Are Degrees Less Relevant than They're Purported to be?

in hive-199420 •  17 days ago 

Growing up in the UK in the 80s and 90s, there generally wasn’t an expectation that most people would get degrees after leaving school. Most careers you generally learnt on the job and worked your way up, rather like an apprenticeship. Even nursing was done this way and my mum went into training as a registered nurse in her thirties. As she was finishing her training, this three year pathway to nursing was changed and a degree is now required. So you instead need to do a degree for three years, getting much less hands on experience, before becoming a qualified nurse, then learn on the job.


My sister chose to get a degree and followed it with a PhD in volcano seismology. England isn't exactly known for its volcanos, though, so she now works as a civil servant. I have a friend who has a degree as a librarian, because a degree was a requirement for that position. It turns out that what we generally think of as a librarian is actually just a library assistant, so what she does is a but more basic than putting books on a shelf and finding them in the database. She currently works as a librarian for MI5 and has high level government clearances. Perhaps my sister didn't even need a PhD to get where she is today, just the degree would have done. She enjoyed doing it, though.

My uncle got himself a degree in geology and then went on to do a job that had no requirement for a degree at all. My husband's cousin got a degree in law and also does something completely different, although I think having a degree may have helped her getting into that career path, it’s just not the degree she took.

My husband started on a degree as an electrical and mechanical maintenance engineer and completed enough units for a HNC, but his employer decided not to continue funding it as it wasn't a requirement for his area of work. He eventually worked his way up into supervisor positions and then management without having attained the degree.

Then we moved to South Australia and discovered a completely different dynamic. To work in management here, most companies like you to have a degree. In some states of Australia, you have to have a degree to even have the title of “engineer”. Degrees are so popular, that to have a bit of an advantage over other's, some people get two degrees by adding some extra units in, basically doing an extra year, something that wouldn't be quite so simple in the UK system.

The whole schooling system in Australia is geared towards ATAR scores to get onto university courses. For every job you might want to do you need certificates and licenses. It's ironic that my husband's area of expertise, electrical and mechanical, requires licenses which you need to attain through the education system. So since moving here, despite him being assessed for a visa on his electrical skills, he hasn't been able to work as maintenance electrician, but instead has had to work in management and supervisor roles, because they don't mandate that he needs a degree, it's just preferred.

Yet his experience has been that those with the “qualifications” often aren't highly capable in their work. Often some of the less qualified people are better at their jobs that those with the highest qualifications.

It seems that aiming to get a degree is now so commonplace in Australia that there are degrees for almost anything, including things that never really needed them or should need them. One starts to wonder if it's just an excuse to get more people paying into the education system or to divide those with money from those without, especially when you realise that many employers actually judge you on the schools you attended and the area you live in; but I digress.

Is a degree even necessary?

In theory, I believe a degree should not be necessary, but when they system is set up to punish you if you don't have one, then you're going to be struggling in the job market without one. Yet it doesn't seem to matter what your degree is in, as long as you have one. Ironically, more and more younger people I know who have degrees have decided they don't even want to work in the area they studied for and are doing jobs that don't require one. Law seems to be a particularly common one for that happening; I wonder why. 🤔

My eldest has just completed her first year of her degree. She's driven and knows what she wants to do and that includes getting her medical doctorate for the area of clinical research she wants to do. To me, this makes sense that for that type of work, but my youngest is not academically minded, she's a much more hands on type. She'd be much better off going the apprenticeship route. Unfortunately there is little choice in that area and the way things are going she may have fewer and fewer employment options open to her, as time goes by, without a degree.

While some politicians and universities are starting to realise that the pressure placed on ATAR scores for year twelve graduates aren't necessarily a good thing and are looking at offering different approaches to university entry, it doesn't look like the push to gain a degree is going to change any time soon. Then with about a third of university students dropping or failing out, it goes to show that there are more than just a few who are only doing them because it's the expected thing to do, rather than because they are passionate about what they're wanting to learn.

While I don't believe degrees should be scrapped, I wouldn't mind seeing them revert to how they used to be, for more specific career areas. In many ways, degrees aren't the significant indicator of dedicated study that they used to be, when you can get through one with just 50% pass grades . They certainly don't indicate that you will make a capable manager or will be able to turn your hand to any job.

I would love to see many more alternative pathways to employment for those less academically inclined and a move away from the assumption that those not so academically inclined are unintelligent or incapable.


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Oh, I was JUST YESTERDAY telling to my hubby "I suddenly realized University is a waste of time. You spend 5 years (in Venezuela) studying something you cannot work at until you have a degree and, then, 5 years later you finally are able to work at it which is where you actually LEARN about it. And what they taught you at, for example, the 1st year is totally irrelevant by now."

I studied 4 of 5 years of journalism and I left because I REALIZED that I didn't want to be a journalist. Oh, wow. My mom kicked me out of the house and all and she cried about me having ruined all she did for me in life and now I'm a failure. Was all of that really necessary? I worked as a radio producer and I didn't get paid because I was a student but also they only hired students + we did ALL the work except to talk in front of the microphone. I didn't need a degree for that. Plus what they were teaching me at school had nothing to do with what I actually learned working in it.

And I totally get the fear of my mom of me failing in life with no money for food nor shelter because I don't have a degree since that IS the common thought out there but I don't feel it is necessary. I saw TONS of guys who don't even know how to proper write in Spanish getting graduated as Journalists and I COULD NOT make me feel bad for being the one who didn't get the diploma. It is a paper and it says nooOoOOthing about your capabilities - which I feel exceed the capabilities of those who were in my class thank you.

And, on the other hand, I would love to study Architecture or Interior Design ONLY because I REALLY want to STUDY them. Like, I really want to learn and that's all. I don't want to work as an Architecth but I want to build my own house from 0. This is for you @riverflows who talked about studying just for the joy and passion of it. I just thought I would make a single long comment instead of two that would say almost the same but in different posts. 😅

Agree with so much of what you've said here. I've encountered a few certified journalists and some of them I've looked at the writing of and wondered how they managed to get qualified. Others, of course, have been amazing writers, but it goes to show that the years of education and passing exams doesn't necessarily qualify you for the job. It's certainly not a magic bullet.

Haha !ENGAGE 50 for you!!! I'd hire you in a second.

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I completed and undergraduate degree about 15 years ago and the a post graduate Diploma of Education. I remember that as we neared the end of that, one of our lecturers said something along the lines of ‘... and now your real learning begins.’

While we had learned a lot of theory on different methods to teach, behaviour management, philosophical approaches to education such as special needs, indigenous, etc, we had only received 10 weeks of practical experience, and this was a very ‘canned’ situation where we were pretty much set up to win.

There isn’t a great deal we needed from that degree. My undergraduate was valuable, in as much as it gave me the knowledge to teach my subjects, but having said that, I’ve done a lot of my own learning since than as well. But the best take away I got from the Grad Dip Ed was that get to work early if you need the photocopier.

I tend to agree with you that there are definitely degrees that are worthwhile, but then there are ones that are just revenue raisers and a means to tick a box for bureaucrats. They don’t teach soft skills or common sense which is greatly lacking in society today. I often think there are many more relevant hands on courses at TAFE and training centres that better prepare people for the jobs they want.

Seriously, me too. All my real learning about teaching has been on the job.

I know. Pretty much, forget everything and start learning once you get a position. But, then, it's that kind of job. I was told during my first practical, by a deputy principal, that teaching is one of the most basic instincts of all animals, and that it cannot really be taught. He was pretty much on the money.

I can see the need to attain a certain level of education for those entering teaching. After all, you're then trying to pass on the correct knowledge. However, teaching is much more than just imparting that knowledge, isn't it!

I can imagine that it would take years of practical experience to learn how to best motivate learners and handle a variety of situations with children and youths. Even then, some are naturally much better at interacting with others anyway.

Alternative pathways are the go. Australia is SO over regulated and over bureaucratic it's a joke.

England isn't exactly known for its volcanos,

Nope haha.

My sister in law has a degree in archaeology. Underpaid unless you are a TV person. She worked for ages at it and even on Time Team digs. She's now a gardener.

Archeology is something I find intesting too. I guess it's one of those things where it doesn't contribute to wealth creation, so it's not really going to pay well. I loved Time Team! How amazing she got to work on that. Although it was probably cold and wet most of the time. 😆

Australia seems to be trying to come in line with China. It's closer to communism here than England and that's saying something!

yeah I know right!!!!!!! And most Australians think they're free! It makes me giggle. And they're shit at riots too... :P

Ha, yep, she even had pints with Tony Robinson....

They did a lot of summer gigs really, she had great tans!

I remember so many episodes where they didn't get as long on the dig as they wanted because of the rains turning everything to mud and them having to put it off for a few days. It must have been amazing when they got a good run then! A tan in England is a rarity. So rare, in fact, that when you do get sun it's such a shock that you get sunburn! 🤣

As pieces of paper that say you did a thing at uni they're great (unlike school which was a complete waste of 12 years of my life I really enjoyed uni, I actually learned things in my first degree that I'm not sure I would have picked up otherwise, my second degree which I actually finished I really didn't need to do at uni at all but the stuff I was doing around it was fun). Being required for the types of job where you would be infinitely better off learning on the job seems monumentally idiotic though.

But what do I know :)

Oooo, what did you do your degree in? I reckon anything I'd like doing as a degree would be considered to be one of those throw away ones! 🤣

Angel often complains about the physics students being stuck up and boasting that theirs is the toughest degree and therefore they're the smartest. It reminds me of Sheldon in Big Bang Theory. Maybe they aspire to be him. Now I've said all that you're probably going to tell me you did physics...

RoFL I'm not smart enough to do physics (all I can manage is the cloth and hair physics I've been fighting with).

I have a Bachelor of Multimedia (I ran to the Arts department after failing to progress in my original Bachelor of Science in Biological Science, failed organic chem which was needed for genetics and molecular biology which is where I wanted to go and I assumed I was too stupid for it because nobody knew dyscalculia was a thing :)).

Angel loves organic chemistry, but says it's SO hard! And that's from someone without discalculia. Would you get some sort of assistance or allowance for that now? That's another thing that bugs me about gaining paperwork, it's a blanket one size fits all not taking the differences in how our brains work into account.

I've been told that I probably can now but that requires getting diagnosed and I'm too lazy. Also I only considered finishing the biology degree once a few years ago and never again, I have enough trouble keeping on top of the crap I'm already doing without adding more XD

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