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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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    Jun 18 2012: They just want you to have basics of learning and researching thats why they ask for degrees.

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