A college degree is often just a screening tool for employers

by Grace

The sole value of a college degree may be in how it “positions you better in the job market” even if you learned very little from your time in school.

All that the favorable job statistics for college graduates tell us is that having a degree positions you better in the job market compared with people who do not have those credentials….

A college degree is a credential used for screening out job applicants.

… Many employers who need workers for jobs that require only basic abilities and a decent attitude now screen out people who don’t have college degrees. Companies looking to hire for positions such as sales supervisor and rental car agent, for instance, often state that they’ll only consider applicants who’ve graduated from college. What they studied or how well they did is largely beside the point.

How much college graduates learned is often beside the point.  

The individual who studies, say, chemical engineering and thereby acquires the essential background for a career in that field probably gets a splendid return on the time and money spent on college. But on the other hand, the individual who leaves high school with weak skills and scant interest in academic work, enrolls in school with low standards (perhaps a “party school”), chooses an easy major and breezes along to a degree four or five years later is likely to end up working in a low-skill job that an intelligent high schooler could do. That person, even though employed, is getting a negligible return—possibly even negative—on his college investment.


George Leef, ‘Jobs data cannot prove that college is a “good investment”‘, The John William Pope Center, February 25, 2015.

4 Comments to “A college degree is often just a screening tool for employers”

  1. This is completely not the case for computer science or the engineering fields. Employers actually test candidates to make sure they have learned the skills, in fact


  2. Yes, not the case for most STEM fields. The chem. engineering example was cited in the article as an example.


  3. Hmm.. Kid stays with mom and dad, goes to commuter CC for two years, transfers to directional state U for three more years, graduates, then gets a job he/she couldn’t have gotten without the degree. Seems like the degree is still of value.


  4. The degree is still of value, but maybe solely for its ability to screen out the graduate for a receptionist job, for example, even if very little was learned during college. BTW, I’m not arguing that a degree is not valuable, just that costs should be considered. So the community college and directional state combo makes sense in many situations.


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