Skips to main content

The Diploma Dilemma—How to Expertly Prepare for the Future

If you’ve spent any time considering how you’d like to earn a living, you’ve probably tangled in a common quandary. Follow the traditional four-years-and-beyond college route, or take your chances finding a job (or changing industries) without a degree?

There is no simple answer, that’s for certain. However, you might be surprised at how job requirements have changed since your parents came of age. A four-year degree is not what it used to be in today’s job market. Nor does the outcome (a diploma), in many cases, justify the cost. Because there aren’t just two options to consider. Increasingly, a skills-based two-year degree or certificate is the credential of choice for a growing number of industries.

Skills are the new currency in this market.

Thriving in a twenty-first century labor market requires twenty-first century skills. That’s right—the cream of the crop in the employee market must come to work with the ability to think critically, communicate, collaborate, demonstrate technological, leadership and social skills, and be productive and flexible. Ours is a world of the internet, and that demands creative, decisive minds to keep the information flowing.

So, what does this mean for you? A possible shift in perspective and focus. Capability soundly surpasses academic pedigree in today’s fast-paced job market, and the time to prepare is now.

Traditional credentials, typically centered around the auspicious bachelor’s degree, have for some time fallen short in equipping students with the practical skills to succeed in their careers. Employers are looking for candidates with actual experience. Employees who won’t require months of costly training or a crash course in their industry.

To be that employee, you’ll need to pursue a hands-on education.

The advantages of experiential learning.

What is a hand’s on education, exactly? Well, rather than burying yourself in technology textbooks, essays, and worksheets … you’ll be in a cybersecurity computer lab, configuring, hardening, and monitoring systems and learning how to document and remediate cyber-attacks.

Instead of memorizing the theories and ideas behind business analytics … you’ll be extracting, transforming and loading statistics from real databases to assist in the business decision-making process.

Tactile projects, campaigns, internships and code-creation are your path to a portfolio of relevant skills employers are desperate for. The end product of a skills-based education is a graduate prepared to get to work immediately, armed with the most current and efficient techniques for improving workflow. A graduate qualified with the hard and soft skills and innovative mindset to add value upon hire.

Or, in other words, just the type of employee hiring managers seek.

Never stop growing.

It should be noted that the concept of skills-centered learning does not in any way undermine the need for higher education. Rather, it redefines the long-ago line in the sand of what it means to be educated.

The twenty-first century demands a relatively new toolbelt of essentials. A degree is no longer the holy grail of achievement. A general, ethereal range of knowledge won't get the job done. Instead, employees must be more selectively equipped with specific tools for their trade, along with the proven ability to use them.

And, because technologies are constantly evolving and emerging, savvy workers must, as well (or quickly be left behind). Education is not a "one and done" checkbox on your to-do list. By embracing the necessity of lifelong learning, one-time ‘graduates’ are transformed into the kind of professionals who will power the next waves of innovation.

You are more than just a diploma.

All of this being said... As you consider your educational priorities and future career path, do not discount the value of practical skills. A laser focus on refining your skillset, building connections in your industry, and getting hand's on experience is your recipe for success.

Your marketability as an employee will skyrocket, as will your earning potential. Plus, you’ll focus on the schooling you’ll actually use, and much less on the courses you’ll scratch your head about 20 years from now and say… “But, why?”

Close Modal