Many employers don't care much about THIS

I've noticed that many employers couldn't care less about your educational background these days.

I've gone to myriad interviews thus far in my career. From what I can remember, only one has ever commented on or raised questions about my degree.

I wouldn't be surprised if many crafty people who don't hold a bachelor's degree fudge their resumes to include one and end up getting away with it. Large, structured organizations (e.g., Fortune 500 companies, the federal government, etc.) are more likely to conduct background checks to verify that you earned one, but many small businesses and start-ups that watch every penny don't bother.

Everyone and his brother has a bachelor's degree, which is why many people say the bachelor's degree is the new high school diploma. In general, job seekers need to rely on more than the degree to set themselves apart. Indeed, recruiters tend to zero in on two particular things that they see as being far more valuable to the company than a piece of paper from the ivory tower: skills and experience.

And while some companies list a bachelor's degree as a requirement for a given position, I'm finding that more and more of them say that the degree is "preferred."

In certain fields like education, medicine, law, and finance, schooling beyond a bachelor's degree is expected. For example, you can't teach at most community colleges without a master's degree or at most universities without a Ph.D.

However, people who hold a master's degree have found that listing it on their resume can actually hurt them -- that is, if the job ad doesn't say one is even required for the job. How can this be?

Well, employers assume that the more educated a candidate, the more money he or she will want. If another degree is the least of their concerns, and they're intent on getting someone on the cheap, it's an easy way to narrow down the pool of candidates. This is something for people contemplating shelling out loads of money on a master's degree -- I'm one of them -- to consider very carefully!

In sum, here are my suggestions:

  • While a bachelor's degree opens up many opportunities, be sure that jobs in your field actually require one. You wouldn't want to invest time and money in a degree you may not even need.
  • Only get a master's degree or beyond if you're sure you'll get a return on your investment. Don't get saddled with debt -- the most difficult to pay down, by the way -- unless it'll enhance your job prospects.
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