Degrees Matter Less Than Skills to Employers Per New Survey

Students who are studying anthropology, philosophy and other liberal arts degrees may have a better chance at getting a job than was once thought, based on a new study from the Association of American Colleges & Universities.

The survey was released in January is titled, “Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success,” and reports that employers are becoming increasingly interested in potential employees with degrees in various liberal arts fields of study as well as many other disciplines as long as the students have the skills needed to get the job done.

Most of the employers surveyed emphasized the need to become proficient in skills that are not degree specific and are applicable across the board. The report says, “The learning outcomes they rate as most important include written and oral communication skills, teamwork skills, ethical decision-making, critical thinking, and the ability to apply knowledge in real world settings. Indeed, most employers say that these cross-cutting skills are more important to a individual’s success at their company than his or her undergraduate major.”

In fact, 91% of the 400 employers surveyed reported that they preferred job candidates who have a “demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems.”

This essentially lifts the common perception that most employers would value a candidate with a business degree over one with an anthropology degree. We are now seeing that this is not necessarily the case. Instead, much needed focus is directed to individual skill sets and a candidates ability to apply those skills in a proficient way in a real setting.

The survey listed ten very specific “learning outcomes” that were of notable importance to the employers surveyed. Here’s what they are looking for in their new job candidates:

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It’s important to note that the survey shows only 14% of employers believe that the majority of college students possess the desired skills and knowledge needed to be prepared for a real-world job. Another 53% are reported to have confidence that roughly half of them are armed with these skills. That still leaves a whopping 33% of employers who aren’t too sure of the skills possessed by college students and recent graduates.

Participation in internships and applicable projects are frequent suggestions by employers when asked how students can beef up their skills and prepare for careers outside of college. Students surveyed by researchers for this report overwhelmingly agreed with the importance the two things as well.

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