College Degree Unemployable

Is a Person without a College Degree Unemployable?

Lately, I have been looking at a lot of job postings. I often get excited about a possible opportunity and look at the company and become fascinated with who they are and what they represent.

“My, what I would love to bring to an organization like that, I appreciate their message, their mission. I have experience in what they are asking for and needing.

Oh, they require a college degree. Next…”

Most employers now expect applicants to have at least a Bachelor’s in order to be able to contact them. The message is clear-

Do not bother contacting us if you do not have a college degree. Nope. Stay away. We don’t care who you are, who you know, what you’ve done or what you are passionate about, or capable of.

Sometimes, employers don’t even make a notation as to what you have to be degreed in at all; only that you have one. It is as if, they check a box on the form and that’s it. No exceptions.

This brings up a few thoughts. My mother went to USC and received a degree in dental hygiene. Only to own her own remodeling company for 35 years.

My father carries a zoology degree from USC and has spent most of his career life as a purchasing manager, writer, and business owner.

For people who switch career paths in life, a degree becomes just a piece of paper. They still have to learn everything new that they need to know. Most of them do that with mentorship and work experience.

This current college degree only applicants phenomenon strikes me strange for the following reasons.

  • With standard protocol in (big) business over the last twenty years, being to either outsource work to other countries or to pay people as little as possible to help their bottom line- Why would employers now demand a degree that will mean they will have to pay them more than someone without? Older workers were weeded out of positions because they had nice salaries, longer vacations and benefits. Only to be replaced by inexperienced workers who had to learn on the job but were paid much less. Now let’s hire people we have to pay more.
  • People get bored. The few people I know that were completely born to do the same job are engineers. They are wired for it, love it, breathe it and usually have enough change to keep it exciting for them. Other than the Professional roles, (doctors, lawyers, teachers) I think people in general want to mix it up a little. When people (Yes, I am making sweeping generalizations here, but as this is only my opinion, I think it’s ok) find a new something that gets them excited, they want to pursue it. They have big energy for it; strive to learn as much as they can about it. They try really, really, hard.
  • Reading the article reference here- it takes much longer to fill a position when one requires a degree than it does if it is open to other applicants.

Sixty one days to fill a college degree demanded position or 28 days for the same position without the moniker. That is potentially wasted productivity time.

  • When employers add the must have 5-10 years of completely related work experience. Again, people get bored. Maybe they are looking for a new job because they are sick of their last job. They will bring that energy to a new company if they are tired of that work or market.
  • Some employers complain that they can’t find any good applicants, no one fits the bill. Maybe it’s because you have knocked out 60 % of the potential people before you even know their name.

Sometimes it feels like a secret club, one that takes significant money and time to get into.

I am in NO WAY undermining a college education. It is very important and is becoming even more so as the years go on. However, for some, like me, a middle aged woman who has one daughter in college now and another one starting next year; taking the time and money away from them is not what I want to do. I do want to work, I want to work hard. I have ideas, energy and passion coming out of my ears.

But I don’t have the degree.


Further Reading

Picture by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Builder of people, ideas and dreams. Novelist in training, people watcher, fascinated with it all.

  • IDCitizen

    First of all, I am a big proponent of non-traditional education. Travel. Internet. OTJ training. Volunteering. And much more. I don’t diminish the value of knowledge gained in many other ways beyond the classroom. All this knowledge can provide a rich foundation to draw from in effectively carrying-out the responsibilities of a job – once you have one! Traditional education can be useful too, especially in helping you secure a job.

    If you insist on having a job, realize that the requirement to have a college degree to secure a decent job will simply continue to increase. This is NOT new. It has been the case for 40 years. So, if you want a J.O.B. creatively seek ways to obtain a degree. Online degrees are flexible and affordable. Part-time and executive programs abound. Anyone still in school should read this to mean: COMPLETE your education now. At least earn a Bachelor’s Degree to give yourself the best chance of success in competing for jobs. Make each degree count. Fill it with classes that will teach you hard skills that make you marketable.

    Be marketable to prospective employers, as well as to customers, by having skills that add value. Stop worrying about being employable, and worry about making yourself marketable – i.e useful.

    What hard skills do you possess? If none, then go get some. In which computer programs are you an expert? What can you build, design, make? What language can you speak? What math can you perform? What instrument do you play? What equipment can you operate? Focus on building-up your list of things you can actually DO, and not just what you KNOW. Many jobs require actual skills, and are less about a degree. Focus on these types of jobs.

    Focus your job search on small businesses. They are always more impressed with value you can bring than credentials you can display. They also are more flexible with their hiring guidelines, and can make exceptions to the requirement for a degree. In fact, the same person who wrote in the requirement for the degree is reading your cover letter, and can decide to interview you and even hire you if you are persuasive with it and your resume. Emphasize your most important qualities that they value most: Results. Drive.
    Passion. Work ethic. Sound judgment. Flexibility. Creative problem solving. Loyalty. Honesty. Personality. Take direction well when given, but don’t ever require it.

    However, I would argue that standing around waiting for someone to hand you a job is the way of the past, but not the present or the future. We have a new reality.

    Our economy has changed from 40 years ago when you could plan to keep a job for your entire career, to 20 years ago when you would plan to change jobs multiple times during your career, to our current reality, where we develop skills to making a living, not get a job. Create a job for yourself. In fact, create several “jobs” for yourself. By establishing multiple income streams, you reduce your risk of relying too heavily on just one.

    In today’s economy, it is best to make a job vs. find a job. Be “the man”, rather than work for “the man”! Without a degree, you have been ejected from the bell curve, so what kind
    of exception will you be? A high or low achiever? Building your own business rarely requires a degree! Business owners simply PROVE their worth by providing customers with value. The customer is the boss. They don’t fire you for not having a degree.

    This is the global digital age. Useful skills are available at no cost all over the Internet. Try M.I.T. or Coursera for FREE education. Small business is the engine of the economy
    and is where most innovation occurs. Small business often requires that you wear a lot of hats, which keeps you from getting bored!

    Consider entrepreneurship yourself. Goods, knowledge, entertainment and social life
    are all exchanged over the Internet. Pick your passion and go to work online. Due
    to the Internet, starting a business is much simpler, and can be done with little to no capital.

    Join the global digital economy. You speak English, so you have the foundation upon which to build your chosen area of expertise. Only you control the knowledge & skills you possess. Write a blog, create an informative website about identity theft or developing green energy. Make a YouTube channel. Learn to design apps for iPhone. Buy a 3-D printer and own your own gizmo factory. Outsource your own work to inexpensive labor overseas to get more done. Teach a language, dance or app development class. Obtain government grants. Start a charity. Develop your passion. Money follows smart, passionate people who work hard – especially when it is for a good cause that others can believe in. So don’t worry so much about finding some cause to join, instead make your own.

    I occasionally see chumps standing around picketing businesses with a sign that reads: “Shame on so and so. LABOR DISPUTE.” If they really wanted to be empowered to control their own destiny, they could stop standing around complaining about how unfair their job is, and decide to make their own! Add some value. Make a difference in the world.

    Ultimately, you can feel most content with the future you create for yourself, instead of entrusting it to someone else.

  • deb2000

    I find it sad that working for someone else is constantly being put down. The vast majority of people have always worked for someone else. The person who wrote this article is not looking to have a job handed to her on a silver platter. She is writing about the mess the job market is in.

    Too many people are getting degrees and are not able to find jobs in their field. They are taking what jobs they can to get by and those jobs are jobs that formerly didn’t require a degree. Because employers can now get so many people with degrees they don’t want to bother with anyone who
    hasn’t got a degree. Getting a degree is getting more expensive all the time, and more and more people are being priced out. The standard reply is to “be an entrepreneur,start your own business, create your job”. That is fine for some people if they have the money, connections, talent in starting a business, and a skill or product they can turn into a business. However, it’s not the answer for everyone.