Does Having a Degree Help You Get a Job?

A photo of a graduation cap, books, and a diploma

In today’s competitive job market, the value of a college degree is often debated. Some argue that higher education is crucial for career success, while others believe practical skills and experience are more important. Let’s examine various aspects, including statistical data, employer preferences, and expert opinions, to determine whether having a degree truly helps in securing a job.


The Current Job Market

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher is significantly lower than for those without. As of April 2024, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 2.2%, compared to 3.9% for those with only a high school diploma. This data suggests that having a degree can enhance job security and opportunities.

Furthermore, a report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that: “By 2020, 65% of all jobs in the American economy required postsecondary education and training beyond high school.” This trend indicates a growing demand for educated workers, reinforcing the importance of a college degree in the job market.


Employer Preferences

Employers often prefer candidates with a college degree for several reasons. Firstly, a degree demonstrates a certain level of knowledge and expertise in a specific field. Secondly, it shows that the candidate has developed critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills through education. These skills are highly valued in the workplace.

In a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 90% of employers prefer someone who can solve problems. Additionally, 80% of employers indicated they seek someone with strong teamwork capabilities.


Practical Skills and Experience

While a degree can open doors, practical skills, and experience are equally important. Many employers look for a combination of formal education and hands-on experience. Internships, part-time jobs, and volunteer work can provide valuable experience that complements academic qualifications.

In some fields, such as technology and creative industries, portfolios and practical skills may weigh more heavily than a degree. For example, in software development, coding boot camps and self-taught programming skills can sometimes suffice if the candidate demonstrates proficiency and experience through projects and previous work.


The Changing Landscape of Education

The rise of online education and vocational training programs is changing the traditional view of higher education. These alternatives offer flexible, cost-effective ways to gain skills and credentials. For instance, platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udacity provide courses and certifications from reputable universities and organizations.

The CUNY School of Professional Studies is offering flexible, fully online bachelor’s degree programs tailored for busy, working adults who want to complete their education and advance their careers. If you’re interested, register for their online Information Session here.


Having a degree can significantly enhance job prospects and provide a competitive edge in the job market. Degrees are particularly important in fields that require specialized knowledge and qualifications. However, practical skills, experience, and continuous learning are crucial to career success.

The key is to strike a balance between formal education and practical experience. As the job market evolves, individuals should focus on building a comprehensive skill set that includes academic credentials and real-world experience. In doing so, they can position themselves as well-rounded candidates ready to meet the demands of today’s employers.

Ultimately, the value of a degree depends on the industry, the employer, and the individual’s career goals. For many, a degree remains a valuable asset that opens doors and provides a foundation for lifelong learning and career development.