Monday, 7 April 2014

Degree Inflation


Is the value of an undergraduate degree decreasing? I have been noticing here in New Zealand, roles which once only required secondary school qualificiations now require an undergraduate degree.

Master's and PhD requirements for roles are not yet so common, but this is very industry dependent - for example, education, science and engineering are areas which I have noted are most likely to require higher educational qualifications.

However, I too can see the educational levels increasing slowly across the entire world of work.

A couple of thoughts. This seems to be a global cultural shift, which is a lot more complex than just a single driver.

However, I wonder if one driver is that parents don't want to be the odd ones out, with their offspring in vocational training or apprenticeships, rather than doing a degree at Uni? A degree is now 'normal', the baseline. If you can't get one, you are considered to be less intelligent & - perhaps - a bit of a drop out....?

I also wonder if another driver is the complexity of knowledge now required in all roles? New workers need to be tech-savvy: and that is device-savvy, applications-savvy, social & digital media savvy. That adds an extra learning load..

In addition, another factor that we need to consider is how recent our training is. We live in an increasingly sophisticated society with an increased speed of change and technological development.

My impressions from reading history (NB: not study, just impressions on my part) is that once we could train for a job to last a lifetime, and we might be indentured for perhaps ten years while we got to journeyman and then we worked onwards to mastery. We rarely moved from the first Master we took up with.

We now expect two or three or four full retrains per career, and that is likely to be at our own cost. Perhaps employers are equally seeking industry currency, and life-long learner habits, not merely depth...?

I have always taken the view that having completed a degree means that you have invested three or four years in learning about your industry as it worked when you started studying, and learning how to THINK for how your industry would be when you started working and beyond. Knowledge and process. Competence and capacity. So it is not preparing people for a fixed point in time, but preparing lifelong learners...

Sam

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