College degrees don’t always guarantee employment, although it increases the chance of getting hired.

Which is more important in getting a job: the skills we acquire from experience or the degree we obtain after several years of schooling? Can we succeed in our careers with just one, or do we need both? Are universities sufficiently equipping students for success in the workplace? These are just a few postulations people ponder on but don’t often find concrete answers to.

By definition, a degree is an official statement or documentation of what you accomplished in the academe. It is a qualification that you earn from a university or college and a formal recognition of your knowledge in a particular subject area. A skill, on the other hand, “encompasses the knowledge, competencies and abilities to perform operational tasks, according to Indeed. A candidate may have a degree but don’t have the vital skills required to land a job. That is similar to someone who has multiple skills but not a degree.

An organization has different qualifications on getting the best candidate but who has more advantage: a degree holder or someone who is highly skilled?

Degrees, unfortunately, do not evince that you have skills

Degrees authenticate someone who has knowledge of the work nature and what it operates. It can make someone more polite, understanding, wise and humble. These are the core characteristics that may help the organization reach its goal. A degree can get you a job, but it does not guarantee career growth nor high salary without skill.

A skilled worker is not necessarily a degree holder. But this too has an advantage of its own and occasionally more in demand in the industry. Ultimately, it’s the skill that keeps the operations going and not the degree. A skill can also make you stand out and make you more confident.

Nowadays, employers offer the same chance of getting a job to skilled individuals and degree holders. This shows that employers no longer overlook the former. But this case may appear unfair to those who graduated and possess academic credentials and spent time and money on an excellent education.

Adding the right skills to your degree promises employment

If you are a degree holder and worry about the shift towards skills-based hiring, there are certain ways you can attract career opportunities in the face of talent competitions:

  • Attend major workshops and online trainings
  • Take tech skills (technology is evolving ever so rapidly and your tech skills might come in handy)
  • Bone up on your soft skills
  • Apply for an internship
  • Pursue a specialization

As a reference, many of the known names today did not go to college and decided to take a different path. They admit that getting a degree is useless. Their dream, skill, determination and ambition are their vehicle to the top. In fact, Elon Musk once said that “Don’t confuse schooling with education. I didn’t go to Harvard but the people that work for me did.”

According to The Economic Times, “67% of recruiters today emphasize skills and experience more than the background and educational qualifications of the potential candidates, finds new data. Companies value skills and experience over degrees as eight in 10 companies have in-house upskilling programmes for employees.” 

In a study made by the U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, we can see that the higher the educational attainment, the lesser the unemployment rate. 

Note: Data are for persons aged 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers.

Source: Current Population Survey, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The debate between skills and education is a never-ending one. Some people believe that skills are more important than education, while others think that the opposite is true. Skills are what you can do with your hands, while education is what you can do with your mind. They are tangible and measurable, while education is intangible and difficult to measure. Skills are the outcome of hands-on experience and knowledge combined, while education is learned through books or lectures. Similarly, skills can be taught in a short period of time, but it takes years to learn about “literacy and numeracy” well enough to be considered educated.

Final thoughts

Comparing the studies made by The Economic Times and U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, this can help us conclude that skills and degrees have their own respective importance. In these modern times, though, where skills and values are becoming a big deal, it’s an advantage to have a degree since this may help in landing a job, but it doesn’t always guarantee employability. Employers are now starting to also consider candidates who have the right skills and relevant experiences for the job.

If you’re about to enter college, think wisely whether you want to be a skilled individual or a degree holder. As mentioned, both have their pros and cons. If you are currently in college, it is recommended that you supplement your education with some skills to gain experience and therefore, make you stand out after graduation. For those people who have college degrees and are struggling to land a job, keep on “upping the ante” and never lose hope!