What Employers Are Looking for in Degrees and Credentials

Some are arguing that it is possible to get a good job without a college degree.  It’s true.  It is possible.  But the fact is, having the right credentials vastly increases your chances to have the future you desire.  This blog post gives you  facts about why this is the case and what you need to do about it.  Buzz TodaySource:  CollegeMeasures.org     Higher education is one of the most important investments that people make. And most students make this investment because they want a better chance to land a good career and higher earnings. Because college credentials are usually associated with higher earnings, taking on reasonable debt or paying high tuition are not necessarily bad choices. But as they enter the labor market, some graduates earn far more than others. Graduates with the same major but from different schools can take home substantially different amounts of money. And earnings vary widely among graduates from the same school who have chosen different majors.

In BUZZ Today we see what researchers show us about careers, majors and schools.  The CollegeMeasures.org site is full of valuable salary information from thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of college graduates in five different states.  The data is well worth the effort to understand it.

But CollegeMeasures.org looks at actual market data for degrees and careers.  What we want to do here is look at the issues from the employer’s perspective.

For better or worse, this is a JOB market.  Markets are the connection of buyers and sellers.  Employers are hard nosed decision makers and you are a seller and employers are buyers.  To get a sense of the employer perspective as a buyer think about the situations where you are the buyer and someone else is the seller.  An example might be when you are buying a house or a car. What you want as a buyer is a quality product that fits your needs, a competitive price and some assurance that what you are buying has some staying power.  Employers want the same things you do as a buyer.

So what do employers want when they hire you?  They want to have some assurance that you can actually do what they are hiring you to do.  That is what your major is all about.  It is extremely unlikely that they will hire a biology major for a $125,000 a year petroleum engineering position.  Because our world of work is becoming ever more specialized and complex, what you are qualified to do becomes more important every year.  The difference in pay reflects the growing need for skills and knowledge.  The market salaries on CollegeMeasures document the demand for such skills and knowledge in the job market.

A degree communicates more than merely skills.  To an employer, someone with a degree is a person who has demonstrated behaviors that employers value.  Earning a degree is a long term commitment and someone with that degree has proven to be up to the challenge of such a long term commitment. Employers value that.

So, for better or worse, the resume software that will screen your resume with your job application will be screening for the credentials valued by the employer.  A large number of those job postings will have something like:  “Bachelor’s degree required and 3-5 years experience”.   It may not be fair but it is a reality.  In a world where each job opening can get thousands of applications resume screening software is a reality of today’s job market.  Without the credentials job applicants never even get the interview needed to prove themselves.

In the end, degrees and credentials are the price of entry to  many attractive job opportunities.  Winning the lottery is a possibility but having the credentials employers are looking for produces a much higher probability of success.


Having a well paying job may not be the only goal of an education, but it has to be one of the main purposes for getting an education. But there is a lot to learn about the job market and how it ties to your education decisions.

Buzz Today Source: The Wall Street Journal The Starbucks Corp attracted 7.6 million applicants over the past 12 months for about 65,000 retail and management positions.

The evidence is clear that the level of your education is closely correlated with unemployment (inversely) and income. We have seen the data before in an earlier www.learnprosper.com post.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

More Education Means More Money Chart, see table below

But in addition to this important general information about the relationship between education and jobs, we want to look at some very specific labor market facts. My goal is to give you data that will help motivate you to actually complete your learning. With an education you radically increase your chances of reaching the job opportunity at the end. This is true whether you stay on the Traditional path or move to the recommended Your Future path.

As discouraging as the BUZZ Today data is about the current job market, the department of labor data on education is very good evidence that you should be doing everything you can to complete your education. It will help you to be able to compete for the jobs.

Some additional data should help encourage you. The very useful book, What Color is Your Parachute provides information even in the face of the tight job market reflected in BUZZ Today. What the book tells us is that in 2012 about 140 million Americans did have jobs. What is most encouraging is just how dynamic the overall job market is. Again from What Color is Your Parachute: In March 2012 4,356,000 people found work and there were 3,737,000 vacancies waiting to be filled. That is a total of 8,093,000 opportunities (p.13). The message is that you don’t have to join the crowded space of millions of others trying to get a job at Starbucks. The challenge you face in the jobs competition is not whether there are jobs to be filled – there are literally millions to be filled every month. The challenge is to decide on the career that fits who you are, get the education you need to compete, then learn how to play the game when hiring companies are faced with the numbers we see in BUZZ Today. More on this in Your Future is Calling and future posts on Learn Prosper.