Tuesday 25 June 2019

Have college degrees lost their relevance?

Alice Murray - Independent Jobs

College is seen as a rite of passage for many people. Another ‘‘check’’ on your life to-do list.

Go to school, get good grades, work hard, pass your exams, get into a good course, complete your degree, find a job, live happily ever after. We know the drill.

As students all over Ireland accept their CAO choices and scramble to find affordable accommodation is now the right time to ask if it’s all worth it? Does college really set you up for a great career? Do the best students always succeed in real life? The answer isn’t necessarily clean cut.

For many years college degrees were seen as a necessary asset if you wanted to secure a high-paying job. They were the yardstick by which candidates were measured. However, that’s no longer the case.

In fact, many of the major tech and finance companies out there like Google, Apple, IBM and EY no longer require applicants to have a college degree. Through internships, training programmes and mentorship, more and more young people are entering the workforce straight from school.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that college degrees have been replaced for good. There are still lots of benefits associated with third level education.

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College graduates are still paid more

If you want to earn the big bucks then college is a great first step. According to the Education At A Glance report which was published by the OECD, Irish graduates earn 84% more over their lifetime than non-graduates. A third-level education is not just a better money-maker. According to the same report people with a degree are more likely to say that they are in good health and participate in volunteering activities.

College gives students the chance to learn life skills

The nervous fresher who enters campus on their first day of class is hopefully very different from the confident young professional who collects their degree at graduation. College provides students with the chance to mature and find out more about themselves. Many of the lessons that are taught in lectures are relevant to the workplace. Things like communication, teamwork and dependability are key to succeeding in the real world.

College allows you to start building your network

College socialising is not all about freshers parties and pub crawls. Believe it or not, the people you meet during your time in education will become the first people in your professional network. You might spend your time buying each other shots now but who knows in a few years you could be colleagues. College is also a wonderful place to build up contacts in your desired field through work experience and internships.

College encourages you to expand your horizons

At college, you’ll meet people you would never bump into in your hometown, read books you would never even pick up and attend events that wouldn’t normally be your ‘‘scene’’. It gives students the opportunity to learn from others and exposes them to different perspectives and opinions, which can only be a good thing.

So, college is always the answer then?

Not quite. While there are many positives, going to college isn’t for everyone. To make it worthwhile you need to know what you want to achieve and work hard to get there. Don’t just study political science because your mate said it would be great craic. If you really want to get ahead in life and in your career, focus on finding your passion first. Then you can decide whether college is part of that journey or not.

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