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The Career Climb is Tougher When You Don’t Have a College Degree

-by Thomas Hauck

In today’s competitive job marketplace, presenting a strong application can mean the difference between getting a job or a promotion and being passed over. There are many factors that can give you an edge when you’re applying for that plum position, including your work history, skills, and personality. A recent survey suggests that having a college degree can help you stand out from the crowd.

The study conducted by Kelton Research and eLearners.com, a web resource of EducationDynamics, found that nearly one in five (19%) Americans (that’s about 40 million adults) say they know someone in the workplace who was passed over for a position because they didn’t have the right college degree. One in ten (10%) of the respondents reported that they had personally been denied a job for not having a degree.

Not having the right degree can hold you back from moving up the corporate ranks. Nearly one in five (18%) respondents (another 40 million people) state that they knew of a coworker who was denied a promotion because he or she didn’t have the appropriate degree. More than one in ten (13%) claim that a colleague was denied a raise because their education level did not make the grade.

The U.S. Census Bureau confirms these figures. A recent Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey reported that workers 18 and over with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $51,206 a year. Those with only a high school diploma earn $27,915, while those without a high school diploma average $18,734. That’s a big difference!

Making an Investment in Your Future

Sure, college costs are rising, but the benefits of getting a college degree are numerous. Employers need workers with specific skill sets such as engineers and marketers and computer programmers, but they also need people who know how to think and be creative. A college education can be like a career training program, but it also provides intangible assets including a good work ethic, the ability to be a team player, and experience in solving problems.

Terrence Thomas, EVP Marketing Operations at EducationDynamics, remarked that the message is clear: in today’s competitive job market, if you don’t have the right education you stand a good chance of being overlooked for jobs and promotions. Finishing school—not just enrolling—is important. The survey found that 22% of people who started college but didn’t get a degree have been denied a job, raise, or a promotion. Workers are saying that not having a degree is a significant obstacle in their careers.

For many people, attending college is a challenge. In an effort to tackle one segment of the problem and help break the barriers of time, money, and confidence in obtaining a college education, eLearners.com launched Project Working Mom, an education advocacy campaign that awards scholarships to mothers who desire an education but are employed by necessity. Working moms can apply for a scholarship to one of five participating universities, and the education programs are all online and are tailored toward busy working adults.

When employers are looking to hire, they want the best and the brightest–and this often means hiring a college graduate. High school graduates and working adults can both benefit from the many programs available to help people earn their college degrees.

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