Some students would say a college degree means less than it once did, but several new studies contradict such notions.
According to 2011 United States Census Bureau research, 30.4 percent of U.S. adults have a bachelor’s degree. That percentage was 26.2 in 2001, and an average 30.3 percent of citizens had a bachelor’s degree Between 2005 and 2009, according to the Illlinois Educational Attainment website.
Marcelyn Love, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity public contact, said it is hard to prove whether or not job attainment without a degree is more difficult than it used to be.
“I know that Illinois has one of the most educated workforces in the country,” Love said.
Michelle Garrett, university career services coordinator, said employers who contact university career services specifically want students with degrees.
The major change in employers’ needs, she said, is their desire for applicants to have specific skills or experience, she said.
Garrett said more people have been obtaining college educations in her time with career services.
However, a degree’s value often depends on what career field a student enters, Garrett said. For example, to major in elementary education, the need for a degree is constant because every state requires specific certifications as well as a degree, she said.
“Once (students) meet the minimal degree requirement, then (employers) look at the level of experience,” she said.
Garret said employers value experience now more than ever.
“College students typically will get hired when they start the job search earlier and have one or more internships under their belt,” she said.
Competition for many jobs is fierce because of the ongoing economic crisis, she said.
“Not only do you need a degree, but you need to be able to market yourself,” Garrett said. “Degrees may not be as affordable as before, but they are more accessible.”
Reginald Whiten, a graduate student in computer science from Chicago, said he still thinks it is essential to have a degree.
“I believe jobs do require more degrees than they have in the past because, due to the economy, they are trying to be more selective,” Whiten said.
Whiten said experience is harder to obtain in the economic environment because employers have been required to downsize and hire fewer people.
“I think some employers look more so at a degree than experience because a degree shows that you have the integrity to go to college, but experience is not something everyone can get,” Whiten said.
Ymei Hu, a sophomore from Beijing, China, studying marketing, said she feels a degree’s value depends on the field in which a student obtains a degree. However, she said the college experience is still useful for the job search.
“On campus, you can network and gain future contacts as well as get a degree,” she said.
Hu said a degree is often a potential employer’s minimal requirement.
“(The work climate has) more competition and the environment is not good,” she said.