“If you go to school, you can get a good job, and make decent living”. For decades, it’s always been this same narrative. The common dialogue is that all kids go through high school, pick a topic that interests them, study that topic heavily during college, graduate, get a job, and retire in their 60’s with a stack full of savings. As times have changed, this dialogue is becoming more and more outdated as the value of having a bachelor’s degree changes.
Does a bachelor’s degree hold as much weight as it did 20 years ago? We don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, it does hold value, but pretty soon, we’re going to have more 15 year old digital nomads preparing to take over the world than people graduating college.
This is something to look at.
Kids are told as they are growing up that if they take the safe route and attend college, they’ll get a great job when they graduate. This isn’t necessarily the case anymore. This is a common narrative though, isn’t it? I was also told as a kid that if I played basketball every day and worked very hard, I would end up in the NBA. That didn’t happen, clearly. Let’s examine a few reasons why jobs aren’t coming as easy to degree holders.
The Internet Has Democratized Education
Before the internet, different channels of education were a lot more difficult to access. Sure, we had libraries with access to millions of books, but the effort to look up a simple statistic, let alone learn a whole new subject, was immense. Someone would need to curate the right books, read them in the right order, and make sure they are applying what they learn at the same time. This was doable, but the barrier to entry was so high.
If in today’s day and age, getting people to download another app is enough of a struggle, imagine if we needed to ask them to go to libraries for all their information. Scary thought.
But in reality, the internet has changed things.
With the rise of the internet, it has been a lot easier to learn new things and even learn about new subjects in a matter of months. Sites like Udacity let people learn computer programming online. Other sites like Udemy let people learn about the latest trends in digital marketing. There are thousands of other resources like books, masterminds, and online classes that are making the process of learning almost any topic much easier.
Suddenly, education is widely accessible and instead of paying thousands of dollars a year to learn from a teacher, people spend fractions of that and learn new topics at home or at their local coffee shop. This has avidly affected the hiring landscape.
Degrees matter less to employers
Companies like Facebook, Google, and other tech giants openly hire people without a college degree, as long as they have the skills and abilities needed to thrive in their role. This is an interesting development. The companies of the 21st century are putting less weight on where someone learns skills and more on what they’ve learned and the subsequent skills they possess. This is what is called skills-based education.
The direction of hiring in the future is moving away from degrees and towards skills. Knowing what skills someone has and how they acquired them tells a lot more about a person’s potential than “where did you get your degree from.” I’m not saying degrees have no use. They ARE necessary, especially for fields like law and medicine. But with that, those degrees require extra schooling past a bachelor’s degree. This puts people with bachelor’s degrees in a weird position.
How can they compete with the growing demand for skills and not degrees? The answer is simple. They should actively acquire new skills and not rely on their degree to get them through to their dream job. While in college, it’s crucial to get ample experience outside of the classroom because employers care about real-world experience. Whether that’s getting an internship, running for leadership in a club, or working on a side project, skills get developed by learning something then applying that knowledge. Heck, you can even become a professional cup stacker! As long as you’re working on something that gives you real world experience.
In a world where anyone can set up an E-Commerce store from their bedroom or build a swiping-based dating app that millions of people use (cough, tinder, cough), hungry young people need to know that a degree helps, but doesn’t guarantee success. At the end of the day, employers want people who have skills and the ability to make an impact. Many of them don’t care if those skills were acquired in college or not.
A bachelor’s degree is still a useful tool
Circling back to the value of a bachelor’s degree, one thing that College does a good job of and in particular a liberal arts degree is known for, is teaching graduates how to think and how to learn. Getting a degree means showing the ability to learn a variety of different subjects and can be a great training ground for learning how to think independently. Knowing how to learn is an essential skill that is highly valued in the workplace. Combine that with real world experience, and the bachelor’s degree can be a great investment.
In summary, if someone is going to enter a profession that doesn’t require heavy schooling, know that the bachelor’s degree may not be the only route that is needed to get there. As long as people know that employers care about your ability to do the job well and not just a fancy degree, most routes should lead to a great job. Good luck!