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College Degree: Worth Your Effort?

A post by Patra Frame, ClearedJobs.Net HR Specialist.

He’s an Intel IT type in a senior management position and he doesn’t have a degree. But everyone who works for him and all new hires do.

She’s military and ready to take her enlisted experience and security clearances into the government contracting world. But all the jobs say a degree is required, even though she is doing the same work without a degree.

What education should you consider?

The first step is your career goals. Certainly there are good jobs which still do not require a college education. Many of these – plumber, electrician, auto/truck mechanic, for example – offer a long term future once you have completed some specialized training and, often, an apprentice program. Others – customer service reps, help desk technician – often require an associates degree. But if your career goals include most forms of technical work, professional or white-collar jobs, business, or management – you probably need a bachelor’s degree.

Once it was common for federal contracts to ask for either a degree or some specific number of years of relevant experience. Increasingly, the requirement is the degree, without the option for the alternative experience instead.

Many civilian jobs require degrees, even when you might not expect them to. Looking at the jobs which interest you, what education are the majority requiring? A good place to find out is the Occupational Outlook Handbook which provides information about job requirements, the work, the education needed, and the need for people in such jobs over time.

Perhaps you hated high school or tried college but it did not work.

Don’t give up your career interests. College today is quite a bit different than even a few years ago. And you have more experience and maturity too. Plus the training programs you have completed in military service, federal civil service, and some employers, can provide you with college credits before you even enroll in a school formally. Have your training checked out and get transcripts for your military service or civilian experience:

Military? Vet? In addition to tuition assistance while you are on active duty and the GI Bill, there is a special program by some universities to further reduce your costs. Check out the Yellow Ribbon program and schools.

Be careful of for profit colleges and online only education especially – there are good players in these but you have to do your research carefully. Be sure any college you choose has good programs that employers hire from – and that most students do graduate. If you are going to school after your military service, some of the best value options remain state schools. And you may want to start at a community college if you do not already have a lot of credits from your work experience. These offer good value and you can then transfer to a college or university while reducing your total costs.

Not every major will result in huge pay immediately but overall a person with a Bachelor’s degree out-earns a high school graduate. And the differential is widening still. Those with technical, engineering, science or math degrees have the highest wages. And those with advanced degrees earn even more.

The demand for people with higher education keeps increasing. A recent study showed that 87% of people over 25 had a high school diploma while 29% had a bachelors degree. But among larger cities’ residents, the range of those with bachelors degrees runs 40-50%. And when you just look at those of working age, the numbers go up.

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Carol Davison

As an HR specialist I add that most of the crediting plans I’ve seen give extra points for extra education.

James E. Evans, MISM, CSM

Having done my academia online, it is important that you have discipline. You’ll need the ability to finish your assignments without the structure of a classroom. There’s no such thing as “my computer went down. I couldn’t upload my assignment.”

Elliot Volkman

Wouldn’t it just be lovely if we could do away with the current hiring systems that don’t appear to work off of best practices, or hiring experts because resumes can easily be fluffed? Maybe some time in the future.

I’m just about to finish my communication graduate program (it was on campus and online), and there are quite a few students in the military now, or just getting out. From my experience working with them, overall they seem to think the continuing education has been quite useful. Frankly I would encourage people to look into some form of higher education regardless of your job as jobs are constantly evolving and it is great to be part of the change.

Alicia Mazzara

I just read this article, The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s, which is an interesting addendum to this post. I think it’s questionable whether a masters is truly necessary to do the job in many situations, but like the bachelor’s degree, it’s getting to the point where it’s simply a requirement to be competitive in certain fields.