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How Important Is Having a Degree on My Resume?

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Why is it important to have a degree on your resume? We look at how a completed degree on your resume will make you more likely to be employed, have higher earning potential, and find more satisfaction and longevity in your job.

The Importance of a Degree

You may be asking yourself: why should I go to college? Or, if you're in college, why should I finish? I had the same thoughts while I was pursuing my bachelor's degree. I was racking up debt, losing part time jobs because my schedule changed every semester, and frustrated that I had to take courses that would never apply to my life (flashback to having to retake Biology 101, twice, because I was a literature major and couldn't understand why I had to take a science course).

I actually did take a break for a while. I wanted to think through my options while I worked full-time and gained some real world experience. Maybe I could make this work without getting a degree. After all, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all famously dropped out of college, maybe I could do the same? What I found was that I kept running into the same challenge: everywhere I applied required a bachelor's degree or ten years experience. How was I supposed to gain experience without having enough experience to obtain a job? After a year of working unfulfilling, minimum wage jobs and struggling to advance in any position I held, I made the best decision of my life: go back to school and finish my degree.

Why is the Degree Important to Employers?

Diploma

Heads Up America, an initiative to fund community college for qualified students, states that 6 out of 10 jobs will require more than a high school diploma in the next 10 years, and currently, only 40% of US adults ages 25-64 fit that requirement. So why is it important for employers to require a degree?

In order to get your foot in the door, the degree may be the difference between receiving an interview or not. Some employers may be relying on a college degree as a recruitment technique to filter out recruits. Employers recruiting for entry-level positions may believe that a recipient of a college degree may be more ready to enter the workforce than someone who does not have a degree. Burning Glass Technologies, a company dedicated to job market analytics, finds that some employers require a bachelor's degree even if it makes hiring more difficult: in one such example, a posting that required a college degree took an average of 61 days to fill, as opposed to similar postings without a degree requirement which took an average of 28 days.

Interview

Employers may believe that having a bachelor's degree means the candidate has a higher level of maturity and professionalism than a non-degree holding candidate. They may also equate other skills with seeing a bachelor's degree on the resume. They see the candidate had the commitment and followthrough required to complete the degree program, the knowledge gained from all the coursework they were required to take, as well as the ability to work through tasks that require critical thinking and teamwork. A college graduate is also generally seen as having superior oral and written communication skills (now all you science majors know why you had to take so many English classes).

Why is the Degree Important to You?

More important than getting your foot in the door, why is this degree important for you? You may be interested to know that college graduates earn more than a high school graduate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported median 2015 earnings for those with a high school diploma are $35k annually, those with some college $38k annually, those with an associate degree at $41k annually, and those with a bachelor's degree $59k annually. That is a drastic jump upward!

Employment

In addition to making more money, you are more likely to be employed at all by simply having a bachelor's degree. According to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), national unemployment rates are lower for those with higher levels of educational attainment, which means that those with a bachelors degree are more likely to be employed than those without a bachelors degree. Specifically, the NCES finds a positive correlation between employment rate and any college at all: in 2015, young adults (aged 20- to 24-years-old) with a bachelor's degree or higher had a 89% employment rate, whereas young adults with some college but no degree were at 76%, those with a high school only at 67%, and young adults who had not completed high school at 51%. This pattern was also observed in age groups 25 and up at different percentages.

Furthermore, a degree leads to better job security. During economic turndown, mergers, or poor company performance, employees with lower levels of education are more likely to be laid off than employees with higher levels of education. In addition to potential layoffs, a presentation commissioned by the American Association of Community Colleges, in conjunction with Richard W. Johnson of the Urban Institute, finds that education is the key to working longer. They find that most Americans must work longer as economic security at an older age and retirement is becoming increasingly uncertain. Higher education curbs unemployment rates in older age groups (defined as 55 and older); with a college degree, rates drop by almost 5% for men and 3% for women.

Satisfied

Finally, The College Board reports that individuals with higher levels of education are likely to be more satisfied with their jobs as opposed to individuals without a degree. Degree holders find that their work seems important to them, and they have a greater sense of accomplishment. If you could choose between going into work every day and simply punching the clock, or going into work and leaving feeling like you made a difference, which would you choose?

By Lindsay Mattison
November 2016
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