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Is a degree really important for your career?

In most of the advanced economies of the world...

In most of the advanced economies of the world, higher education is held up as the gateway to success. In the closing years of the 20th century, earning a degree was an aspiration widely encouraged across most socio-economic groups. This may have had its roots in the revolutionary GI Bill of 1944, which aimed to boost the educational and career prospects of World War II vets and later helped Vietnam vets. It continues in a revised form today. The idea that degree-level education was good for individuals as well as the economy and wider society took a firm hold.

On the other side of the world, the extraordinary performance of the education systems in powerful emerging economies like China and South Korea made maximizing post-secondary education essential. The same response is widely visible across Europe.

But the unresolved question persists of which is more important, education or experience? Some analysts see the broadening of post-secondary education as the engine of diminishing returns. As more students earn degrees, the argument goes, the degree itself is devalued. Disruptor-entrepreneurs like Elon Musk have made it clear that they are not interested in formal academic qualifications as much as proven skills, such as the ability to pass "hardcore coding tests".

Other wisdom disagrees. A 2017 Harvard Business School study identified a belief among employers that college graduates were more prepared for the world of work. Data shows that 36% of those over 25 in the U.S. have degrees and enjoy 57% more job opportunities. This is expected to reach 67% soon.

But what about the debt incurred by undergraduates, which averages $37,000? This is frequently described as "crippling", but the reality is that graduate earnings go a long way toward offsetting the obligations of repayment. Those with degrees enjoy median earnings that are nearly 70% higher than those with only a high school diploma.

Furthermore, the playing field is often levelled by graduate programs that ensure that candidates with degrees are pitted against others with similar degrees in the job market. In addition, many very popular career choices are automatically closed to applicants without degrees.

There are other less quantifiable advantages to earning a degree. Although it’s true that many degree courses are designed with a specific career path in mind - engineering, teaching, law and medicine, for example - many employers place enormous value on the proven abilities of a graduate to learn, assimilate, conduct independent research and apply initiative. These are skills that can’t be graded by exam room performance, but business, academia and public service would be much poorer without them.

The freight forwarding industry is a perfect illustration of this. There’s absolutely no formal requirement to hold a degree in order to move into this vibrant, thriving sector of commerce, but the statistics tell an interesting story. Thirty-six percent of freight forwarders have a bachelor’s degree, and nearly 10% hold masters’ degrees. Taking that rewarding third step in your education can open up a world of possibilities that might otherwise remain out of reach.

Here at Freight Appointments, we take the time and trouble to analyze and constantly re-evaluate the state of the recruitment market in the freight forwarding industry. Our reputation for expertise and sector understanding is our strongest promotional tool, and it’s the reason clients keep coming back and why we can take our pick of testimonials to quote.

Our job is deceptively simple: to match the right candidate with the right employer. Of course, educational achievement plays a significant part in that process, and for all the reasons we’ve discussed, it would be disingenuous to claim that having a degree is only a negligible advantage. However, post-secondary qualification is only one of the many qualities that we and our clients look for. We believe recruitment is a holistic process, and we approach it with profound industry knowledge, open minds and a determination to find and nurture the core skills in everyone.

Call us in the U.S. at (646) 977-7946, or contact our European operation at +44 (0) 203 150 1068. You can also use our website contact form to get in touch.

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