What’s in a Degree? Do I need a college degree to get a job?  Will a college degree help me get a job more easily?


The debate among administrative professionals continues.  There is a divide among admins with degrees and admins without them.  Is a degree really necessary to be successful in this role?  Seasoned career admins who entered the field before the rise of companies’ relatively new degree requirements are finding it more difficult to gain employment albeit their years of hands-on experience.  Increasingly, hiring managers are looking to fill their vacant administrative positions with candidates who have earned a four-year degree. 

To an employer, having a degree means proven performance.  Earning a four-year college degree is a tangible measure of your performance record.  Employers are also more likely to view candidates with a degree as more driven, responsible and disciplined, according to a survey by Maguire Associates.

Having a degree demonstrates perseverance.  A four-year college degree implicitly acknowledges your ability to stick to a goal until completion.  College is, essentially, one big task (earning your degree) made up of several small tasks (passing required classes).  Earning your degree shows that you are able to focus on your responsibilities, follow through and successfully achieve your goal.

Going to college means employers perceive you as someone with perspective.  Remember all of those pesky courses that were part of your diversification requirements?  Diversity courses are put in place by universities so their students gain a well rounded view of the world today.  Since these courses are generally required for all students, you are also more likely to take these courses with a diverse student body which, according to a study by the American Council on Education, helps raise new issues and perspectives.  Employers tend to assume that candidates who went to college have a broader understanding of the world’s history and culture thanks to these types of courses, study abroad programs, or other coursework completed in their academic career.  Working (well) in a group means having the ability to receive different points of view with diplomacy, a trait desired by most hiring managers, no matter the industry.

Real life work experience, more so than college, teaches you the importance of time management because the stakes are higher.  In school, “make-ups” are commonplace.  If you miss a deadline, you talk to your professor and there is little or no penalty, just get the work in.  In real life, you miss a deadline and you’re in for much more than a slap on the wrist; you get out of favor with your boss and colleagues, lose credibility, risk suspension, or even losing your job.  Woody Allen said, “80% of life is showing up.”  The other 20% is showing up on time.

They don’t teach improvisation in school.  Your GPA proudly displayed on your resume, shows that under rigid academic circumstances, you are able to excel.  What happens when you’re presented with a spontaneous, uncontrolled, unstructured, circumstance?  Real world experience teaches you how to think on your feet and trains you to address complex problems with creative solutions.  These hurdles must be overcome quickly, confidently and efficiently.  A college degree does not ensure common sense.

Real life work experience helps you master the art of persuasion.  There are plenty of business courses available in school, but persuasion is truly an art form, and real life situations allow you to develop your craft.  Every pitch won’t be a sale; your ideas may be clear, concise and thoughtful, but unlike writing a term paper, you must persuade someone else into buying your idea, and be prepared to engage someone by validating your points on the spot.  Persuasion is a huge part of business, no matter what the field; it’s more than just haggling outsourced labor contracts or vying for a higher salary.  It requires prioritization; knowing the difference between getting what you need and getting what you want.  Toe the line carefully; sell yourself, put your skills, assets and needs first, but don’t overshadow or underestimate the other party.

What do you feel is more valuable, a college degree or real life work experience?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.


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