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A degree no longer guarantees a job, it’s time for universities to tell us why

By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor

A higher education is often touted as a means to working in higher-paying, more revered professions. However, students often end up in positions they neither expected nor desired after graduation. In fact, Forbes reports that individuals holding a bachelor’s degree experience higher unemployment and underemployment rates. Specifically, a report from the New York Federal Reserve revealed that 33.8% of college graduates are underemployed, which means they are working jobs that do not even require a degree. 

The COVID-19 crisis has not helped this issue, with Canada still steadily trying to regain the hundreds of thousands of jobs the pandemic eliminated from the country. Despite pouring thousands of dollars into their education, students are struggling to find reasonable work that connects to their degrees.

The solution to this issue is for universities to be more honest about what careers their programs can lead to, with an emphasis on professions that can be obtained without extra training or a graduate education. This will allow students to make a more informed decision on their post-secondary education and balance their expectations. 

After graduation, it seems logical that one with a science-based degree would search for jobs in research or healthcare. Moreover, someone with a business degree might look for jobs in a field within the world of business. However, depending on the degree and the courses contained, some programs may not lead to jobs that seem to be common sense. 

One reason this might be is that some programs focus on classroom learning, as opposed to exponential learning, like co-op. The lack of experience that comes with classroom-based programs has been shown to deter employers from hiring graduates from such programs.  

The lack of experience that comes with classroom-based programs has been shown to deter employers from hiring graduates from such programs. 

Other factors concern the idea of “prestige” that is associated with some programs or universities and a lack of networking skills integrated into programs. The former has even been formally studied, with results showing that students graduating from more reputable universities are 40% more likely to receive a positive response from employers. Any of these reasons could be justifiable for companies looking to hire. Thus, schools need to be honest about where they stand so students know what to expect when job-searching post-graduation. 

Yet, the key to this transparency needs to be carefully articulated and prepared. Schools cannot simply state that an education in political science can lead to jobs in public service and likewise. Rather, they need to do empirical studies on alumni and graduates to be certain of the information they are conveying. Students will likely find information about the careers that alumni have followed to be more trustworthy than if they are to simply try and connect similar themes between programs and careers. Schools should begin conducting this type of research and perhaps even include alumni interviews or mentorships for students, both programs that will also be helpful in building a student’s resume. 

Overall, choosing the right university and program is a pivotal step in beginning any career. Students should have all the information they could possibly need to make the right decision, including the profession they might consider in the future. Universities need to take steps now to ensure that students’ potential futures are transparent and accessible.

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