The increasing irrelevance of degrees

:mortar_board: Did you need a degree to land your job?

As school leavers around the country prepare for their next steps, many will be considering whether to study further, step into the world of work or try a mix of both. When it comes to the workforce, LinkedIn research shows that skills are of increasing importance to employers: in fact, new LinkedIn data shows a 90% increase between 2021-2022 in the share of UK job postings that didn’t require a degree.

Instead, recruiters are focusing more on skills and removing unnecessary barriers to jobs, looking for people with the ability to do the job, whatever their educational background. In recent months, firms such as PwC, have changed hiring practices, moving away from a requirement for applicants to have a 2:1 degree or higher. Big tech firms including Google, IBM and Apple have also done away with the degree requirement in a bid to attract diverse talent.

LinkedIn research shows that recruiters are five times more likely to search for candidates by skills over degrees, and three-quarters believe skills-first hiring is going to become a priority in the next 18 months.

The focus on skills may also lie behind part of the rise in apprenticeships and apprenticeship degrees. According to The Times, some apprenticeships at major employers are as competitive as degree programmes and for the first time, this autumn, UCAS will be showing apprenticeship options alongside undergraduate degrees.

Whether students choose to study further, start work or combine them, understanding how to showcase the skills they have and those they gain is likely to be a useful stepping stone in a successful career path.

Source: LinkedIn News UK

I’m currently seriously considering doing a second master’s degree - this time in a subject that will actually upskill me and help with my career (my first master’s was just for the intellectual fulfilment). While researching, I found that some top UK universities like UCL are charging anywhere from £18K to £38K for a one-year master’s! Then I saw the article above. Can university degrees really be justified in this new world?

The only reason I can possibly justify doing a master’s at this stage of life is because I really need to take a year out of work and I’m also not confident enough in myself to stay motivated if I take a year out to take online courses and evening classes whereas I think being a real student again would motivate me (especially when I pay so much money for the privilege). But it’s incredibly difficult to justify.

As this is a Taiwan forum, I’m also curious if the same trend is happening there? I’m guessing not, partly because degrees there are still cheap so it would be rare for someone very talented to not do one, but also because of the general backwards mentality of most hiring managers (if I remember correctly, online degrees aren’t even accepted when applying for work visas).

In my experience with hiring and acquaintances with companies that hire. the degree is just a box to tick, but not always important as many graduates are functionally useless and need loads of training. it is becoming a huge issue now with young/new recruits being truly sub par in the field they are supposedly.educated in. But at the same time, without a degree, your resume wont even be considered.

But every industry is different. I want my doctors, researchers, lab techs and so on to have high quality formal education. But the majority of, say english teachers when we hired, had very little idea of nearly anything. They usually had decent grammar. But… Loads of training. The trick was always getting good personalities that will train (patient, not massive ego) and stay (commitment to an actual career), moreso than someone who collected framed certificates and doesnt know how to socialize. my guess is most companies now feel the same way as it is extremely frustrating and expensive investing in people who are hopeless in the end.


I have degrees, graduate degrees or certificates from a top UK school, Berkeley and UBC. I also have a masters level BTEC technical cert from the UK. I value my street smarts, lewd dating in my 20s :cowboy_hat_face: and school of hard knocks over any piece of paper. Jungle smells over graduation celebration bells.


Taiwan is still—in many sectors, not all—oriented to credentials, that is, having the degree. The recent correction here was the exposure of large-scale plagiarism of the postgraduate theses of some high-profile folks, starting with a Kaohsiung mayoral candidate and then spiraling outward to implicate many more people. So I would not say that advanced degrees are at all “irrelevant”—but I would say there’s more careful scrutiny of what actually gets produced in this process.

I’d say if you want to learn something in the UK, and a reputable university can offer it, go for it! But needless to say do your homework first.


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College degrees never really were relevant. The idea was that, by going to college, you showed you can learn new things and are trainable. But now everyone goes to college (in Taiwan, it really is pretty much everyone), so it’s meaningless. I got a 99.5% average for my grad school classes, but what does that mean? That I worked my butt off and I learned a whole lot or that completing your assignments = gold star for you? I do have a very specific niche and I would not be qualified (not “not seen as qualified”, but actually “not qualified”) if I hadn’t gotten the education I got, but that’s not usually the case for most jobs. Especially now. There was a period of time in the mid 20-teens were jobs that any 12 year old could do required a graduate degree, but unemployment is too low to hold people to these standards now. If you can make US$20/hr washing dishes, why would you bother going to school so you can make US$18/hr doing something that requires a degree? Plenty of people are doing it, but many are looking at this situation and saying “yeah, that’s a stupid waste of my time and money”. Gone are the days where a college degree pretty much guaranteed that your overall lifetime earnings would be higher than a high school diploma. Now you can make more as a high school drop out.


Because, some people can’t learn and are totally untrainable, but still get the degree?

I have a friend with an eatery in Alishan. All of her staff are paid 40K or more, have two days off a week, get 2 months bonus for LNY. Owner has also taken the staff on overseas holidays that owner paid for. She has had staff training from other professionals yet she had two young staff resign because they thought they could stand around doing nothing. No degree required but need to use your noggin lol.

Her place is so busy you must book to get a table. If you are more then ten minutes late you lose your table booking.

My wife has an undergraduate degree but works now for me. I think education is great but some people are overeducated with no work skills. For myself the skills I have I cannot say if having tertiary education would have helped as I don’t have any.

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A degree isn’t necessary but at the same time there’s nothing better than a degree from a good school to put on your resume. This has always been true and it is true now.

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Dang, I don’t even have a resume. A mere underling.

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As @nz said, a degree is really quite meaningless these days because so many people have one. Mine was probably the last generation where having a degree was the exception rather than the rule - after I graduated, the number of degrees available (and new universities) just skyrocketed, and it all just turned into a massive sham/scam. The net result is that employers really don’t value a degree, or higher degree, especially if obtained recently. Most likely you’ll spend a shitload of money and never get anything back on your investment.

I suppose the exception would be if you have a master’s in some narrow niche that your (potential) employer values highly.

Taiwan specifically? Yes, they do “value” a degree, but only in the box-ticking sense, as someone mentioned earlier, and you’re right that certain institutions (or ways of getting a degree) will be ignored; basically the name of the institution matters more than the content of the degree. Even in Taiwan, I don’t think it will be financially worthwhile.

Lol. I mean you have your own business. Degree is totally meaningless in that sense. I have to assume OP wants to look for a job rather than create one, otherwise the whole thread is rather meaningless.

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As someone on the hiring side the degree is noted, more so if it’s relevant, but what we really care about is your experience and your references.
We also make an effort to elicit info about experiences beyond what’s on the resume’ as people tend to (have to!) optimize for getting through automated systems and clueless HR these days, often culling the most interesting bits!


Oh the many stories from my wife who had a stint in an HR department. Her boss favored anyone who applied from National Taiwan University. Why? Looked good on him that he found such highly qualified staff. Did it matter some of those staff had big egos and did not want to do much work? No, not really.
Meanwhile, regular managers were desperate to find good workers and did not care from where they graduated. The most popular workers were those working part-time at work while still studying. If they had a decent attitude there was no problem for them to get a full time job later…heck, even had managers waiting for them to graduate. The schools they attended were “lower-end” schools. I remember one receptionist were lured over to logistics department by manager looking for someone with good attitude.
I tell every young person we know…in a big company just have a decent attitude and be willing to do the tasks at hand. You can work your way into other positions over time…just let managers in other department see your performance. They will not care about your degree.


Yes having a job is also meaningless for me. lol


Typical non committal answer but it really depends.

I work in a niche technical area. I did a masters which was completely focused (theoretically and with practical work) in that area and led straight into a job in that area, so for me doing the masters was very important as it is almost a requirement.

For a general or less vocational degree I think the importance can drop, as long as you can show that you are willing to work hard or have extra experience. I like to think most employers would prefer someone with 2 years experience in an area over someone who spent two years studying and passing exams.


Depends on the topic of the degree and what school. UCL will absolutely open doors for jobs if you go for degrees they’re world class at.

I used my masters as a way to get me into financial services in London. I got 2 separate scholarships to help me pay my way. So it worked for me.

Degrees mean less and less unless you go for prestigious universities with an in demand degree.

I would go for a masters in a very specialized topic you want to go into. I think it would be a mistake to do general stuff.

Although I see degree’s as nothing more than a business right now, and I feel slightly salty to have been duped into getting one. I am however grateful to my university for hooking me up with some work experience in China and opening the doors to Asia for me. If only I did it sooner, my Chinese would be so much better!

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Even in Taiwan, I don’t think it will be financially worthwhile.

I respectfully disagree, having obtained a master’s degree from NTU in the last year and seeing the difference this makes to how I am treated by employers and regarded by my Taiwanese in-laws.


Ha! The NTU aura. Just don’t tell them the truth of what really goes down there. :joy:



I studied abroad in Tsinghua in China. When I told Chinese people I’m studying there, they treated me like I’m some genius :joy: