Professionals Believe it’s More Critical Today to Earn a College Degree, Yet they Are Split on Whether Employers Should Require Them, According to Korn Ferry Survey

Respondents Still See Greater Value in an In-Person College Experience Versus Online

LOS ANGELES, May 26, 2021 - While most professionals in a recent Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) survey believe it’s more important today to earn a college degree, they are split on whether companies should make earning a diploma mandatory.

More than two-thirds (68 percent) say it’s more critical today to have a degree when job hunting than it was when they first entered the workforce. However, only 50 percent say employers should require that candidates have college degrees.

“We do see a trend with some companies — particularly in the higher growth technology sectors — doing away with mandatory bachelor’s degrees,” said Ken Kring, Co-Managing Director of Korn Ferry’s Global Education practice. “There are many roles for which technical 2-year degrees or on-the-job training are sufficient to be qualified.”

Nearly half (41 percent) of respondents say having a 2-year associate’s degree instead of a 4-year bachelor’s degree does not limit career prospects for most.

However, when it comes to their own college education, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) say the price of tuition they paid for their bachelor’s degree was worth it. About the same percentage (73 percent) said they went to college because they wanted to, not because they felt it was required.

“College is an invaluable experience to help people learn more than coursework. It is a way to prepare them to meet challenges in all areas of their lives,” said Kring.

Sixty-nine percent say the No. 1 way their college experience helped them was to increase their ability to think critically, and 59 percent still use key college learnings in their professional career.

The vast majority say pursuing higher education is the right thing to do – for themselves and for their children.

Nearly all (96 percent) say that if they’d have to do it over again, they’d still get a college degree, and 86 percent say that if they have children, they either will or have already encouraged them to get a degree instead of pursuing a different path.

Finally, even though the pandemic has accelerated a trend to more virtual learning, 70 percent say a degree obtained from an online learning institution holds less value than an in-person degree.

About the survey: The survey of 760 professionals took place in May 2021

Is it more critical or less critical today to earn a college degree than when you were in school?

More critical                                                                68 percent

Less critical                                                                 32 percent

Do you think employers should require that candidates have college degrees?

Yes                                                                              50 percent

No                                                                               50 percent

Was the price of tuition you paid for your college bachelor’s degree worth it?

Yes                                                                              74 percent

No                                                                               26 percent

If you had to do it over again would you get a college degree?

Yes                                                                              96 percent

No                                                                               4 percent

Did you go to college because you wanted to or because you thought it was required to get a professional job?

I wanted to go to college                                             73 percent

I went because I thought it was required                    27 percent

Do you still rely on college learnings to help you tackle professional tasks?

Yes                                                                              59 percent

No                                                                               41 percent

If you have children, would you/did you encourage them to pursue a college degree instead of taking a different path?

Yes                                                                              86 percent

No                                                                               14 percent

How did your college degree best help you professionally?

Technical skills (e.g. engineering, programming)      12 percent

Enhanced interpersonal skills                                     13 percent

Connections                                                                  5 percent

Critical thinking ability                                                 69 percent

Do you think having a 2-year associate’s degree instead of a 4-year degree limits career prospects for most?

Yes                                                                              59 percent

No                                                                               41 percent

With the world moving toward more remote options, do you think an online degree holds the same value as an in-person degree?

Online holds the same value                                      30 percent

Online holds less value than in-person                      70 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

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