Finally, a reality check about that college degree

The job posting says “bachelor degree required” I say why? New research asks the same question. There are many jobs out there that do not require a college degree, but the perception is they do. It’s unfair.

The idea that a person with a degree is somehow more qualified, more skilled, motivated, productive or creative is a myth. Certainly there is value in higher education. But that value is highly dependent on the individual, it’s not a blanket skill increaser nor does it automatically create a better worker.

“As many as 30 million American workers without four-year college degrees have the skills to realistically move into new jobs that pay on average 70 percent more than their current ones. That estimate comes from a collaboration of academic, nonprofit and corporate researchers who mined data on occupations and skills.

The findings point to the potential of upward mobility for millions of Americans, who might be able to climb from low-wage jobs to middle-income occupations or higher.

But the research also shows the challenge that the workers face: They currently experience less income mobility than those holding a college degree, which is routinely regarded as a measure of skills. That widely shared assumption, the researchers say, is deeply flawed.”

Up to 30 Million in U.S. Have the Skills to Earn 70% More, Researchers Say


  1. I don’t agree with the NYTimes piece by Lohr, because I don’t think of a college education as acquiring skills, primarily. Certainly my own college experience was not like this at all, and I don’t think that view gives a sensible account of why people with a college degree make more money.

    Instead of taking the view that college is a sort of elaborated vocational school, an alternative conception is that of learning liberal arts, and the notion of a liberal education. That’s what brings in the bucks. I won’t try to articulate just what that is here, because I’ve just taken a brief tour around the Web, and I see that others say better than I ever could what a liberal education is and why employers will pay for it. Here is a good account:


  2. I think the “bachelor degree required” requirement allows hiring managers to more easily screen applicants, though it does not help them hire better applicants.


  3. I could write a book on my opinion about the big college lie. It is true that it is one path to being lifted out of poverty. Some fields require a college education and often require more than 4 years. But I worked with many engineers who never used their degree.

    So how do I think we got there? First it was the answer to affirmative action. Colleges had the scholarships and employers let them do the first part of pre-employment testing. In the 1970’s, kids were graduating high school unable to read or do basic math. If they had a college degree they must be able to at least read although I am not so sure that is true anymore. By 1992, the NJ State Police required a degree. This eliminated tens of thousands of applicants from applying who just wanted a civil service police jobs because they didn’t have a degree; reduced the overall cost of hiring and stopped the discrimination lawsuits. For the record, in 2020 they dropped this requirement because nobody is applying. If you are going to spend money on college, you might as well get a better degree just in case you don’t get hired as a policeman.

    Back in the 1980’s I was told to put every scrap of paper, certificate, course completion documents in my resume in the hope that I would have one more piece of paper than the next qualified candidate. Colleges picked up on this and started to customized their degrees. Now instead of basket weaving you could get a degree in basket weaving using cattails. If you applied for a job for basket weaving using straw, you were no longer qualified. Everytime the economy crashes, the requirements got tighter. Companies want experienced people with a degree and are no longer willing to train and then complain that the colleges are not turning out qualified candidates. Add in electronic applications and now HR has to look at thousands of applicants and if it doesn’t say basket weaver in straw, your application is deleted.

    I worked my whole life in technical and vocational careers. I have a 3″ thick file of the different courses and certifications that I took. If I ever wanted to be a supervisor or manager I needed a degree. Truth be told, everything I learned about OJT and supervising I learned in the Air Force. I earned my degree 29 years after high school as a way of wrapping up all my education into one piece of paper since nobody wants to sort through every piece of paper that I have earned. It all means nothing. I never used it to even apply for a job.

    Need to go back to certifications and on the job training for most jobs.


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