Friday, October 24, 2014

Limited education = Limited career opportunities

Remember your high school graduation? It was the day you could say so long to the days of required classes, schoolwork, and schedules and hello to an endless summer vacation of freedom. After high school we were free to make our own choices, choose or not choose college. We were sure to find a job where we made TONS of money without having to go to school. That’s how it happened for you right?

It’s nice to dream of what should’ve been, and not long ago this ideal wasn’t too far off track.
Decades ago, graduating high school was the transition into adulthood and was the standard to securing a solid future. Of course college was encouraged, but on a very general basis the same or similar opportunities were available to high school and college graduates alike.

Today is a different story.

First a disclaimer: a college degree isn’t necessarily a reason I will or won’t hire someone. I strongly feel that real world career experience can often times mean a candidate has the same, or even more experience over a candidate with a college degree. Bill Gates didn’t graduate from college, and I am pretty sure no one would require him to have a college degree to be considered for any position.

But Bill Gates is a career fairy tale come true and the exception to almost every rule.
Bachelor’s degrees have replaced the high school diploma as a minimum educational requirement for any decent paying job in today’s job market. Shockingly, it has become a standard at some companies as necessary for an entry level jobs.

According to a recent survey by, three out of 10 companies are hiring more college-educated workers for jobs held in the past primarily by high school graduates.

It doesn’t seem right, but it is true and it’s only just begun. Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America, recently said, “Employers are filling more entry level functions with educated labor. While some of this may be attributed to a competitive job market that lends itself to college grads taking lower skill jobs, it also speaks to companies raising performance expectations for roles within their firms to enhance overall productivity, product quality and sales."

As a college graduate, business owner and self-proclaimed management expert, this surprised me but made sense all the same. It makes sense that companies are trying to hire an educated workforce at rock bottom wages by giving them entry level positions.

What this actually means is that there is a hiring trend nationwide in which companies, big and small, are requiring an associate’s degree and above just to be a janitor and clean the toilets. Additionally, it means that bachelor’s degrees often aren’t the end of the road for people who want to move up the career ladder. Master’s degrees have become more prevalent as necessary for top level management and executive positions.

As a college graduate holding two bachelor’s degrees, I sympathize with anyone who asks why go to college for four or five years, racking up thousands of dollars in debt, just to earn the right to be considered for a receptionist’s position? You could have counted me in that group years ago, but as the markets change it’s looking more and more like there isn’t even a choice.

Employers are calling the shots, and for them it’s a buyer’s market. This doesn’t apply to employers trying to immediately fill highly specialized positions. But in a general sense employers have more opportunity than ever to take the time to recruit, attract, select and retain the employees that fit their perfect checklist.

So what is the big deal with college degrees anyway? Why do employers care that you have an overpriced piece of paper with your name on it? Next week and we will discuss why employers feel degree-holding candidates are a must in their businesses.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources company.