Employers and career experts see a growing problem in American society - an abundance of college graduates, many burdened with tuition-loan debt, heading into the work world with a degree that doesn't mean much anymore.You know what if these students came from fairly elite institution such as the Ivy League universities or even a school like Morehouse. ;)
The problem isn't just a soft job market - it's an oversupply of graduates. In 1973, a bachelor's degree was more of a rarity, since just 47% of high school graduates went on to college. By October 2008, that number had risen to nearly 70%. For many Americans today, a trip through college is considered as much of a birthright as a driver's license.
Marty Nemko, a career and education expert who has taught at U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Education, contends that the overflow in degree holders is the result of many weaker students attending colleges when other options may have served them better. "There is tremendous pressure to push kids through," he says, adding that as a result, too many students who aren't skilled become degree holders, promoting a perception among employers that higher education doesn't work. "That piece of paper no longer means very much, and employers know that," says Nemko. "Everybody's got it, so it's watered down."
Of course that's not to say you'll only do alright if you go to a very reputable private or public university. I just think that some degree may mean more than others. Especially if you got your degree from the top universities. Although to be sure going to a top school isn't going to help the fact that a particular student wasn't exactly a very strong one.
The devaluation of a college degree is no secret on campus. An annual survey by the Higher Education Research Institute has long asked freshmen what they think their highest academic degree will be. In 1972, 38% of respondents said a bachelor's degree, but in 2008 only 22% answered the same. The number of freshmen planning to get a master's degree rose from 31% in 1972 to 42% in 2008. Says John Pryor, the institute's director: "Years ago, the bachelor's degree was the key to getting better jobs. Now you really need more than that."What does it take to get a position in today's job market:
Employers stress that a basic degree remains essential, carefully tiptoeing around the idea that its value has plummeted. But they admit that the degree alone is not the ace it once was; now they emphasize work experience as a way to make yourself stand out. Dan Black, director of campus recruiting in the Americas for Ernst & Young, and his team will hire more than 4,000 people this year out of 20,000 applicants. There are a lot of things besides a degree "that will help differentiate how much attention you get," says the veteran hirer, who has been screening graduates for 15 years.
So what does it take to impress recruiters today? Daniel Pink, an author on motivation in the workplace, agrees that the bachelor's degree "is necessary, but it's just not sufficient," at times doing little more than verifying "that you can more or less show up on time and stick with it." The author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future says companies want more. They're looking for people who can do jobs that can't be outsourced, he says, and graduates who "don't require a lot of hand-holding."Good luck finding work out there. I will especially direct this towards the class of 2010.
Left-brain abilities that used to guarantee jobs have become easy to automate, while right-brain abilities are harder to find - "design, seeing the big picture, connecting the dots," Pink says. He cites cognitive skills and self-direction as the types of things companies look for in job candidates. "People have to be able to do stuff that's hard to outsource," he says. "It used to be for blue collar; it's now for white collar too."
For now, graduates can steer their careers where job growth is strong - education, health care and nonprofit programs like Teach for America, says Trudy Steinfeld, a career counselor at New York University. "Every college degree is not cookie cutter. It's what you have done during that degree to distinguish yourself."