In a society where 42% of the labour force holds a degree, it may be easy to think that the value of a university education has reduced1. With UK-based tuition fees costing up to £9,250 each year and international student fees ranging up to four times this amount, gaining a degree is by far a cheap venture. So, why is gaining a university qualification still so significant? We’ve evaluated the importance of gaining a degree in today’s working environment.
In particularly intellectual job markets, such as Law, Medicine and Engineering, a degree-level education has continued to be a prerequisite to breaking into the sector. However, it is not just job roles that have been traditionally associated with a high level of theoretical knowledge that are now placing emphasis on an undergraduate education. Even policing, which has historically been viewed as a largely practical and experience-based pursuit, has seen the importance of a degree swell in recent years. From 2021, all new police officers in England and Wales will have to be educated to a degree level. Likewise, in the fashion industry, it is often no longer enough just to have retail experience.
One reason for the widespread increase in employers’ demand for degrees is that what students learn through the qualification far surpasses the theory conveyed in lecture halls. A degree shows independence and maturity, group projects demonstrate an ability to thrive in collaborative atmospheres and individual research indicates an ability to meet deadlines and problem-solve. In a world where workplaces are increasingly seeing the importance of transferable skills and capabilities that surpass individual knowledge, a degree has become integral to the competitive job market.
Cream of the Crop
With salary-based loans and more and more young people being enticed towards the student lifestyle, university education has become an increasingly popular choice. The growing number of potential employees walking into interview rooms holding degrees has meant that an undergraduate qualification is no longer just a benefit to landing the role. Organisations and businesses can afford to be choosier over who they employ. This is not to say that experience cannot trump a degree when comparing two CVs, but when it comes to youngsters who are fresh into the field and facing the age-old dilemma of needing an opportunity to gain experience before they can accrue it, holding a degree can be vital.
Although workforces can choose from a pool of increasingly qualified individuals, this very much stems from the ambitions and fruitful opportunities available today. Compared to their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, millennials are choosing to have children later in life. This changing trend has provided more students with the freedom to better themselves academically, seize post-graduate education and pursue dream careers later in life before seeking the steady income needed to support a family. With an increased opportunity and expectation to gain an undergraduate degree has come an intertwined competition to hold a degree in the job market.
Global and Industry Links
The UK holds some of the most renowned Universities in the world, with Oxford University coming top in the world university rankings in 2020, the University of Cambridge following closely in third and Imperial College London ranking tenth2. Holding a degree from the UK is prestigious on a global scale, adding to demand and competition. Industries are wanting to find candidates that can adapt to the changing challenges of the professional landscape. Simialry, with the inevitable and unyielding rise in complex technology and the infiltration of IT into almost every vocational sector, technology has changed how many job roles are performed. In answer, universities have provided specialist career-led degrees, allowing budding students to tailor their skillsets to specific job roles. A degree offers not only a foot in the door, but a streamlined opportunity to align themselves with industry positions.
Likewise, as the saying goes, it is all about who you know. Building a professional network can be critical to climbing the ladder and many degree experiences, such as meeting lecturers, volunteering and entering partnership competitions, provide the stepping stones to design a career that is right for the individual.
Ultimately, the cost of not holding a degree to those hoping to break into the job market is increasing year on year. Within today’s competitive climate, holding a degree is increasingly not just a luxury, but a necessity.
1 Office for National Statistics. Graduates in the UK labour market: 2017. 2017. Sourced from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/graduatesintheuklabourmarket/2017 [Accessed 04/12/2020].
2 The World University Rankings. World University Rankings 2020. 2020. Sourced from: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2020/world-ranking#!/page/0/length/25/sort_by/rank/sort_order/asc/cols/stats [Accessed 04/12/2020].