The value of a higher education degree has become increasingly questioned as more people look to other ways towards higher level tertiary sector work. Tertiary work can be understood in this context as providing some form of specialised service, with high level work defined by well paid jobs like executives, doctors and consultants, as well as by mid range jobs like teachers or office managers. While it used to be that A Levels and a good degree would be crucial to getting a higher paid job, there are arguments for taking on apprenticeships and traineeships, rather than paying for a Higher Education experience. However, there are some arguments against this position that need to be considered.
Arguments Against a Degree
While most people would agree that a degree can provide a person with multiple skills and a more comprehensive level of knowledge for a subject, it is also becoming increasingly expensive to study, with many leaving University with significant debts. Arguments for searching out alternative jobs point to the importance of real world experience and traineeships after school, which will put someone on a faster track to management and specialized roles.
In this context, the number of 21st century graduates that still earn more than those that left school has eroded from 95% to 85% since 1993. More graduates are having to enter into lower to middle wage brackets, while also facing unemployment and minimum wage work. Advocates for skipping University for a traineeship and apprenticeship point to self made businesspeople like Richard Branson, Sir James Dyson and Jamie Oliver, as well as to the chance to study and receive training through a study scheme. Accountancy and legal firms often provide these long term schemes. Those taking a gap year to gain work experience can also improve their employability.
Value of Degrees
However, for all those that achieve success without going to University, in general terms having a degree can provide you with more long term opportunities. Employers will still look at evidence of a degree for specialist knowledge, and the current job market still shows that 85% of graduates are in work compared to 72.3% of non graduates in the same age bracket. The main difference is that a graduate has that degree to fall back on if they decide to switch jobs, while a specialised apprenticeship might be a problem if someone decides to leave the job.
There is also the danger of having to incur debts through internships and unpaid work that might cause a job seeker to have to struggle to move up the ladder in a job. Graduate schemes that offer similar training schemes, albeit on a faster track, can generate a similar level of salary and opportunities for promotion. Other tertiary jobs like teaching also typically require applicants to have completed a degree, as well as a postgraduate PGCE programme before they can be considered. The end result is that having a degree, while not always essential, does have the advantage of generating more options for those that take the time and the money to get one.
About the Post
Brought to you by the bloggers from Lansdowne College. A london based Independent Sixth Form College.