Most of us grew up hearing the same advice: “If you want to succeed, you need a college degree.” But realities of college today are very different from those for previous generations. To earn a degree, most students take on expensive student loans. These take years to pay off and, unlike other debts, you cannot get rid of them by filing for bankruptcy. When facing that unpleasant reality, many ask themselves if a degree is really worth the hassle and debt. In our experience, the helpfulness of a degree truly depends on the situation and your goals. Here’s why:

It’s Easy to Learn Independently

Online, you have the world at your fingertips. Free college-level courses are available from respected institutions like MIT for self-motivated learners to pursue their own course of study without having to pay expensive tuition. Although there are plenty of free courses, even more are available to those willing to pay a relatively small fee. These courses help build your skills with online classes and certifications.

A Degree Doesn’t Always Equal Success

See: Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates.

Experience Sometimes Matters More

For most technology companies, experience with the programs, software, and languages required for the job is more important than having a degree. The more experience you have with the technology you work with, the more likely you are to understand it. This makes problem solving easier and faster for you than someone just starting to learn.

Experience helps you to know if your career goals are right for you. The more experience you have in your field, the more confident you feel about whether you want to devote your career to it. Employers see that confidence and commitment as a sign that you are willing to commit to the position.

Certifications Instead

In the fast-changing landscape of technology, certifications can hold more weight than degrees. Certifications are more current with expected knowledge and skills, whereas collegiate coursework often relies on older knowledge that may be out of date by the time a student graduates. Certifications are certainly cheaper than degrees, which leads some to believe they are a good alternative.

Prestige of the School

If you pursue a degree, attend an accredited and well-respected university. Often candidates from respected universities are chosen for a role over candidates from lesser-known institutions, even if they have the exact same course requirements. Remember, with bigger names comes bigger tuition loads.

References and Portfolios Matter Without

Without a degree, you must prove your skills in a way that those with degrees can often avoid. Your references and portfolio will be crucial in furthering your career goals, so work to build good relationships and a selection of notable projects. This experience is necessary for most positions.

During Hiring

Degrees typically matter most during the hiring process. Most companies have a very clear bias towards degree-holding candidates. Two candidates may have the same technical expertise, but the candidate with the degree will almost always be more likely to advance than the candidate without.

The company, hiring manager, and job requirements determine whether having a degree plays a consequential role in the hiring process.

Higher-Level Positions

Another thing to consider is that degrees are far more valuable in higher-level positions, such as management. While you may not be thinking about joining the senior ranks of a company now, the time will come when you may want to further your career. Unless you have a brilliant idea that makes billions a la Zuckerberg, you’ll have to work your way into upper management, and a degree is a big help with that.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to abstaining from getting a degree, as there are if you choose to pursue one. It depends on your career goals, chosen field, and life goals as to whether having a degree benefits you.

Whether you have a degree or not, having great recruiters on your side makes a noticeable difference when the time comes for you to find a new job. Make an appointment to speak with a member of the JDC Group recruitment team today.

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