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Over Qualified For the Job Market? Is A College Degree Really Worth It?

Updated on November 16, 2015

Graduating Feels Good!

Creative Commons licence
Creative Commons licence | Source

I guess we all know at this point that the jobs market is getting a little tight out there. If you’re currently unemployed and looking, then you’re almost certainly already aware of it. But what if you’re a college graduate too? Are you finding that to be a help in your search for a job – or are you starting to consider it more of a hindrance? It’s becoming a common complaint in some quarters that some college graduates perceive themselves as being considered ‘over-qualified’ when applying for some jobs – and may feel that it’s edging them out of the jobs market. Is there a competitive edge gained from attending college and graduating – or in a tight jobs market, is it just the opposite? (And do some employers, perhaps, expect a slightly snotty and entitled attitude from new graduates?)

Do You Want A 'Good-Enough' Job?

Is there any truth to this common observation, and any justification if it is true? Certainly in a difficult, challenged economy with a high rate of unemployment, graduates are more likely to be applying for ‘regular’ jobs that don’t need a college degree, due to a lack of specialized graduate vacancies. Some may argue that it’s reasonable for a potential employer to make an assessment of an applicant's likely level of commitment to the job – and that graduates are conceivably more likely to view most entry-level posts as ‘stepping stones’ or interim jobs that are simply ‘good enough’ for now. Their level of commitment may be called into question simply because they are qualified for graduate level positions – and is that entirely unreasonable?

Cap and Gown

Public domain image.
Public domain image. | Source

Is It Hard For Graduates To Find Work?

Of course, however understandable such an attitude might be, it doesn’t help you too much if you’re a college graduate and you happen to actually really want a job that doesn’t necessarily require a college degree. (Or even if the employer is right, and you just need a job – any job – and if something else more promising comes up, you’ll be off and away over the horizon! Hey, we all need to eat!) Certainly a recent article in UK newspaper the Guardian suggests that new graduates are feeling increasing levels of anxiety about the state of the jobs market as they enter the world of work.1

It's almost enough to make you wonder if it was really worth it slogging through your four years' hard labour in order to earn the letters after your name. Or, if you don't have a degree but you're considering it, whether you should rethink your research and musings about a distance learning college degree or an online college degree program.

Degree Certificate Or Experience: Which Is More Important?

Some people argue that too much is made of graduate perception of a bias against them when applying for regular jobs. They suggest that the sense of entitlement that graduates tend to acquire along with their degree certificate may be the actual root cause of the problem. It’s certainly true that paper qualifications are a long way from being sufficient proof of competence at almost any job, whether it’s one that requires a degree or not. Experience, attitude, transferable skills and a solid work history are things that no piece of paper can substitute adequately for.

So, whether the non-degree jobs you’re applying for are truly your heart’s desire, or you simply need a place to go and a pay packet at the end of the month, how do you impress an employer when your transcript from a fancypants college doesn’t seem to be doing the trick for you?

Volunteering might help with the experience aspect of employer requirements, especially if it’s in an area relevant to the positions you’re applying for. You can build your skills, work as part of a team and demonstrate your commitment to that particular line of work. It might also help to take a look back over your c.v. and educational history and see if there is any experience or transferable skills you’ve been failing to alert potential employers to. Sub-editor on the college paper for two years? Then you’ve demonstrated creativity, attention to detail, organisational skills, management potential and long-term commitment. Volunteered with the student listening service in your last semester? So you have compassion, people skills and great time management (if you combined it with your final exams!) See? You have skills and experience you never thought to point out before!

In the end, barring actual discrimination, an employer is entitled to select whoever they think is the best person for the job at the time. There’s no reason that can’t be you: you just have to convince them! If it really is getting too tough out there to land a ‘regular’ job, maybe it’s time to start thinking about self-employment? Either way, if you enjoyed your college years, don’t regret the effort and achievement of your degree. Just make the most of your skills, keep them honed, be persuasive with employers and keep the faith that the perfect job is out there for you – degree or not.


1. Wiliams, R. 'Graduates fearful about job prospects'. The Guardian. 27/05/2010: Berliner.


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    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Great hub!