Getting a Bachelor's Degree is No Longer Enough

Do you have the marketable skills and experience to set you apart from other graduates in your field? Although landing a dream job doesn’t necessarily have a blueprint, guidance on how to better position yourself in the market is available. Employers still value college or university degrees, yet the structure of the present economy calls for applicants to have more than a bachelor's degree to be competitive for jobs within their field. Therefore, the crucial question is: If earning a bachelor's degree is no longer enough, what is? Today, we'll discuss why a bachelor's degree is no longer sufficient and what you can do to develop yourself in the constantly shifting employment market.

What is a bachelor’s degree?

A bachelor's degree is a degree given by a college or university upon completion of an undergraduate studies programme. By completing a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial and Organisational psychology, you can understand how psychological principles can be applied to employee behaviour and improve the overall work environment (performance, communication, professional satisfaction, and mental safety).


Bachelor's degrees are academic courses that can lead to a variety of qualifications, such as a Bachelor of arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), or Bachelor of Commerce (BCom). A full-time programme can be completed in three to four years, and a part-time programme can take six to eight years. In some cases, such as medical courses, bachelor's degrees can be completed in more than three to four years (full-time). 


This qualification, also called an undergraduate degree, is most commonly used to find a job after graduation. Others use it to prepare for additional qualifications or further their studies, including post-graduate diplomas and master's degrees. 

So, why isn’t a bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree enough?


A bachelor's degree was once thought to be the golden key to obtaining and maintaining a long career before master's degrees were widely available and popular. Graduating students increasingly face difficulties getting employment in their preferred fields due to the growth of higher education options. As a result, people are returning to university or college to earn professional or advanced certifications and master's degrees to become more marketable.


As the job market continues to become increasingly polarised, with the fast-growing occupations, specifications for positions often highlight that a postgraduate qualification is necessary. This means that anyone with a bachelor's degree has a very slim to no chance of standing out among the pool of potential prospects. 


As a result, recent bachelor's degree holders appear to be losing more confidence than ever before in their ability to find employment. Completing an undergraduate degree is no longer considered the end of higher education, so those who actively seek out master's degrees and comparable postgraduate certifications (diplomas, advanced certificates) are no longer considered "overachievers".


Disclaimer: While getting a job with a bachelor's degree is possible, having additional credentials may increase your chances of finding employment in your industry, especially if it is highly competitive. In the next few paragraphs, we will explore this further.


So what now?

You are the only one who can answer this question; whether or not a bachelor's degree is sufficient will depend on your professional objectives and the demands of the job market in your industry. Because your job ambitions heavily influence your personal life, you should ask yourself if the degree you are working towards or have recently received is sufficient to support your present and future professional aspirations. It's crucial and proactive to consider the possible outcomes of your chosen higher-education path, including the qualification you choose to study and if you opt to pursue other credentials.


To help you answer the question on an individual basis, we have developed a list that you can use as a guideline:


✔️Follow employment and educational trends: Researching people's backgrounds (track record)  in the field you're interested in might help you gain a fuller view of the demands of your industry. Why? You will be able to determine the level of education and training required.  You may use a variety of career path tools, such as GigZig from PayScale. Another excellent tool is LinkedIn, which lets you connect with other professionals in your area of interest.


✔️Understanding the criteria of your professional path: Did you know that you may be both underqualified and overqualified for a position? You must research job and career criteria to ensure that you present a professional profile that will get you recognised in your sector. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a brilliant resource to help you start the process.  The Occupational Outlook Handbook is split into 24 occupational groups that present industry and position-specific occupation profiles. 


✔️Experience the field: If you are still figuring out what field you want to go into or are unsure about the current field of interest, you should consider gaining practical experience. You might be hesitant to pursue another qualification or certificate, so interning is a great alternative. One of the great things about interning is that it allows you to gain practical experience without fully committing to a field, helping you to make an informed decision about moving ahead with additional education or, in other cases, changing your field of study or industry completely.


Let’s dive into the third point a little more.


Success in the workplace extends beyond completing examinations and receiving degrees with excellent marks. Your employability in today's job market is determined by the amount of experience you have in the workplace. Doing an internship is a fantastic way to expand knowledge, gain practical experience, and decide whether a particular professional sector is suited for you. Your degree does not bind you to a specific career path since your abilities are transferable.


Internships are essential to understanding the career trajectory for your desired job title, but they do not have to be directly tied to your ultimate career path. This is because any professional or practical job experience may help you develop valuable workplace competencies that could make you a desirable candidate to future employers.   


✔️Priority setting: If you are doubtful about your qualifications, the best thing you can do is invest some time identifying which areas of employment are most important to you, such as salary, locale, work schedule (part-time, full-time, permanent, contract), and type of job (remote or in office). Examining your finances before beginning a new programme would also be beneficial because they will significantly impact the type of education and training possibilities you can pursue. Having a comprehensive understanding of your financial alternatives in terms of tuition is the only way you can be sure that enrolling in a new programme is a wise financial move for you (e.g. loan applications, tuition payment plans, duration of the program).


Thinking about pursuing another qualification?

If you've read this far, it's either because you're considering enrolling in a new programme or you prefer to complete articles when they've captured your interest. We just compiled a list of South African Bursaries that are still open in January 2023 which you can browse over to see whether any of them may fund your studies. We realise how expensive tuition is while acknowledging the fact that investing in your education is something you will most likely thank yourself for doing. 


Related: How To Apply For A Bursary


Since a lot of bursary programmes are highly competitive, some require you to write an essay as part of your application. Writing an essay or personal statement gives the bursary programme committee an idea of who you are and illustrates how committed you are to your goals.

If you’d like guidance on writing a winning scholarship essay, we have written an article with useful writing tips and considerations here.

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