Monday, September 23, 2013

Does a Degree Help Your Credibility in the Business World?

By guest author Vera Reed
In our bottom-line economy, consumers demand more than ever to know whether a product is worth it—even if that product is a college education. Although the sharp increases in college enrolments are sometimes exaggerated, recent hikes in the price of education can be daunting, and with only a feeble job market waiting on the other side of graduation, the incentives for committing to a two or four year program are elusive. Furthermore, business lore is filled with runaway success stories of outliers such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, titans of entrepreneurship who never earned a degree (or never even tried). College is an enriching, once-in-a-lifetime experience if one has the time and money, but is it necessary?

credibility2A Sign of Seriousness

While it’s true that employers or potential partners are likely to be impressed with “real world” accomplishments, the psychological effect of having a college degree can be powerful. In addition to the actual certification signified by those letters after your name, a college diploma is proof that you had the vision and commitment needed to complete multiple years of coursework. Additionally, since a degree doesn’t guarantee a career, getting one demonstrates that you are willing to take risks with a Big Picture in mind. All of these factors suggest the qualities needed to be a leader in business, so even if your degree is not an MBA, it still puts it out there that you have the right stuff to be an entrepreneur or company builder.

Degree Branding

For better or worse, people take brand names seriously, and universities are no exception. Having a degree may only be as impressive as the school attached to it, so affiliation with some programs, such as UPenn’s Wharton School or the Marshall School of Business at USC carries a lot of weight in business circles. Furthermore, having gone to a blue chip business program generally creates a long-lasting network of contacts — the USC Trojan network is a prime example.

That said, be sure to make sure that the program in question delivers on the image it may confer upon you. Some Ivy League departments and entire universities can take a dip in quality, while others quietly gain status among insiders. While Wharton grads are almost certain to land a high-paying job in the field, those who bet everything on the Harvard tag may be a little disappointed. A number of rising schools manage to give you a prestigious name at a reasonable cost, so look into these.

College Outside the Box

A key to getting the most out of a higher level education can be to consider less conventional approaches. Today’s CEO’s often seek young talent with creative solutions to emerging problems, and are increasingly looking to bearers of degrees other than MBAs. An MFA, for example, can be a sign of the adaptability and insight needed for business as well as art.

For prospective college students with an especially tight budget, getting a degree from an online university is an attractive option: not only do you save on tuition and cost of living on campus, the flexibility of an online degree accommodates working through college. However, it’s not worth the trouble if the online program has no credibility. At the very least, make sure the virtual school in question is accredited, but also do your homework on the school’s reputation within your given field.

In addition to considering the relative merits of the degree program you’ll be pursuing, a major consideration should be whether a degree holds particular purchase in your field. For example, while you can squeak by without an MBA as a personal finance assistant, it’s more par for the course for an upper level P.R. exec to hold a Master’s Degree. In the end, the best way to decide whether a degree is the right option for you is to seek the personal advice of professional in the field you’re eyeing.
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Vera Reed is a freelance writer in Southern California. As someone who attended college for four years, she knows that a degree can really make a difference in the job market and encourages those who are still unsure to pursue earning their degree.

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