importantly, pay the increasingly crazy flowers education costs, you are entitled to a degree.

 

If only actual learning improved at anywhere near the rate tuition goes up. Or even up at all, for that matter.

Edited by cashnocredit
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Well, it has been a while, but I agree.

The problem is the belief that someone MUST have a degree (Just to have a degree), they don't. There are so many fields out there that pay well that don't require a degree. But the mindset established in the 70s/80s is that in order to succeed in business, you must have a degree. (and for a while there, that was the case).

When it comes to nursing, or computer programming, or just about any other field of study....what a degree really does is give you the basics to learn your job. No one (well, very few) will go to college for computer programming and come out ready to write the bestest newest program that will turn the heads on everyone in the world. Yet, some high school kid learning a language and playing on his own just might.

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A lot of good points here. I guess the one thing that has always stuck in my mind is that the level of education does NOT always equal the level of intelligence. I do not have a degree (due largely to poor decisions in my misspent youth), yet I make very good money. I have been in a supervisory role in different companies for the last 25 years; I have seen countless resumes and applications, and conducted more interviews than I care to remember. If someone shows me, through their written and oral presentation skills, that they have both intelligence and common sense, they are very likely to be hired, regardless of their degree credentials. I am lucky, I suppose, in that I am not in a field where licensing or something of the sort requires specific credentials.

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I don't think most would claim that education equals intelligence. I know many, many highly educated morons. Add to that the growing number of degree mills and just having a degree doesn't mean you are intelligent. But if you put effort into your education I would never call it overrated.

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I found that the several companies I have talked to recently on my job hunt and my current supervisor, like my college experience and that I am going back to school to finish the last few things. The big one I talked to day before yesterday told me my college stuff is what made me stand out to them.

 

Now, I bet if they were underwater basket weaving classes I would not have gotten a call. :rofl:

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I found that the several companies I have talked to recently on my job hunt and my current supervisor, like my college experience and that I am going back to school to finish the last few things. The big one I talked to day before yesterday told me my college stuff is what made me stand out to them.

 

Now, I bet if they were underwater basket weaving classes I would not have gotten a call. :rofl:

 

Yes. Back in the day when I hired techies t would also have seen this as a big positive, A strong interest in continual learning is a critical aspect of techie hires. Technology changes rapidly and an odd consequence of that is that evidence of current learning, for instance: recent classwork, a hot new programming language or design skill, becomes more important than a 5 year old degree. One you have a few years experience you will be judged on what you know now, what you can do now, and what your propensity for future learning is.

 

EtoA: While I think people overrate degrees, a mindset and desire for continuous learning is the hallmark of great engineers as well as most anyone in fields that are undergoing rapid change.

Edited by cashnocredit
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