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For Businesses, the College Degree Is the New High School Diploma 728

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that a college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement for getting even the lowest-level job. Many jobs that didn't require a diploma years ago — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — increasingly requiring a college degree. From the point of view of business, with so many people going to college now, those who do not graduate are often assumed to be unambitious or less capable. 'When you get 800 résumés for every job ad, you need to weed them out somehow,' says Suzanne Manzagol. A study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce found that more than 2.2 million jobs that require a minimum of a bachelor's degree have been created (PDF) since the 2007 start of the recession. At the same time, jobs that require only a high school diploma have decreased by 5.8 million in that same time. 'It is a tough job market for college graduates but far worse for those without a college education,' says Anthony P. Carnevale, co-author of the report. 'At a time when more and more people are debating the value of post-secondary education, this data shows that your chances of being unemployed increase dramatically without a college degree.' Even if they are not exactly applying the knowledge they gained in their political science, finance and fashion marketing classes, young graduates say they are grateful for even the rotest of rote office work they have been given. 'It sure beats washing cars,' says Georgia State University graduate Landon Crider, 24, an in-house courier who, for $10 an hour, ferries documents back and forth between the courthouse and his company's office."
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For Businesses, the College Degree Is the New High School Diploma

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  • by ggraham412 ( 1492023 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:49PM (#42982323)
    Really, does it take 4 (or is it 5 now!) years to train people to be file clerks?
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:57PM (#42982455)

    the real value of a degree is the signal it sends

    Very true!

    you are someone who at least can stick to something long enough to finish it.

    That is not the message a modern degree sends.

    The modern degree sends a message that you are a herd animal, to the point that you will stay with the herd even to the point of your own financial ruin.

    There's no question that to some companies a docile herd animal with no instincts for self-preservation is a valuable resource. I'm just not sure I'd want to work for them given the likely expectations.

  • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:04PM (#42982565) Homepage

    This story can't be true in all markets.

    In my area, many employers look at a degree as something to be avoided if it isn't outright needed.

    They don't really want a know-it-all with all these great job options out there (their perception, not necessarily reality).

    They want you to know how to do the job already, but still need the employer.

    I got more calls back when I used my still-in-school resume.

  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:09PM (#42982617) Homepage Journal

    I own businesses in the Midwest and South Florida. When I post a job listing (usually through Craigslist), I specifically request people with no degree apply.

    In the past 9 years, 100% of people I've hired were undegreed. These were the people I wanted, because they specifically weren't indoctrinated into the college mentality. I want self-starters, people I can later on invite to become a business partner. I also don't want political correctness, feminism or any of the other progressive mindsets in any of my businesses. Those people can hit the road -- I don't even want them as customers.

    I also hate having employees with major debt.

    I pay better than average wages, and I purposely look through applications for the non-degreed folks.

    I'd love to see a job search website that focuses on people bright enough to skip 4 years of college and just hit the employment roles.

    Of course, I don't have HR departments, I would never hire an MBA, and I go out of my way to work with the millions of entrepreneurs out there who also didn't go to college but are earning bank.

    Maybe with luck society will separate into two groups: the politically correct nauseated degreed folks and the self-driven and determined entrepreneurial type.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:11PM (#42982661)

    Arbitrary requirements are there for a reason: CYA. In order to avoid expensive litigation and settlements in a number of states, it's a very good idea to have enumerable reasons and missed requirements for not hiring someone.

    A college degree is simply a way to pare down the number of candidates you have to evaluate. If you have a position that states a Bachelor's degree is required and there are 500 applicants, 300 of which have college degrees, you have the ability to very quickly and more importantly, in a very riskless way, eliminate 200 candidates for the position.

    Do you think most hiring managers or team managers give a flip if your entry-level helpdesk or file clerk or what have you has a degree? Not even in the slightest. They care about the fact that they can safely and quickly eliminate potential candidates for said position when a large number of people apply.

  • by mu51c10rd ( 187182 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:12PM (#42982673)

    Actually, I graduated without a dime in student loan debt. I worked full time and went to school full time (with a very understanding employer). Now, I am a hiring manager in the world of IT. I value experience, but a degree shows that you have some soft skills to go with your knowledge. A degree with business courses also shows me that you will understand other functions of the company, and not just your own job. An engineering degree shows me you are able to solve complex problems and have learned to research well. Even a liberal arts degree at least shows me you are able to meet deadlines and focus. Certifications will get your foot in the door, whereas a degree will move your career path along.

  • Re:Signalling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by madhatter256 ( 443326 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:19PM (#42982775)

    It also signals you are likely loaded with student loan debt and are desperately in need of a job. This will gives you a disadvantage as the company will you see a hard-working, low payable employee. In other words, your ass will get ridden by management and subliminally reminded that they can easily let you go, which will effectively limit your career growth.

    I see this in all types of careers.

    Another source for the devaluation of the 4-year college degree are these Baccalaureate degrees from these for-profit universities.

    Having a masters degree, even more debt, helps you grow in your career and in a few years from now, a masters will be considered a "diploma" in the math/science industry. These for-profit schools are beginning to push these degrees to unsuspecting victims.

  • If someone is applying for a senior developer position and includes $20 - $30K in his acceptable salary range, I'm not even going to look at his resume because he either doesn't know what someone in his position should be earning, or he's not good enough to command a reasonable salary.

    So what should a junior developer with no full-time experience put down as an acceptable salary range? In general, what steps should one take to learn "what someone in his position should be earning" for each combination of job title, years of experience, and location? Is there a widely accepted set of reliable statistics?

  • Re:No Degree for Me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Myopic ( 18616 ) * on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:34PM (#42982995)

    If you think $20 an hour is great wages, then you deserve to be underpaid for your whole life. Please never change. Come mow my lawn some time.

    I went from $11.50 an hour before college to $25 an hour the day I graduated (in 2002). That's more than 100% increase. I graduated from Dartmouth, which is as expensive as any college in the country, with $20,000 in loans, which is 1,400 hours of marginal pay, meaning I earned all of what I made before PLUS enough to pay for college in less than a year after leaving college. At the same time, I enjoyed a more satisfying job and had a great time in college for four years. Today I earn $44 an hour -- 400% my pre-college income. Many people in my field make make up to double what I make. At your current pay you would net $5 an hour which would pay back an Ivy League education in two years and if you don't go to an expensive Ivy League school you can pay back your college expenses even faster than that.

    My guess is that your high school education didn't teach you enough to run the numbers like that, or else you would have gotten up early to be first in line on college registration day.

  • So where should one obtain related work experience without already having related work experience?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:47PM (#42983203)

    The problem is that this process selects people who were foolish enough to take on student loan debt when they only have the skills for a highschool-level job. It would be smarter to throw out the people with degrees when filling low-level positions.

  • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:58PM (#42983345)

    The problem is that no one really wants to have a shit job. And most of these kids are perfectly competent enough to go be a biologist, a lab tech, a philosophy consultant (as if that was a job), but there are plenty of people that are better then they are and they can't get a job in their field. So they drop down a peg and go be a pizza boy. And it turns out there enough that drop down that all pizza boys are now expected to have a college degree.

    If you have an average US highschool grad who can afford to go to college, wouldn't you tell him to go get a degree? It's a real downer to accept that, even though you were smart enough and had enough money, that you probably shouldn't even try to get a good life. That you should lie down and accept a blue-collar job of hard work and a shitty retirement when you're too old to break your back every morning. There's a big push to be successful. That's normal. And success is pretty much defined as getting a good job, by having a good degree.

    You're looking at it from the perspective of people hiring. That they really shouldn't put so much weight on a degree. But from the hiree's perspective, OH DEAR GOD YOU NEED A DEGREE. The split used to be those with a college degree and those without. Right now there is another split is between people with worthwhile degrees; science, technology, engineering, and math, and those with degrees like philosophy, history, or English. Too many people for too long felt that ANY sort of degree would guarantee a good life. That's no longer true. It puts you above the have-nots, but not by far.

    I think we need more tracking in highschool. To set people up for their path. Either meaningful college, tech schools, or straight to the workforce.

  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:03PM (#42983421) Journal


    This is one of the tragic developments when every job - right down to a janitor's - requires a degree. There are plenty of jobs which do not require anything more than high school, and indeed, people who drop out and go for these are sensible in not wasting time for something they're not meant for. Just as not everybody's gonna be a PhD, similarly, not everybody is gonna be a bachelors or masters. Things like truck drivers, file clerks, postal workers, AAA workers, pizza delivery guys - all of these are important jobs that need to be filled, and none of them require college degrees.

    In fact, by requiring higher educational qualifications for these lower level jobs, while the price of education is going up due to the resultant increasing demand, the value of it is going to the toilet. It's a cliché that one needs a good education to be successful - and by successful, I don't mean being one of those party goers in Madison Avenue or Beverly Hills. I mean anybody who can nail a job and lead a content family life. By requiring an education for every job, it just artificially shoots up living costs, puts greater burdens on schools & colleges, and forces overqualified people into the workplace - or more kids staying at home w/ their parents.

    For the lower level jobs that don't require much education in & of itself, a better metric would be to pick employees based on character, as opposed to education. Is s/he someone who's dedicated to the job, punctual, honest and capable of sticking to a job for a reasonable amount of time? Too many people in the work force - particularly younger workers - change jobs every few months, which is a telltale sign of a lack of commitment and eager to try making a fast buck. Why not weed out those, instead of checking whether the girl you are gonna hire as a secretary or someone who'll work in the office cafeteria has a Masters degree? This is the result of too much of an emphasis being given on education - even when it's not needed!

    What does going to college tell you about a persons character? It tells me they're submissive to authority and lack initiative, which is great for many roles. A person who rejects the idea that he should sit at the feet of the wise old professor and learn and instead go out into the world and get to work making waves might not suck up what you give them and ask you if they're doing ok.

    Mediocrity and reliability go to school. The worst and best reject it.

  • by nblender ( 741424 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:12PM (#42983545)

    The best piece of advice I received as a young man was "A degree shows people you can be taught. Work experience shows people you can be employed."

    I began my 28 year career in software development shortly after that conversation. I make good money on long term contracts. I am a senior developer. I do not have a degree.

    Unfortunately, I'm fairly sure this is no longer a plausible scenario and why I'm encouraging my son to either develop instant world-peace solving brilliance, or resign himself to another 4 years of post secondary education.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:32PM (#42983769) Journal

    "The modern degree sends a message that you are a herd animal..."
    blah blah blah whatever.

    You know what? It does. And in this case, the employer is ALSO a herd animal, and if you want to get hired, you need to convince them that YOU can be a good herd animal too.

    Don't want to "kowtow to that corporate herd bullshit"? Fine, found your own company, I hope you're hugely successful. But you need to understand that sink or swim, you're on your own.

    I'm sick and tired of purported iconoclasts saying they disregard social norms, but then beg for the protections/benefits that COME from being part of the herd. It's easy to be a brave individualist when you're living in mom's basement.

  • Pay to Play Society (Score:4, Interesting)

    by al0ha ( 1262684 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:54PM (#42984089) Journal
    This is what happens when you have created a pay-to-play society like here in the US.

    Education these days is nothing more than another form of corporate profit and requiring college degrees for even menial jobs is nothing more than a method to force people into a form of indentured servitude.

    How's that you say? Well debt == enslavement and where is most people's largest amount of debt outside of their home? Debt which can not be discharged by declaring bankruptcy? Student loans.

    Now be a good slave and get in line to get your expensive degree so you can work at McCrapphole corporation.

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