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Are Skills More Important Than Degrees? Here’s the Research

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Skills more important than degrees

In 2022, major companies like General Motors and Delta Airlines dropped degree requirements as college enrollment continues to decline. Coupled with the growing global talent crisis, this begs the question for both employers and job seekers: Are skills more important than degrees?

Recent Research Suggests Employers Are Shifting to Skills-Based Hiring

Today’s job seekers seem to value obtaining skills over earning degrees, according to a 2022 white paper from American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future. Seventy-four percent of Gen Z respondents said they want to learn skills that prepare them for jobs that will be in demand. Even so, 65% of Gen Z are worried about choosing the wrong education pathway, and 37% think that employers favor job seekers who have degrees. 

But there’s good news that should put worried minds at ease: The same white paper found that employers are beginning to focus more on skills when hiring. Some highlights from its findings:

  • 72% of employers don’t think degrees are reliable indicators of skills
  • 68% want to hire non-degree candidates
  • 81% believe their hiring process should consider skills rather than degrees

The growing popularity of skills assessments is another strong indicator of a move toward skills-based hiring. The Society for Human Resource Management found that 56% of employers use pre-employment tests to assess skills. Additionally, 79% of the HR professionals SHRM surveyed said that “scores on skills assessments are just as or more important than traditional criteria in hiring decisions.” That’s promising data for job seekers on a non-traditional education path.

How does the future look? A 2022 report from The Burning Glass Institute predicts that over the next five years, 1.4 million jobs could become available to people without college degrees.

3 Major Benefits to Non-Traditional Education

Job seekers and employers are starting to realize the value of non-traditional pathways. Here are three major benefits of pursuing alternatives to college:

1. They relieve people of the burden of student loan debt.

According to a Payscale study, two-thirds of American employees have regrets about their education. The top one? Student loans. U.S. News data shows that the average student loan debt is about $30,000. Compare that to the cost of a 12-week mini-MBA program from Invited MBA ($1,850), and it’s clear why college alternatives can be a more financially viable option. 

2. They’re more equitable.

Excluding candidates without a college degree excludes talent from marginalized groups. With the average cost of a four-year degree from a public college hovering around $25,000 a year, people from low-income backgrounds often cannot afford to enroll. On top of that, for students who are also parents, attending school can place undue stress on them as they juggle time with their children. College alternatives like online programs require less time commitment and are more convenient to attend.

3. They can help address the global talent shortage.

Korn Ferry estimates that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs will be left unfilled “because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them.” By making the attainment of those skills more accessible, the workforce is trained enough to fill those positions in the future.

Seeking a Non-Traditional Path? 4 College Alternatives Worth Exploring

A college degree isn’t the only option for today’s workforce. If you want to expand your horizons while maintaining a competitive edge, consider these education-to-career pathways.

1. Apprenticeships

Traditionally, apprenticeships were common among hands-on trades such as welding, carpentry, electrical work, and plumbing. However, apprenticeships have been on the rise since 2010, and there’s a push to expand them to more occupations, such as finance and cybersecurity. You can find opportunities on the U.S. government website Apprenticeship.gov

2. Bootcamps

Recently, coding bootcamps have grown in popularity because they allow many to obtain software engineering jobs without having a computer science degree. Bootcamps are typically much less expensive than a formal degree, and many programs offer to defer tuition until after participants land a job.

3. Trade programs

Trade programs and technical colleges are lower-cost, shorter-duration programs that focus on tangible skills rather than theory and information. You can find trade programs in healthcare, business, information technology, construction, and more.

4. Online courses

Online courses open up a world of possibilities for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds by removing the barriers to access — such as money and transportation. While a full-time MBA program can take up to two years to complete and cost up to six figures in tuition, Invited MBA’s virtual, live programs range from 3 to 12 weeks and come at a fraction of the cost. Invited MBA has more than 1,500 alumni from major organizations such as Canva, Dell, Apple, IBM, and Pfizer.

Skills-Based Hiring Ushers in a New Era of Education

For nearly a century, the college degree has been the go-to shorthand way for employers to assess a job candidate’s skills. But society is evolving, and the way organizations hire is evolving too.

That doesn’t mean a college education is useless. It just means that you as a job seeker now have many viable paths you can pursue—ones that don’t involve overwhelming time and financial commitments.

Want to explore a faster, most cost-effective way to gain business and people management skills? Learn more about Invited MBA’s 12-week mini-MBA and 3-week Fast Track programs today.

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