Just Sociology

The Decline in the Value of a Degree: How to Make Yourself Employable Beyond a Degree

The Decline in the Value of a Degree

Over the past few decades, higher education has seen a significant rise in the number of people achieving degrees. While this may seem like a positive trend on the surface, it has also led to what is commonly referred to as “degree inflation”.

This term describes the idea that an old high school diploma is no longer enough to secure a job and instead, more and more employers require a college degree. Evidence of degree inflation can be found in many sectors, including insurance clerks and executive secretaries.

These positions, which once required only a high school diploma, now often demand a bachelor’s degree. This shift has led to an oversupply of graduates and has created a vicious cycle of degree inflation, whereby more jobs require a degree, leading to more students obtaining degrees, further saturating the job market.

However, despite the increasing number of graduates, employers are finding it difficult to find applicants with the right skills for their positions. This has become known as the “skills gap”.

This gap can be attributed to a variety of factors including inadequate preparation at the college level, limited internships, and lack of real-world experience. One issue that has contributed to degree inflation and the skills gap is the disconnect between the skills taught in higher education and the skills required in the workplace.

According to McKinsey, students who graduate from college often lack the practical skills required for the jobs they will enter. Employers, on the other hand, state that while they value the critical thinking skills taught in higher education, they also need employees who have experience with things like data analysis and software usage.

Signalling Skills through Social Media

Despite these challenges, many job seekers are using social media to showcase their skills and stand out in a crowded job market. By producing content and sharing it online, job seekers can signal their skills to potential employers, providing a more accurate picture of their abilities beyond just their resume or degree.

The importance of social media in demonstrating skills cannot be overstated. With social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, job seekers can highlight their knowledge in specialized areas through blog posts, articles, and other content.

For example, a software developer can share a blog post about a new programming language or framework to demonstrate their expertise in the field. By highlighting specific technical skills and knowledge, job seekers can set themselves apart from other candidates who only possess a degree.

Employers can get a better understanding of a job seeker’s true capabilities and see how they would fit into a specific position, rather than relying solely on their degree. The internet has also played a role in undermining the value of a degree.

With easy access to search engines like Google, people can now learn many of the same skills taught in college courses online, for free. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are also available to anyone with an internet connection, teaching a variety of skills and concepts.

While these online resources may not offer the same level of structure and guidance as a traditional higher education degree, they provide a way for people to learn and demonstrate skills that are in demand in the current job market. Employers are increasingly valuing skills demonstrated through a candidate’s work experience and online presence.


The decline in the value of a degree is a complex topic with many contributing factors. The oversupply of graduates and degree inflation have created challenges for both the job market and higher education institutions.

Although social media provides a way for individuals to signal their skills to potential employers, it is clear that traditional higher education will still play a central role in preparing candidates for the workforce. It is important for higher education institutions to adapt their curriculum to better align with the skills required by future employers, while also acknowledging the value of technical skills learned outside of traditional degree programs.

The Value of a Degree

While the decline in the value of a degree has been a major topic of discussion in recent years, the intrinsic worth of the university experience and knowledge gained cannot be denied. Pursuing higher education provides students with intellectual challenges, opportunities for personal growth, and a vast range of knowledge and skills that can be applied in a variety of fields.

Additionally, with the right approach, a degree can be leveraged as a tool to make oneself more employable.

The Intrinsic Worth of the University Experience and Knowledge Gained

The university experience is often touted as a time of personal growth and intellectual stimulation. Students are exposed to diverse perspectives, new ideas, and the opportunity to engage in rigorous academic inquiry.

Through coursework, extracurricular activities, and relationships with peers and mentors, students develop valuable skills such as critical thinking, effective communication, and teamwork. Furthermore, the university experience is not solely about acquiring knowledge in a particular field.

It is also about learning how to learn, how to ask probing questions, and how to approach complex topics from a variety of perspectives. This is almost as important as any facts or skills learned, as it prepares students to be lifelong learners, continuously expanding their knowledge and adapting to change.

While some argue that the rise of online resources and alternative pathways to knowledge acquisition undermine the value of a degree, it is important to note that the university experience is not solely about the end goal of securing employment. Rather, it is about the process of learning and personal growth, which can be difficult to replicate outside of a formal education setting.

Using a Degree to Make Oneself More Employable

Despite the intrinsic worth of the university experience, many students are still highly focused on the employability benefits of obtaining a degree. To this end, students can leverage their academic experiences to make themselves more competitive in the job market.

One way to do this is to use essays, projects, and other coursework as portfolio pieces. By creating strong academic work, students can showcase their critical thinking skills, ability to analyze complex problems, and overall intellectual ability.

This can be particularly useful for those who are seeking employment in fields or roles that require these skills. Additionally, many degree programs offer opportunities for internships, research projects, or other applied experiences.

These opportunities allow students to develop real-world skills and make important connections in their chosen field. By successfully completing these experiences, students can demonstrate their potential value to future employers, proving that they are able to apply their academic knowledge in a practical setting.

Finally, students can demonstrate their employability by actively networking with peers, professors, and alumni. By building relationships with those in their chosen field, students can gain valuable insights and potentially even secure job leads.

Furthermore, by demonstrating initiative and curiosity, students can prove that they are committed to their chosen field and are continuously seeking new learning opportunities.


The value of a degree is a multifaceted issue that cannot be reduced to a simple conclusion. While the declining value of a degree coupled with degree inflation and the skills gap have created challenges for students and employers alike, the university experience still holds intrinsic worth.

Through rigorous coursework, exposure to diverse ideas, and opportunities for personal growth, students develop valuable skills and perspectives that can be applied to a variety of fields. Moreover, a degree can be leveraged as a tool to make oneself more employable.

By creating strong academic work, gaining real-world experience, and networking with peers and professionals in their chosen field, students can demonstrate their value and stand out in a crowded job market. Ultimately, the value of a degree comes both from the knowledge gained and the ability to apply it effectively in the world of work.

In conclusion, the declining value of a degree and the skills gap are important challenges that require careful attention from both higher education institutions and employers. Despite these challenges, pursuing higher education provides students with valuable intellectual and personal growth opportunities, as well as a range of knowledge and skills that can be applied in various fields.

With the right approach, a degree can also be leveraged as a valuable tool for making oneself more employable. While the future of higher education remains uncertain, it is clear that the value of a degree goes beyond simply securing a job, and can have a profound impact on personal growth and career success.


Q: How has degree inflation contributed to the skills gap?

A: Degree inflation has caused an oversupply of graduates, leading to more saturation in the job market, resulting in a degree being necessary for jobs that did not originally require one.

Q: Can online resources like MOOCs replace traditional higher education? A: While online resources can provide valuable knowledge and skills, traditional higher education offers the benefit of the university experience, intellectual challenge, and personal growth opportunities.

Q: How can students leverage their degree to make themselves more employable? A: Students can create strong academic work, gain real-world experience, and network in their chosen field to demonstrate their value and make themselves more competitive in the job market.

Q: What are the benefits of the university experience beyond employability? A: The university experience offers intellectual challenge, exposure to diverse perspectives, and opportunities for personal growth and development, which cannot be replicated solely through online resources or alternative pathways.

Q: What are the challenges facing higher education and employers? A: Higher education institutions must ensure their curricula align with the skills needed in the job market, while employers must recognize the value of skills demonstrated through experience and online presence beyond just a degree.

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