How important is education-Does a degree matter?

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(a response from a Q&A on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/answers)

I had the opportunity to go into the military immediately following high school. After getting out of the military I began working various jobs. Other than having been in the military, I didn’t have any real world work experience to bring to the table. Once I decided on a career path I worked very hard to reach it. For the most part, I spent several years working professionally in a great field without a degree, but I was also a contract employee and freelance consultant. I was able to sell myself well.

I learned that I was going to need a degree in a related field in order to add additional credibility to my name and to justify my experience with schooling. This equation of information, so to speak, equated to having a more desirable resume and showed that I was able to complete something substantial.

There is the concern that college graduates tend to need a hand-hold to get through things. I agree, to a certain point. I went to school after I had some work and professional experience and I had a true ownership in my continued education. I do believe, and have seen, that the college students that come right out of high school, without any real world work experience tend to have a lack of knowledge or street smarts, and also tend to lack the ownership and desire to succeed, thus resulting in reduced quality of education. This is not a fault of a school, at all. I believe this is a result of our society. But, once these students finally graduate, they don’t have a purpose or drive, and may even feel the college experience was a waste of time. That is sad, and disappointing.

So, how can we change that?

I support internships, but mostly the ones that pay. I believe in being a full-time student, but students need to have goals and purpose, other than to acquire a degree from such-and-such Ivy League school. Who cares where you attended school. It’s the effort of completing a degree in a reasonable time, with solid goals, and making an honest effort to get out into the world and experience it, either through an internship or a job that is related to your field of study, not just waiting tables or working as a barista.

So, to answer the question, yes, a degree matters to the professional world! It gives you the edge you need to succeed in MOST professions – not all. Also, some companies require specific degrees, and specific levels of education, such as a Master’s degree or even a PhD!

Plus, those of you who have a degree know how good it feels to have completed it, and how good it feels to know you can use it as a tool, as leverage for employment, and as a formal basis for your knowledge and experience.

(photo taken from: http://trailblog.rockthevote.com/…issue.html)

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