National survey reveals how employees feel about their college degrees and their relevance to their jobs

degree-skills-surveyAccording to a recent national survey on whether employees value their degrees more than skills training, though most employees say higher education is still a must, skills training is what’s more important to their career.

Riding the recent waves of criticism from the general public on the high cost of tuition, lack of employment post-graduation, and perceived de-valuing of the traditional degree from employers, many new initiatives in higher-ed have taken root—from competency-based education (CBE) pathways to skills training programs beginning as early as high school.

But apart from vague inklings on the rising value of career skills, it’s important to look at national statistics of what employees currently in the job market are saying.

Enter Glassdoor’s Q2 2014 Employment Confidence Survey: An online survey within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor [a career recruitment company] from June 9-11, 2014, which polled 2,059 adults ages 18 and older of whom 996 are currently employed full/part time.

“The national conversation about the value of higher education and gainful employment is a topic alive within companies,” said Rusty Rueff, a Glassdoor career and workplace expert. “While education is still valued as one piece of the puzzle for a successful career, we’re seeing a shift in the workplace in which most employees feel gaining the latest skills relevant to their job and industry is more valuable to help advance their careers, and they’re feeling it’s what employers are truly seeking to really help move business forward.”

(Next page: The survey results)

While 82 percent of college grads believe having a degree has helped them in their career, notes the survey, and most employees believe a degree in important, a majority of employees (72 percent) believe specialized training to acquire specific skills is more valuable than a degree in the workplace.

And when asked what’s most important to advance their career and earn a bigger paycheck, more than three in five (63 percent) employees report learning new skills or receiving special training, compared to those who report receiving a college or graduate degree (45 percent), transitioning careers or looking for a new job or company (38 percent), and networking with professionals (34 percent), among other options.

Also, employers and hiring managers may be looking for something other than a specific degree, notes the survey, as three in four (74 percent) employees believe their employers value work experience and related skills more than education when evaluating job candidates.

Almost half (48 percent) of employees with a college degree believe their specific degree is not very relevant to the job they do today, while four in five (80 percent) report that they have never been asked about their college GPA during a job interview.

More than half (53 percent) of employees also believe a graduate degree is no longer necessary to be offered a high-paying job.

However, despite these beliefs, employees still acknowledge that higher education adds value in the workplace, as more than half (56 percent) also believe if they had a higher level of education, they would be more successful in their career.

“For any employee looking to earn a bigger salary or move up the corporate ladder, they should do their research on how their industry is evolving, including identifying specific skill sets that are in demand, explained Rueff. “Going back to school may be one way to learn and improve, but there are also non-traditional ways, such as certificate programs, boot camps, webinars, online non-degreed courses, conferences and more.”

For more information on the survey and its highlights, click here.

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