Does a College Degree Still Matter?

A diploma is still an employer's best assurance a candidate possess the skills needed to help run a company.
Does a College Degree Still Matter?
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Go to school, focus on your studies, do all your school tasks, get a degree, get a good job and take care of business.

This age-old wisdom has rung throughout the years, but how much merit does it have? Does success at college or university guarantee a great entrance into the workforce after graduation? Do the best students always succeed in real life? Does a degree necessarily make you a better employee or entrepreneur?

Related: Expert Opinions: Is a Business Degree Worth It?

These questions and more are on the minds of many job applicants. They consider all of the above as they attempt to define what it takes to achieve career success. Assignment Masters, a popular essay-writing service, aimed to discover the answers. The results were interesting, to say the least:

  • Most young leaders (greater than 56 percent) hold degrees in social sciences or humanities disciplines.
  • A specific degree doesn’t lead to greater success on the job market.
  • Successful individuals have important leadership, technical and teamwork skills.
  • More than two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents who built successful careers within five years after graduation said they did well on academic writing projects.

The last point raises two important follow-up questions: Does the collegiate structure of tasks and assignments have anything to do with career success? And do these college experiences help people gain specific skills that make them highly suitable for the careers they've targeted?

Of course, many people wonder if it's possible to be successful in the same career field without a degree -- and some have taken their own paths to achievement. But the truthful answer to the larger question shouldn't come as a surprise: No other platform is quite as equipped as collegiate programs when it comes to providing a wealth of valuable experiences in one package. Read on to discover why.

A degree program serves as a foundation.

Millennials haven’t had much luck finding good jobs. In fact, they make up about 40 percent of the unemployed in the United States. Millennials face huge university tuitions. As a result, many accumulate loan debt that is much higher than that of any previous generation. They often take on positions such as waitress, bartender and retail-sales associate to help make payments while they look for work that's better-suited to their qualifications.

Recent graduates understandably are frustrated by the fact they're likely to start at a wage lower than the nation's medium income. However, people also are aware that if they want to break into the middle class or higher, they'll need not only experience but a degree as well. Leadership, management, research and other desired positions do require university degrees. 

Related: The 10 Highest- and Lowest-Paying College Majors

Despite expectations of a tough post-college market, it’s important for students to understand that graduates actually are enjoying the best job market in years. The better their skills and education have, the greater their chances for quality employment. The booming healthcare, marketing, psychiatry, social work and dentistry fields all are tightly connected to education. Many job markets specifically call for a degree, and those who wish to enter them have no choice but to get the qualifications they need. 

Assignments develop workplace skills.

The lecture hall might seem far removed from the realities of the workplace, but academic assignments develop skills that are in high demand among top employers. Here are a few.

General Communication Skills. Students aiming for great career success must be able to communicate their ideas. This is an essential requirement in any job description. Interpersonal and verbal interactions set the tone for workplace relationships. 

Writing Skills. Writing is a universal skill set that always will give an advantage to a job applicant. The way a person expresses her- or himself contributes to an overall impression and helps influence others' perceptions. Each essay, book report and case study a student completes will help him or her improve abilities to formulate ideas and express them in a clear, authoritative manner. Any profession requires a certain degree of writing. People send emails on a daily basis. Workers in different niches also write articles and blog posts, create presentations and communicate in writing with business partners. 

Related: 5 College Degrees That Prepare You for Small-Business Success

Research Skills. Students who deliver high-quality projects must dig through scientific and academic materials. They find studies that support their claims, and they examine opposing viewpoints before forming their own conclusions. The ability to discover source material, apply critical thinking to the findings and develop a new solution or viewpoint is extremely important for career growth across a broad variety of fields. 

Collaboration Skills. Many projects at college and university levels are becoming increasingly collaborative. Through this work, students learn how to share opinions and consider others' contributions. They balance the workload and feel responsible for the achievements of the entire group. That’s what teamwork -- and leadership -- are all about.

Higher education offers experiences beyond the classroom.

According to a landmark, often-cited research study conducted in the late 1990s, students involved in one or more extracurricular activities were 50 percent more likely to be identified as gifted. More recent sources tend to confirm this conclusion. Additional efforts matter, and school systems often provide the platform for these experiences. Higher education is much more than courses and classes. Many students engage in activities outside their structured studies. The lessons they learn beyond the classroom have a direct impact on the skill sets that will make them successful in different professions.

Related: 6 Offbeat College Degrees Perfect for Entrepreneurs