Want Your Degree To Mean Something? Work While You're In College

In an era when it seems as if many people are trying to reconstruct the formula for success, the value of the college degree has been questioned, debated and then questioned again. The most cynical observers might tell you that the four years you spend in college aren't necessary and that a degree is nothing more than a useless piece of paper.

Based on a recent study conducted by one of the nation's top institutions, the chances of this theory being proven right only increase when college students don't work beyond the classroom to gain job experience while still in school.

"According to a new survey by FTI ConsultingFCN, on behalf of Northeastern University, 60% of the general public feels someone with no college degree but some work experience would fare better in the workforce than a person who has a diploma but no work on their resume," wrote Wall Street Journal reporter Melissa Korn. "And 62% of business leaders with hiring responsibilities agree."

The idea to take away from these results is pretty straight forward: job candidate no. 1, after working for a couple of years without having obtained a degree is better off than job candidate no. 2, who has a college degree but no work experience.

While the survey, like all surveys, studies just a small sample size (1,000 people whose opinions could have been shaped by, literally, an infinite amount of their own experiences), it suggests that college students do have a reason to be wary of their career trajectory, especially when you consider the numbers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 48% of college graduates who are employed have jobs that don't even require their four-year degrees. Simply put, there are millions of potential employees with degrees who are not getting the type of jobs, at least initially, that they put in years of expensive schooling for.

The implications, then, for young, educated twenty-somethings is clear. For those who have already graduated, there's even more reason to be diligent, tireless, shameless and willing to search, perhaps even if it means moving in order to find the right job and get their money's worth after paying off those eight plus painful term bills.

For those who are lucky enough to still be in school, however, with an opportunity to still drastically change the shape of their college careers, the onus is now on them to go out and gain the experience necessary to increase their own self-worth as a prospect to employers.

It might be a hard reality to accept, especially when it makes the semester that much harder and less fun-- but in this day in age, it is simply what has to be done.

“There’s no reason to believe that it’s going to go back to the time when it’s simply enough to have a degree,” education expert Andre Dua told Forbes. “We’ve entered a time when it’s necessary to have competencies in addition to the credential of a degree.”

Photo courtesy HBO