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LostInParadise's avatar

Why do so many companies require a college degree for employment?

Asked by LostInParadise (27903points) September 23rd, 2015

It was not that long ago that relatively few people graduated from college and a high school degree was all you needed to get hired. With regard to getting a job, a college degree now is equivalent to what a high school diploma used to be. Some are suggesting that free education should be extended to the college level. Given the business situation and the high cost of tuition, this seems like a reasonable thing to do.

I loved going to college, but I can’t say that I make much use of what I learned there. I work as a computer programmer and all the programming I know was learned on the job or on my own. I can see how some areas like engineering require special training, but why should a degree in the humanities make a difference? There are no specific course requirements for getting into law school or medical school. Why not go directly from high school into these schools?

I have seen the opinion given that college is like an obstacle course, demonstrating self-discipline. Do you think that is true? If so, is that a reasonable and fair thing to do?

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15 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Because a college degree, even in Art History or English, shows a level of maturity in completing a long term project (one’s education) and that one has been exposed to ways of thinking and alternative ways of solving problems.

talljasperman's avatar

If a company wouldn’t hire a person without a degree than it leaves it right open to hire yourself and profit from that companies blind spot. Capitalism would work in your favor, by increasing the pool of skilled workers. If you don’t like a business then maybe you could have an opportunity to make a better widget. Make lemonade from lemons. You might just end up being rich.

zenvelo's avatar

By the way, there are specific course requirements before getting into medical school: Organic Chemistry, Chemistry, Biology. If you can’t demonstrate proficiency in those courses, then you aren’t what they want in Medical School.

One difference between Medical School and Law School: Medical schools have accepted a person after a rigorous screening, and thus do their best to get you through the process and become a doctor. (Med School joke: Q: “What do you call the person who graduates last in medical school?” A: “Doctor”.)

Law schools on the other hand, do their best to weed out as many people as possible, generally a third of those going into Law School do not make it through the three years. So a Law School is not going to accept somebody that hasn’t demonstrated the ability to think, write, argue, and comprehend.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am confused about your point regarding law schools. If they weed out students after admission, why should they care about who they accept? Don’t law schools, unlike medical schools, make a profit?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I will roll with you on that, from what I have seen is that college does more to make you look good to someone else when you go chasing that JOB (Just Over Broke endeavor), except for certain sciences, medicine, law, etc. where you really can’t learn on the job without putting people’s lives at risk. If I wanted to be an apprentice carpenter I don’t see how having a degree in liberal arts will help any at all. If the degree is in a related field I can see where that should gain you favor, but just to say you have you have any degree or college, even if totally unrelated to the job you seek, I don’t get.

If I knew then, what I know now, I would have kicked my butt into law school even if I had to glean cans and bottle from dumpster to pay the tuition.

msh's avatar

Everyone has pretty much answered your inquiry I believe. A couple factors haven’t been mentioned, however. If I may, please?
1— Fact- you earn several thousand dollars a year above those without the college degree. Not fair. But fact.
I find this sad, because there are some truly brilliant people out there without the means, nor the knowledge on how to get into a school to earn a degree. One can do it, it’s really hard work, but if it’s desired enough… If I could and did, then anyone can…and should. I made it a point to help kids get the info and aid they needed to get into those higher educational places. (please do understand, I will NOT receive angel wings for this, but rather, I will not be down in the Dantè‘s Inferno Plus Program~ Level 52 of Hell. I may get booted up to Level 47! I hope.)
2— College gives a certain amount of time to learn about and hopefully master some things before venturing forth into a vocational pathway. You get ‘exposed’ to certain areas of life you may never have the ability to experience for the rest of your life on earth. Some of those ‘have to’s’ changed the course of some people’s lives. Individuals- fellow students, working towards that goal at the end of the pathway have relationships that you will not have the pleasure of experiencing again. Work pals are not the same.
In short, that time working on a degree, gives students a chance to learn, emulate, expand, mature, and learn about the maze they will soon enter- called life.
The really smart ones- lift their heads high enough above the walls of their own maze to enjoy some of the different elements of life from the education that made them see and experience it before the daily grind began.

SmashTheState's avatar

A university degree proves three things:

1. That your family was not born into poverty. Poor people can’t afford university, and employers desire to exclude people born into poor families. University has traditionally been the way the middle class has been permitted to buy a free ticket into the middle class for their families and keep the poor with their faces pushed into the mud. *

2. That you are capable of following pointless, meaningless, and often degrading orders for years at a time without complaint. Employers need to filter out anyone capable of independent thought or rebellion. **

3. That you are not creative or imaginative or resourceful. Imaginative and unorthodox thinkers do not deal well with the regimented conformity of the educational system. Employers are looking for utterly predictable drones who will do the work assigned to them without complaint or creative thought. Spending years sitting in a room and paying huge sums of money for the privilege of being taught the same material you could get free at any library in the world in a tiny fraction of that time proves that you are probably an imaginationless clod who doesn’t take risks or react in unexpected ways or challenge the status quo. ***

* “Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.” – Kurt Vonnegut

** “The achievements which society rewards are won at the cost of diminution of personality.” – Carl Jung

*** “And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.” – H.L. Mencken

jca's avatar

Because in this economy, they can.

rojo's avatar

They like to see a college degree because it shows you can put up with an inordinate amount of bullshit for an extended length of time.

ragingloli's avatar

The degree means that someone with expertise has already tested you, and found that you know what you are doing, to what degree you know what you are doing, and according to predefined standards.
So they face less risk of you turning out to be an incompetent buffoon after all, and the costs involved in finding a replacement for you/giving your further training and education.

And if you live in the colonies, it also means that you have an astronomical amount of debt, which gives them the leverage to force any kind of bullshit on you.

Jaxk's avatar

First of all, college doesn’t have to put you in so much debt that you can’t get out. State run Universities, like the “University of Florida I can’t get the link to work so you’ll have to go to If you want to see the cost) cost about the same as a new car. Almost half that if you attend a community college for the first two years. A college degree simply makes you a more rounded person even if the degree is not in the field you have chosen. College may not give you all the answers but it teaches you how to get them. Simply put, it makes you a better and more versatile employee.

stanleybmanly's avatar

There is the additional fact that there is a large surplus of people with college degrees and not enough jobs for most of them in the fields for which they’re qualified. This is particularly true for those with degrees in the arts. I can open a coffee shop and require college degrees for all who staff it these days, and be up and running in no time.

JLeslie's avatar

A college degree shows you will work on something for years. That you have some perseverance in you.

A college degree shows a certain amount of competency in reading, writing, and math.

A college degree lengthens adolescence and gives young people more time to be irresponsible, but also more time to become responsible before starting their adult life and career. Some people are working while in school, and are even supporting themselves, I’m just making some generalizations.

People can never have gone to college and be just as smart, ambitious, and committed as someone who went to college, the college degree just gives an employer a slightly better chance the person has those qualities. It’s certainly no guarantee.

A 4 year degree means the person most likely has been exposed to multiple subjects. Most schools require electives outside of the specific major.

Large schools you interact with people from different places and usually have a broader awareness.

Many city and state schools are still very reasonable as @jaxk pointed out. Although, I will say I am disgusted at how much many tuition rates have gone up in the last 15 years. Florida state schools are still very reasonable, I think Hunter college in NYC is now $2k a year?? It used to be free. I don’t know if other states have similar tuition for the poor. I think Hunter still takes the cream of the crop academically.

kritiper's avatar

It’s so they can justify paying you that big wage. After all, there are blue-collar workers who are very skilled and they have to work their butts off to make as much. Why should you get it so easy??

JLeslie's avatar

Very few people have anything easy at work. Blue collar and white collar.

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