Not so long ago, there was a time in which you would need to get a university degree if you wanted to get the job of your dreams, but now there are many alternative routes that are often more affordable and less time-consuming than attending university. There has definitely been a tangible mindset shift when it comes to university. This brings us to the very nuanced and somewhat controversial topic of whether university is a waste of time (and money) these days or not.
In this article, we discuss in which cases a degree may be necessary, if you can increase your salary expectations if you have a degree, and what employers think about university degrees on CVs.
Do entrepreneurs need a university degree?
As most of our audience is made up of small business owners and entrepreneurs, we thought we should discuss entrepreneurs and university degrees. There is no requirement for entrepreneurs or business owners to have a university degree or even have attended high school. In fact, more than half of ‘successful’ entrepreneurs have no tertiary education to speak of, and this does appear to be a growing trend. Many of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerburg, are all college dropouts and did not finish their degrees.
So it is safe to say that you can be an incredibly successful entrepreneur without ever having to set foot on a university campus. That being said, the benefits of aspiring entrepreneurs going to university should not be forgotten about. Getting a business degree can be incredibly useful when it comes to opening up your first business, and spending time within a university environment can teach you skills such as discipline, diligence, etc. University is also a great place to interact and network with other business enthusiasts and to discuss different theories and ideas.
Do university degrees help candidates stand out?
One of the most popular reasons for people getting a degree is because ‘it will look great on their CV’. But is this actually true? And does having a degree give you a better chance of landing that dream job?
In many cases, a university degree is a bare minimum to apply for certain jobs. But what about jobs that do not list university degrees as a requirement? A university degree does show that a candidate has diligence and will understand all the basic concepts in their particular field, but a degree often doesn’t say much else about the candidate.
What many employers and recruiters look for these days is the character of the candidate and if they will fit into the business’s culture and the environment with ease. Soft skills such as teamwork, communication, patience, and integrity have become incredibly important in the workplace.
It all comes down to the particular job at hand as well as the employer and what they are looking for. But overall, it is safe to say that university degrees play a far less important role when it comes to applying for jobs than what they once did.
Even if a job description states that a university degree is required, you may still be able to convince the employer that you are the right person for the job if you have the necessary experience and knowledge to fulfil the role.
Many jobs are also very specific to the particular company that is hiring, and the staff training that is provided often covers most bases with helping staff understand what is required of them.
Degree vs experience
The debate that often comes surrounding this topic is one that revolves around degree versus experience and which is better when it comes to your degree and applying for jobs. On the one hand, a degree should prepare you with in-depth knowledge on certain topics, while experience in the field often provides you with far more practical skills.
It really comes down to the type of job that you are applying for and with which company. More traditional companies are still likely to favour degrees over experience, especially if you are young, while more innovative companies may value experience and character over a degree.
There are definitely pros and cons to each option, and there is no clear-cut answer as to which is better and will best fit your personal needs. In this article, we hope to shed some insight as to what option may be best suited to you and let’s remember that a compromise is always possible in which you can study part-time and work part-time.
What are some alternatives to university?
So if you believe that university is perhaps a waste of time, what are some of the alternative choices that you can make to start helping you carve out the path to your dream career?
- Entry-level jobs- Gaining experience in an entry-level job such as a waiter, assistant, au pair etc., can be incredibly rewarding, teach you the value of money, and provide you with valuable life skills that only an entry-level job can teach you. These types of jobs are a fantastic introduction into the working world and often do have the opportunity for growth.
- Online courses- If you want to gain knowledge on certain subjects but do not want to dedicate years of your life to university, doing a few online courses could definitely be the right move for you. Online courses are often very affordable and filled with the latest information on certain topics.
- Apprenticeships- Apprenticeships allow you to learn under an experienced professional in the field that you are interested in. What you learn is very hands-on and practical, and in certain cases, apprentices are paid a decent wage.
- Self-employment- As we have mentioned before, no university degree is needed to start your own business, so becoming self-employed is actually a very popular alternative to going to university.
- Part-time degree- If you can’t commit to studying full-time, you could always compromise by studying part-time and using your extra time to work, start a business of your own etc.
- Gap year- When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to take a gap year, trying a variety of different things to help you define your interests and what you may want to study should you end up at university one day.
- Volunteering- Do you have a heart for helping people, animals, or the environment? Volunteering often does come with some sort of stipend, and volunteering looks great on any CV as it truly says something about your character.
Some of these alternatives to university can truly assist in creating rich life experiences and giving you the skills that will undoubtedly help you later on in your career. If you are feeling confused about which path to take, it is important to think about your interests, passions, and goals and research which options are available to you.
The advantages of gaining experience
Gaining experience through an entry-level job, becoming self-employed, or any other university alternative has many advantages, including:
- Gain familiarity with an industry- By spending time working in a certain industry, you’ll gain valuable insight into how that industry works and the day-to-day processes that are required.
- Show competence in the real world- The real world is very different to the world of university. Proving that you are competent in dealing with real-world situations in the workplace can be very attractive to future employers.
- Develop workplace skills- There are certain workplace politics, skills, and professionalism that only come with spending time in the workplace.
- Require less training- If you’ve already been in the workplace for a couple of years, you’ll most likely require less training than someone who has just stepped out of university.
The advantages of going to university
While university may be a waste of time in the eyes of many people, there are definite advantages to attending university and obtaining your degree. These advantages include:
- Earn more money- Those who hold university degrees have the opportunity to earn more money in the workplace. This stat does not apply to entrepreneurs.
- More jobs available to you- As someone who holds a degree, you do have a wider variety of jobs available to you than someone who does not have a degree.
- Gain knowledge- University does give you the opportunity to gain a vast amount of knowledge, which can be very rewarding and satisfying.
- Show your academic abilities- Obtaining a degree requires you to push your limits intellectually and academically. It is certainly not easy, and you will most likely expand parts of your brain.
- Learn about other industries- degrees often require you to take a few subjects that do not necessarily pertain to your degree, and in this way, you gain knowledge about other industries.
The pitfalls of university
One of the major downsides of attending university is the cost. In the UK, you can expect to pay around £9,250 per year if you attend classes on campus and around £6,336 if you complete your degree online. These amounts are definitely not affordable to the average UK citizen, and most students pay their tuition through student loans. Also, keep in mind that most full-time students are not able to also juggle a job along with university, so they may need to take out a maintenance loan to cover their living expenses while studying.
One of the other pitfalls is time. Most degrees take around three years to complete. If the degree that you are getting does not truly resonate with you or will be advantageous to your future career, the years you spend at university could possibly be better spent elsewhere?
The time and money that you spend at university could otherwise be used towards gaining valuable industry experience and purchasing assets for your first business venture if it is entrepreneurship that you want to go into..
Most people are teenagers when applying for university degrees. Many of these young people have no idea what they want to do for the rest of their life. Unfortunately, there are many students that end up picking the ‘wrong’ subjects and feel as if they were pressured into choosing certain university subjects by their teachers and parents.
We live in an ever-changing world, and it can take years for university syllabuses to be reviewed and updated, and this leaves us with certain information that may be slightly outdated in some universities.
When is university not a waste of time?
- Medical professions- If you want to be a vet, medical professional, dentist, or something similar, then going to university is your only route as a degree is a basic requirement for this field, and there are no apprenticeships or amount of experience that you can gain in order to become a doctor.
- Bursary- If you happen to get the high school results needed in order to qualify for a bursary, you may want to take this opportunity. Removing the financial cost of attending university makes the experience so much more valuable.
- Passion- There are certain people that have a true passion for the university experience, campus life, the traditions of the university, and everything that comes with it. To these people, attending university will definitely not be a waste of time, even if they don’t end up using their degrees in their careers. University does offer a unique life experience and a great stepping stone into the working world.
No one should feel pressured into going to university, if they feel that it is not the right choice for them, but then again, no one should be talked out of attending if it has been their lifelong dream. What people should realise is that there are other opportunities outside of university and that there are many instances in which you can achieve your goals in life without a university degree.