There is a common misconception that modern degrees aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, perhaps due to the increase in the number of courses on offer and the massive influx of people into higher education.
But research conducted over the last few years confirms that, when it comes to getting the careers they want, graduates still have a strong advantage over those who go straight from school into employment.
A study of graduates from the Warwick Institute of Employment Research (WIER), Class of 99, found almost 75% of respondents were working in a job related to their chosen career just three years after finishing university. More than 80% said they were satisfied with their career progress to date.
So, despite its somewhat tarnished popular image, a degree still confers a definite edge when it comes to recruitment – and not just because it demonstrates a qualification in a given subject.
Graduates are also prized by recruiters because going to university will equip them with other qualities that are invaluable in the workplace. By the time they've finished their course, they will have matured and developed a range of useful skills.
Doing group assignments, joining an after-hours club or playing competitive sports all help develop your ability to work as part of a team.
Leadership and initiative
At university, you need to learn to work on your own initiative, finish assignments on time and take responsibility for your output. Taking the lead on group projects also helps.
The ability to analyse and solve complicated problems should come naturally to anyone who has studied maths or computer science to higher education level.
Written and verbal communication skills
Writing essays, taking part in tutorials and giving presentations as part of your course all build your ability to communicate clearly.
For many people university will be the first time they've been left to their own devices when it comes to managing an academic workload.
When you’re at school, most decisions are made for you. Going straight into the workplace, where you're accountable for the decisions you make, can come as a quite a shock for those who haven’t been through the buffer zone of higher education.
It's not until young people leave home and make their own way in the world that they become fully independent. Employers know that going into higher education gives young people the ideal opportunity to become more mature in a safe environment.
With so many more people getting degrees – especially in popular growth areas like IT – it pays to stand out from the crowd. Doing voluntary work, even if it’s in an unrelated area, will help you develop important workplace skills. It also shows you as a person with values prepared to commit to something for reasons other than pure financial gain.
Vocational and sandwich courses have also come into their own in recent years. A report by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), Employer and University Engagement in the Use and Development of Graduate Level Skill, showed that many employers preferred graduates with sandwich degrees. This is because they believe these graduates have gained practical experience and know what to expect from the world of work.
Whichever way you look at it, doing a degree is always a good idea – it's a big step on the road towards the job you really want.
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