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Is Having a Degree Enough to Land You a Top Job?

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Getting a degree takes a great deal of time, effort, money and dedication. You pick up skills and knowledge along the way and hope this’ll help you bag your dream job. But is it enough? 

We talk to Mandy Watson, managing director of recruitment consultants, Ambitions Personnel, about whether having a degree is enough to get you a top job.

Don’t underestimate the importance of work experience

Watson warned never to underestimate the importance of work experience in a job application.

“Graduates cannot purely rely on their degree to secure a position,” she explained. “This is especially true if the degree subject does not pertain to the job vacancy in hand.”

She added: “After all, there are some things that you cannot teach that will only come with day to day work experience.”

Although work experience is incredibly important, having a degree will sometimes give your application an edge over other candidates. It can often be the tiebreaker between two equally impressive candidates. 

“Absolutely, if two applicants were on equal footing experience-wise, a degree would certainly offer an edge in many recruitment situations,” said Watson.

University experiences help prepare you for work

Having a degree shows employers that you have certain highly sought-after qualities which can help prepare you for work.

Watson said: “University can provide graduates with brilliant experience and skills. A university student has the fantastic opportunity of living somewhere completely new and to broaden their professional, academic and friendship networks.

She adds that in her opinion: “It’s often the experience of university that shapes a graduate. The academic side simply nurtures what is already there.”

A degree shows you can learn new skills quickly

“Even if a candidate lacks experience, a degree signifies a person is capable of studying at a certain level, meeting deadlines, making a long-term commitment and performing well under pressure,” said Watson.

However, Watson said that the key to being successful in your career to find what you want to do and to work hard at it. She explained that it’s important to remember that not everyone takes the same route in their career and a degree isn’t necessary for all jobs.

“Passion and integrity also go a long way,” explained Watson. “If someone can show they are tenacious, that they have worked on their skills and have a desire to succeed early on, they will also undoubtedly stand out above the rest in a competitive job market.”

Employers often look for candidates who they believe will engage and invest in their business.

“This is what I look for when recruiting internally for my business and for my clients, degree or no degree,” revealed Watson. 

Develop transferrable skills at university

If you’re looking to build transferrable skills at university, pursuing work experience can help, with the chance to raise some much-needed funds while studying.

This could be by working part-time, volunteering or interning.

“Having this responsibility helps develop interpersonal and time-management skills and it could be a great way to gain relevant experience for your desired career,” said Watson.

Extra-curricular hobbies and university societies can help students gain transferrable skills and really help students’ CVs to stand out.

“A well-rounded individual is what most employers are looking for,” revealed Watson. “Development of your own personal interests alongside your studies can be incredibly helpful.” 

So, is having a degree enough?

Although recruiters look highly on work experience, a degree will show that you have a certain level of expertise in a subject. Students should combine their studies with work experience for the best results.

“Hypothetically, you could have a PhD graduate who has never worked a day in their life. Unless the PhD is relevant to the role and expertise the job requires, they are not necessarily going to be more desirable than someone with actual hands-on experience,” explained Watson.

 “On the other hand, a qualification of that level will strongly signify to an employer or recruiter of that person’s academic ability, expertise and integrity.

“Generally, someone embarking on a PhD will have a clear goal in mind from the level of discipline needed to attain one, be that in further research positions or a career that demands it.”

She added, “Overall, if the level of passion for a subject matches the career prospects available with that achievement, then it’s worth pursuing.”