Teacher with futuristic interfaceWith education costs rising dramatically in the UK recently and already being high and rising in the U.S., many of the more financially challenged will be seriously considering whether it is possible to not only land a job but have a successful career without having a degree.

Of course, there are many massively successful business people who don’t have degrees such as: Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Duskin Moskovitz (Facebook founder), Pete Cashmore (Mashable Founder), David Karp (Tumblr), and the list goes on. But, let’s not kid ourselves; these people are exceptions who didn’t land jobs but created them.

The reality is that 21 percent of all jobs and an even higher percentage of career jobs need a degree in today’s climate. According to research by Georgetown University, by 2020, 24 percent of all jobs are expected to require a bachelor’s degree. This means that on an aggregated basis, 47 percent of jobs will require some form of degree (associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s), and if a job seeker is looking to land a serious career job in 2020 he or she will need to have some form of degree. And any job seeker who currently holds an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, might want to consider upgrading his or her degree to the next level available to remain competitive in the job market.

This is a summary of the Georgetown University Report findings on 2020 degree requirements for a job:

  • 6.6 million (or 12 percent of all jobs) will need less than high school education
  • 13.2 million (24 percent) will need only a high school diploma
  • 9.8 million (18 percent) will need some college experience (no degree)
  • 6.6 million (12 percent) will require an associate degree
  • 13.2 million (24 percent) will require a bachelor’s degree
  • 6.0 million, (11 percent) will require a master’s degree or better.

So, it does appear that workers will need at least an associate’s degree to land their dream job and climb the career ladder to success in 2020. Of course, there are some caveats as shown by the SMB Wellness study 2013, reported by Forbes, which showed that 50 percent of small businesses had hired staff that didn’t have a college degree and 62 percent had not experienced any difference in performance between graduates and non-graduates. This means that if non-graduates focus their career around small businesses and stay away from large corporates and governmental organizations they may still find it reasonably practicable to land a career job in 2020 – even though they don’t have a degree.

But, it’s pretty clear that if  workers want to have the full access to the job market in 2020 and maximize their chance of career success, they will need a degree. This does not mean that there are no other alternatives to the degree route to a career. As I showed before, there is an army of successful entrepreneurs without a degree who have succeeded based on their skills experience alone.

And while the average entrepreneur may not mimic the success of Zuckerberg and co., there is a growing marketplace for freelancers, contractors and entrepreneurs where there is far more emphasis on ability to deliver than there is on education.



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