As students up and down the country are coming to the end of their degree courses, the pressure of a new question now looms over them – what next?
For most university graduates, employment is the final hurdle of the education system. After being in school since the age of four, hundreds of thousands of students are now faced with the challenge of securing their first job.
Over the past few weeks, my friends and I have helped each other write cover letters, double-check CVs and conduct practice interviews, all in an attempt to make us the ideal candidate for prospective employers.
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A recurring question from these conversations is, “how much do employers care about my education?” Particularly, “how much do they consider my degree and the classification I graduate with?”
In recent interviews that my friends and I have had, the employer has had a much stronger emphasis on past work experience than on education, with some not asking about our university degrees at all.
So this raises the question, “how relevant is my degree?”
As the son of parents who both left school at 16, I know a degree is neither a necessity for a successful career, nor an assurance of one.
Experience is in itself a form of education, and it is often the kind of specific education that employers are looking for.
Harper Adams has some of the highest employability rates of any university in the country, and I believe a big reason for this is the 12-month compulsory placement year that every student must undertake.
Employers love that at the point of graduation, where most university graduates only have limited work experience on their CVs, Harper graduates already have a full year of employment under their belt.
However, just because an employer has not discussed your education during an interview does not mean they have not considered it when glancing over your CV.
What does a degree mean?
The harsh reality is that some employers will not touch prospective candidates unless they have a degree, but what does this guarantee them?
The Aldi graduate scheme stipulates that applicants must have a minimum of a 2:1 degree, but there is no requirement of what degree course is needed.
Whether you have a degree in marine biology or psychology, as long as you have a 2:1, you qualify. So what does this tell us about what this company is looking for?
You could argue that graduate schemes like this are more concerned about the type of person they are employing, rather than their knowledge of the industry.
After all, knowledge can be taught at any stage of your career, but it is much harder to teach someone attitude, work ethic and open-mindedness.
A degree ensures a wider knowledge base, sooner in your career, but in my opinion, someone without a degree can easily catch up as long as they have the mindset and ambition to do so.
There is no doubt that a degree will help you get on the job ladder quicker, as those without a degree will have to excel in experience to compete with graduates, and this takes time.
You will always need a degree to be a doctor or vet, but with the food and farming sector, this isn’t always the case.
It is important to recognise that 10 years after graduation, employers will be much more interested in your experience, your approach to the role and the people you work with, and your ability to do the job well.
I know full well that my degree will help me throughout my career, but my message to those without one is simple.
Do not let the lack of a degree on your CV be the barrier to the career you crave. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t need one, so why do you?
Lancashire lad Josh Dowbiggin, 21, is in his final year of studying agriculture at Harper Adams University. He runs a small flock of Easy Care ewes alongside his Ghyll Beck Hereford Stud business, importing and marketing Hereford semen and embryos from around the world.