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When employers ask for a degree as a prerequisite to be considered for a job, what do they really want?

It seems that these days, you need at least an undergraduate degree to be considered for most jobs. However, I wonder what exactly it is that they believe a degree gives you in terms of skills. And, what SHOULD a degree be giving you in terms of skills in exchange for those four or five years of your life?

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    Jul 16 2012: Sorting and choosing among job candidates is tricky and the person who chooses feels as though their own repuation is on the line so I think they are looking for a quick way to rule candidates in or out of consideration for the job. Simple as that. If they get skills or knowledge to go with it, it is bonus!
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    Gail .

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    Jul 16 2012: A degree SHOULD be giving you a decent education, but it doesn't. A degree teaches you to be malleable - to be a good worker - and it comes with a certificate that says that you are proficient in certain fields - up to the limit set by the institution that sells you your certificate of relative proficiency. It says that you have "bought-into" a system that is well-served by big corporations and the corrupt economic model that formal education SERVES.

    That's the short answer, but I think your question goes deeper. Should a person nearing HS graduation seek a college education? That's not such an easy thing to answer, because it all depends on how much you have already bought into the lie and how willing you are to walk outside of conventional norms.

    Education is ESSENTIAL to a quality life - but diseducation (that which most schools teach - whether through lies of commission or lies of omission) is the anathema to one.

    Learning is the greatest joy I have ever experienced, and it has brought me more happiness than anything in life (barring nothing). Education doesn't end with a degree - or even START with one. A functional education is ongoing because life is happening all the time. Just look at the advances in science in the last 40 years - advances that have the ability to end all of our social/political woes - and compare that to how many traditionally "educated" even know about these astounding revelations! It's a sad testament to formal education.

    The more educated you are, the more you can accomplish and the more opportunities you have in life. But the more functionally educated you are, the less in-step with conventional norms you will be, and the more your values will change in concert with it.

    If your goal is $$$$$, then you have to pay into the system that offers it. If your goals is a quality life, then you must invest in yourself. Ultimately, that is the choice.

    The Internet, libraries, and good conversations can serve you better.
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    Jun 18 2012: They just want you to have basics of learning and researching thats why they ask for degrees.
  • Jun 17 2012: Hi Michael.

    Some history might illuminate this subject.

    (I am basically repeating some stuff I read many years ago, so if someone wants to throw in some corrections or additions, I won't be offended.)

    In the USA, the first anti-discrimination laws were passed in the 1960's. Law suits quickly followed, and this scared the whole population of corporate managers because law suits are a big waste of time. This was a wholly new area of law, so the managers had no history to guide their policies, and their lawyers were almost equally in the dark. The lawyers advised a simple, very defensive course of action: require a college degree. At that time this had some 'accidental' side effects. The large majority of college graduates were white and came from households that were well above the poverty line. Effectively, this was legal class discrimination. To be fair, I think most corporate managers were more concerned with the legalities than with the discrimination. It worked. The managers were pleased with the applicants and, for many years, there were no law suits about education discrimination.

    For reasons that had nothing to do with the position itself, many many positions, e.g. computer programming, that could have been filled by a high school graduate suddenly required a college degree. And they still do today.
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    Jun 16 2012: A university education should cultivate critical thinking across a range of disciplines, solid skills in writing and in reading, the ability to meet challenges and overcome obstacles, the ability to manage a workload which often consists of a mixture of things the person might have chosen to do and others he might not have chosen to do, the ability now and then to produce good quality work under pressure, and the ability to persevere. If a job requires a degree in a particular subject- say biology, the degree might also attest to the person's being exposed to the key ideas, vocabulary, and findings in that field, and experience with the techniques and tools that are used to address questions in that field. Some employers favor people with degrees from particular institutions that may be known for their effectiveness in building certain sorts of skills and dispositions, like excellent critical thinking, wrtiting, or skills in scientific inquiry.
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      Jun 17 2012: I agree with Fritzie on this one. I would also add that employers are looking for the self discipline needed and the ability to focus and finish a task even if it takes years.