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The Pros and Cons of a College Degree When Job Hunting
by Yuwanda Black
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Yuwanda Black has published 10 e-books, a freelance writing e-course and hundreds of articles on small business, real estate, freelance writing and marketing. Ms. Black wrote and self-syndicated a small business column to eight on- and offline outlets in 2002-2003, including Greater Diversity News; The Mississippi Link; The New York Christian Times; Houston Style; Caribbean Life; and

Going to college is closely linked to the American dream of achieving success. America's youth are programmed from day one that this is the first step, after high school, to attaining future goals.

However, is it true? Does having a college degree pay off when job hunting? Is it worth the price. There are two sides to this coin.

A recruiter for well over a decade, I've consulted with small start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike. Following are some observations on this issue.

A College Education: Some Issues to Consider

Getting Your Foot in the Door: A college degree gets your foot in the door many times; it is your ticket into the stadium, so to speak.

Many times I've recruited for a job in which the responsibilities were so-called menial. I'd look at the job description and think, “A smart high-school student could do this job.” However, the employer wanted someone with a four-year degree. They wouldn't even consider applicants without a degree.

This happens more often than you could possibly imagine. After all, companies have their reputation to uphold. They want to be able to say, for example, "82% of our employees hold a four-year degree, with another 23% holding a graduate degree or higher."

Moral of this story: To level the playing field, get that degree.

Consider this: According to, "Statistics project that 75 percent of future positions are expected to require at least some type of certification or licensure, and professions that require a bachelor's degree are projected to grow nearly twice as fast as the national average, making a college degree a good investment."

You Don't Belong in College: College is not for everyone; that's just a fact. If a formal education really isn't your forte, then by all means, don't pursue it.

BUT, give some serious thought as to where you're trying to go. Experts agree that those who choose to forego college should figure out a "life plan" sooner than those who do attend college. Why?

College graduates have their degree to fall back on, so to speak. It doesn't guarantee success, but again, a lot of doors will automatically open for them that the person who doesn't hold a degree won't be able to enter.

So, a Plan B for the non-degreed is necessary. Don't sweat it because you don't want to go to college. Just figure out what else you want to do and pursue that training. Eg, want to open a salon, go to beauty school; be a mechanic, get some vocational training in this field; be a carpenter, apprentice with a master carpenter.

Just because you decide to forego college does not mean you don't need to educate yourself. It just means you need to figure out what you want sooner and take that route to get there.

The Degree: If you do decide to go to college, what should you major in? No one can tell you this. It depends on your interests, your intellect, your career path and a host of other factors.

However, I can tell you the following about getting a degree:

a) In many cases, it doesn't matter what you major in. Let me explain. Most of us don't figure out what we want to do while we are in college, and many often don't go into fields that they majored in.

College is more about "stick-to-it-ness." It proves that you have enough foresight, enough fortitude, and enough maturity to commit to something and see it through. Unless you are going into a specialized field like law or medicine, it almost doesn't matter what you major in - just get that four-year degree.

b) Your alma mater doesn't matter. While prestigious institutions like Harvard and Princeton will always cause a second look by employers, studies have proven that having the degree and on-the-job experience matter more, over time, than where you went to school.

In a 2002 CNN Money article entitled, "College: Is prestige worth the price?", Paul Ray, CEO of the executive search firm Ray & Berndtson noted: "At a certain point it doesn't matter where you went to school."

The firm did a six-year study with Harvard Business School and 1,600 companies on return on leadership values and found that experience eventually becomes more important than a person's alma matter.

In conclusion, only you can decide if college is right for you. When considering where you want to go in life, it’s charting a course of action to get there that seems to make the most difference.

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Published: Aug 29,2008 13:04
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