The question “What do employers value more… skills or a degree” originally appeared on Quora, but it’s certainly not unique to the site. The average cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board at public institutions was $18,383 per year, as of the 2018-19 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
If you’re like many people, you don’t want to take on a massive amount of education debt if it’s not necessary. The exact answer to this very broad question will vary according to many factors — i.e., your field of choice, job type, career aspirations and employer — so there’s no set guidance across the board. Here’s a look at the benefits offered by each one.
4 Reasons Why Skills and a Degree Both Matter
Many Employers Require Postsecondary Education
Simply put, some companies only hire college graduates — at least for certain positions. Without the minimum required education, your resume won’t make it past the screening phase. If your career aspirations include jobs that traditionally need a degree, you might be able to get hired by certain employers. However, you won’t have nearly as many open doors as your degree-holding peers.
Skills Learned on the Job Are Often More Valuable
The textbook-based knowledge you acquire in a college classroom sets the foundation for your career. You’ll certainly learn a lot of skills you’ll use in future jobs, but many companies consider real-life experience the best teacher. Therefore, it can be hard to get hired without at least internship experience. If an employer doesn’t deem a degree necessary to do a certain job, the candidate with a more in-depth skillset might be viewed in a more favorable manner.
Having a Degree Can Boost Your Earning Power
As noted above, some employers require a degree for certain jobs, while others do not. However, if you find yourself in this situation, having a degree could allow you to command a higher paycheck.
For example, the median salary of a childcare worker with a high school diploma or equivalent was $24,230 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Conversely, preschool teachers — except special education — have a median salary of $30,520 per year, and most are required to have an associate’s degree, at minimum.
Some Employers Want to Provide More Training Than Others
No two companies are the same. Some prefer highly-skilled candidates who can hit the ground running, even if they don’t have a degree. Others would rather hire candidates with impressive academic credentials and spend more time training them. Therefore, you essentially need to choose the level of education that’s right for you, then focus on finding your best-fit employer.
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