Faculty, students: TCU bachelor’s degree worth investment

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    With graduation approaching, students and faculty are analyzing the job market to find out how to best use a bachelor’s degree.

    A February New York Times article called “It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk” posed the question: Does a bachelor’s degree have any high value in the current economy?

    The article says the bachelor’s degree is becoming the “new high school diploma” and “the new minimum requirement for getting even the lowest-level job” such as an administrative assistant or a paralegal.

    Taylor Baird, a first-year pre-major, said the fact that more people are going to college plays a part in the quality of candidates available for starting-level jobs.

    “In the past, college was more for the elites,” Baird said. “Everyone’s going into college now, which makes us all on a more even playing field.”

    John Thompson, director of TCU Career Services, said the bachelor’s degree is likely a prerequisite for employers because it signifies a strong work ethic and willingness to achieve.

    But that requirement will not necessarily weed out workers without college degrees, he said.

    “The necessity of having a college degree will get you longer term, good prospects,” he said. “Whether or not you’re going to wipe out people with high school degrees, that’s not going to happen because not every job requires someone with high-level skills.”

    According to the article, the unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree is 3.7 percent compared to 8.1 percent for workers with no more than a high school diploma.

    However, unemployment in Texas as of February 2013 was 6.4 percent, which is below the national average of 7.7 percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

    Joel Huffman, a transfer student recently accepted to the university, said he thinks the Texas job market looks hopeful for TCU graduates looking to work in the state because of resources the university provides.

    “From the research I did, it seems like TCU doesn’t just stop at giving students a diploma,” Huffman said. “It’s a really close-knit network, especially in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.”

    Huffman also said experience in internships is crucial toward preparing to enter the job market rather than simply relying on the degree.

    Hunter Sprague, a senior marketing major, said he found his post-graduation job on FrogJobs, an online job database provided by Career Services to help employ current students.

    He said he also agrees the university degree provides a good means of elevating above other job candidates, but it is up to students to develop other skills to become well-rounded workers.

    “A lot of people are graduating from TCU,” Sprague said. “But how do you differentiate yourself? How do you elevate yourself among your colleagues? That’s the increasing need for programs related to the field you want to get into and why the things on campus you can get involved in are important.”

    Sprague said his involvement in the TCU BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program helped him learn “intangible skills” which helped him find his job, including how to establish interpersonal relationships, how to lead others and how to be self-motivating.

    “From a business perspective, the intangible skills are extremely important,” he said. “About 90 percent of jobs I’ve heard about, you spend at least the first month in training anyway to learn about the business.”

    Entering the work force at a lower position is just part of working your way into the business, Thompson said.

    “For college students and grads, [starting out] is always at the bottom,” Thompson said. “That’s just always going to be that way, because they need to begin training you.”

    Thompson said the exceptions would be in careers like accounting or engineering where professional accreditation is required. He said those jobs will still be starting-level but higher paying because of the demand for workers in that field.

    For students in the liberal arts or outside career paths, Thompson said job experience is the best way to compete in the market.

    “If a student has a great grade point average but has no job experience, they are going to be at a disadvantage to other people with the same grades but more job experience,” he said.

    He said Career Services offers resume workshops, cover letter tutorials and mock interviews to prepare those students for the internship search before graduation.

    He also said those students who have asked Career Services for help and reported their career progress have made a significant impact on local employers.

    “Because our undergrads and our grads are making great contributions to those companies, [employers] say, ‘We want more of those TCU kids,’” he said.