In 2015, more than half a million people applied to attend universities in the UK on UCAS. The number exceeded the previous record, set in 2011, just before the rise in tuition fees.
There is constant debate about whether or not a university degree is key to career success. Some people argue that experience is more important than a degree; others say a degree provides something that experience can’t.
Here’s why we believe a university degree is important.
The ‘experience over education’ argument
Education is often seen as the first step to a successful career, followed by experience which provides opportunities for further development. While experience will show you that a particular process doesn’t work, education will provide you with the analytical and theoretical knowledge to help you explain why it doesn’t work.
There are some jobs where experience trumps a university education and vice versa. Having a degree in computer science might put you in a better position than your competition if you want to work as a data scientist. However, if you’re looking for a job in sales, someone with a track record of winning big contracts may be chosen instead of you and your business management degree. Vocational careers like acting and construction are also more likely to value experience over education.
The ‘depends on the career’ argument
For some careers, having a degree is imperative; take doctors, lawyers and teachers for example. Though, there are some jobs where one would argue that a degree isn’t necessary. You could become a project manager, training manager or a commodities trader without obtaining a degree, but would still require specific qualifications like a PRINCE 2.
However, when applying for a competitive role where hundreds of ‘qualified’ candidates have applied, a university degree could be the difference between you securing the job or not. Rowan O’Grady, president of recruitment firm Hays, believes that while a Bachelor of Arts may not secure a job as easily as an engineering degree, it is better than no degree at all.
“It’s not an advantage to have a degree anymore, but it’s a disadvantage if you don’t have it.”
The ‘fast track to a great career’ argument
Job ads will often require candidates to be graduates or of ‘graduate calibre’. Some companies place a lot of importance not only on the fact that you went to university but the university you attended and the grade you received. Three to four years of intensive study in one field helps you develop intellectually and gain the sort of analytical and communication skills that will help you write that winning cover letter. It also shows that you are an expert in a particular field, can meet deadlines, and can commit to something long term. Many large companies even offer graduate training schemes- jobs offered specifically to those that have completed university- to develop and prepare them for a long and successful career.
When you choose to go to university, you choose to expand your mind in a way that makes you more valuable as a potential employee. A university degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a job, but it certainly puts you in a unique position and opens doors reserved only for graduates.