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Does Having a Degree Really Give You an Advantage in the Job Market?

Does Having a Degree Really Give You an Advantage in the Job Market? main image

As of 2019, more students than ever before are going to university. While this might be good news for advocates of equal access to education, young graduates are suffering the consequences.

A recent research piece found that in the past ten years the annual pay gap between graduates and non-graduates has narrowed from £6,000 (US$8,016) to £4,500 (US$6,012).

Moreover, the average income of a young graduate has increased by just £1,500 (US$2,005) since 2008, showing a palpable stagnation in earnings and an oversaturation of the job market.

These figures not only affect students, but universities too. If higher education isn’t a ticket to a better job or career anymore, is getting a degree still good value for money?

Such questions were discussed at QS’ Re:Imagine Education conference in London by a panel of experts from universities and recruiters.

What academics think

Ryan Findley, Chief Product & Innovation Officer at African Leadership University (ALU), said that education is still worth it, but that graduates now more than ever need to leave schools with excellent leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

At ALU, courses focus around building the skills that employers have said to value in graduates in surveys or in internship feedback sessions.

“We need to break down the wall between the classroom and the real world,” said Findley.

“By closely listening to employers, we can ensure that students get jobs.”

Leila Guerra, Associate Dean of Programs at Imperial College Business School, said that universities serve as a means for students to reach their potential and find their ideal employer. However, she also argued that students should start their university journey having already assessed the gaps in their skillset.

She said: “University is meant for closing those gaps, while the years after the first job are a measure of success.”

What recruiters think

Recruiters believe a degree is still extremely useful, but that both universities and employers need to open more career paths for students.

Catherine Wallwork, Head of Innovation Engagement & Mindset at Deloitte Ventures, suggested that universities should focus on providing students with work experiences and an individualized education rather than a system-focused curriculum. This way, students can fill in the gaps in their skillset while also developing a “mindset of growth”.

David Shull, Head of Handshake Europe, attributed the oversaturation of industries to the inefficiency of recruiting systems. He said the job market doesn’t offer enough opportunities to students who live in isolated areas, as well as those who come from unprivileged backgrounds and/or haven’t graduated from top universities.

He said: “Democratizing is widening access to opportunities.”

Are universities still good value for money?

Most academics and recruiters would argue that university is still a great investment for long-term and successful careers, especially for those with postgraduate degrees.

However, in an era where careers are more volatile, there needs to be more support systems in place to help students develop the skills necessary to land high skilled jobs.

“Not everyone can be Bill Gates!” said Guerra.

Perhaps not, but some would say everyone deserves a chance to be.

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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