Table of contents
- Educational achievements & a successful career
- Education & job satisfaction
- Education vs. experience: What matters more in the workplace?
- Is it worth having higher education? Degree holders’ perspectives
- How does it feel not to have a college degree at work?
- Views on the role of education in professional life
- Fair use statement
- About Us
In today’s hyper-competitive world of work, change is a constant. But does this also apply to the importance of a solid educational background?
Are today’s academic achievements indicators of tomorrow’s successful career?
Does graduation mark the beginning of your journey to make professional dreams come true?
Do good grades go hand in hand with good colleagues, prestigious universities with lucrative job offers, and student scholarships with future pay raises?
Let’s find out.
But first, take a look at some data on the topic.
- According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities 2021 Employer Report, 87% of executives and hiring managers do care about your higher education credentials.
- But the latest Centage Group Employability Report revealed, compared to survey data from 2022, fewer employers say they require degrees for entry-level roles (50% in 2023 vs. 62% in 2022).
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Employment Projections, educational background and income are closely correlated, with higher degrees typically leading to higher salaries and lower unemployment rates.
- Gallup’s study on the role of higher education reported that less than half of college graduates succeed in finding purposeful work.
- Research from Georgetown University calculated that the lifetime earning potential of a worker with a Bachelor’s degree is $2.8 million. Without a degree, the expected earning power is $1.6 million.
At Resume-Now, we surveyed more than 1,000 employees to examine:
- The relationship between educational achievements and a successful career
- The impact of education on job satisfaction
- What matters more in the workplace—education or experience
- The benefits of having higher education from degree holders’ perspective
- How it feels not to have a college degree in the world of work
- Views on the role of education in professional life
- 87% of participants consider education essential for success at work.
- 81% believe better education leads to increased job satisfaction.
- 88% claim a college degree is worth the money.
- 72% regret their area of career specialization.
- 66% think they would earn more money if they were better educated.
- 66% have been rejected from a recruitment process because of a lack of higher education.
- 73% have felt overqualified for a job, compared to 58% who have felt underqualified.
- 87% of college degree holders feel proud of their educational achievements.
- Education is considered the most important factor for a successful career compared to work experience.
So, does education open doors to a brighter future? Take a look through the keyhole. Keep reading to discover what else our study revealed.
Educational achievements & a successful career
To begin with, we asked the participants whether educational achievements were necessary for a future career.
Almost 9 in 10 (87%) believed that education was essential to be successful at work.
Notably, the answers differed depending on the respondents’ educational level. The higher the education, the stronger their conviction that a college degree is necessary.
Let’s take a closer look. Education was considered essential for professional life by:
- 65% of those without a college degree
- 88% of Bachelor’s or Associate degree holders
- 92% with a Master’s degree or higher
Digging deeper, we also asked about long-term, work-related outcomes of getting a decent education. According to respondents, more education leads to:
Better job stability – 85%
Industry: manufacturing – 93% | software/IT – 93% vs. business & finance – 76%
Company size: 201–500 employees – 91% vs. 1–10 employees – 74%
Education: Bachelor’s or Associate degree – 89% vs. no college degree – 61%
Better job performance – 84%
Industry: manufacturing – 93% vs. education – 78% | business & finance – 78%
Higher earnings – 81%
Work experience: 6+ years – 85% vs. 1–2 years – 69%
Company size: 201–500 employees – 87% vs. 1–10 employees – 66%
Annual income: $75,000 or greater – 87% vs. $25,000 or less – 71%
Education: Bachelor’s or Associate degree – 86% vs. no college degree – 51%
Greater job satisfaction – 81%
Education: Bachelor’s or Associate degree – 87% vs. no college degree – 56%
Having a more prestigious job – 80%
Education: Master’s degree or higher – 84% vs. no college degree – 55%
Additionally, college degree holders were considered more likely to:
- work in managerial roles than those with lower education levels – 83%
- become bosses’ pets than those with lower education levels – 80%
- get promoted than those with lower education levels – 78%
Also, 42% of respondents believed that workers with a higher level of education are more likely to be happy with their careers than those with lower education levels.
Education can lead to higher-paying and more rewarding careers. However, the advantages of a college degree go beyond increased earning potential and job opportunities.
In their recent report “Education Pays 2023”, the College Board presented data on the benefits of education for individuals and society. Having a college degree is associated with a healthier lifestyle, potentially reducing healthcare costs. Also, adults with higher levels of education are more active citizens than others and are more involved in their children’s extracurricular activities.
Next, we examined the relationship between education and job satisfaction.
Education & job satisfaction
Does formal educational attainment “pay off” in terms of job satisfaction? Let’s find out.
Overall, 73% of respondents claimed they were satisfied or very satisfied with their job. 22% felt neutral, and 5% admitted being unsatisfied or very unsatisfied.
Here’s the full breakdown of the data:
- Age: 25 or younger – 82% vs. 26–40 – 69%
- Industry: software/IT sector – 89% vs. manufacturing sector – 61%
- Work experience: 6+ years – 77% vs. 1–2 years – 56%
- Company size: 501+ employees – 88% vs. 1–10 employees – 45%
- Annual income: $75,000 or greater – 84% vs. $25,000–49,999 – 61%
- Education: Bachelor’s or Associate degree – 77% vs. no college degree – 65% | Master’s degree or higher – 65%
We also asked, “Overall, are you happy with your education level regarding your career?”. The answers were the following:
★ Participants without a college degree
- Yes – 67%
- No – 14%
- Hard to tell – 19%
★ Participants with a Bachelor’s or an Associate’s degree
- Yes – 86%
- No – 4%
- Hard to tell – 10%
★ Participants with a Master’s degree or higher
- Yes – 95%
- No – 2%
- Hard to tell – 3%
As you see, survey takers with academic degrees were 1.3 times (Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree holders) and 1.4 times (a Master’s degree or higher) more likely to consider themselves happy with their education level regarding their career than respondents without degrees.
The relationship between job satisfaction and education seems undeniable. Still, are academic achievements what matters the most in the workplace? Let’s find out.
Education vs. experience: What matters more in the workplace?
A college degree or experience? It’s a question as old as higher education itself.
Participants answered several questions, revealing the possible consequences of a lack of a degree and/or insufficient work experience.
66% have been rejected from a recruitment process because of a lack of higher education.
[education sector – 80% vs. healthcare sector – 49%]
65% have been rejected from a recruitment process because of insufficient work experience.
[business & finance sector – 72% vs. healthcare sector – 54%]
68% have missed out on a promotion because of a lack of higher education.
[education sector – 81%; those with no college degree – 74%]
- 64% have missed out on a promotion because of insufficient work experience.
The percentage differences presented above were minor. Based on them, it’s hard to tell what matters more in the workplace, educational background, or experience. The problem remains unsolved. Let’s move on.
We also asked, “Have you ever been unemployed for longer than 6 months?”. 65% said yes. Surprisingly, it was reported more often by respondents with a Master’s degree or higher than those without an academic degree—75% vs. 62%, respectively.
The last question of this section covered feeling overqualified or underqualified for a job:
Have you ever felt overqualified for a job?
- Yes – 73% [Master’s degree or higher – 81% vs. no college degree – 62%]
- No – 27%
Have you ever felt underqualified for a job?
- Yes – 58% [Master’s degree or higher – 70% vs. no college degree – 58%]
- No – 42%
A college degree or its lack doesn’t determine feeling overqualified or underqualified for a job.
Is it worth having higher education? Degree holders’ perspectives
How do degree holders feel about having a higher education? Let’s find out.
- 87% of college degree holders felt pride in their educational achievements.
- 85% claimed an academic degree boosted their self-confidence at work.
- 83% believed higher education allows them to follow their professional dreams.
As the College Board’s “Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2022” study reports, for the 2022–2023 academic year, the average price of tuition and fees came to $39,400 at private colleges. $10,940 at public colleges (in-state residents) and $28,240 at public colleges (out-of-state residents).
Our respondents were asked if a college degree was worth the money. Almost 9 in 10 (88%) declared it was. The share reached an incredible 97% in the answers of participants working for large companies (501+ employees). Also, 69% admitted they had student loan debt. Education costs are high, but they’re a lifetime investment.
Other noteworthy study findings:
- Only 36% of survey takers claimed they ended up working in the area of their degree specialization. 64% followed a different career path.
- 72% regretted choosing their area of specialization.
- 83% stated their current job required higher education.
Surprisingly, 73% of respondents said they regretted having a college degree. Also, 78% believed a higher education could sometimes be an obstacle at work.
Let’s dig deeper to see what might be the possible reasons.
- 78% of survey takers said having an academic degree could lead to excessive workload. Additionally, 77% thought being highly educated could make some coworkers jealous.
But what about those who don’t have a higher education?
How does it feel not to have a college degree at work?
We don’t need an education. Or do we?
Time to change the perspective. Let’s give a voice to participants without a degree.
- More than half (56%) claimed they regretted not having a college degree.
- 65% felt ashamed by the lack of higher education.
- 66% viewed not having a college degree as the reason they couldn’t follow their professional dreams.
- 62% admitted not having a degree lowered their self-confidence at work.
We also asked respondents what, in their opinion, would change if they were better educated.
- 66% believed they would earn more money.
- 65% thought higher education would change their professional life for the better.
- 56% claimed that an academic degree would make them more satisfied with their careers.
Views on the role of education in professional life
Let’s summarize our findings.
Education was considered the most crucial factor to having a successful career, ahead of work experience—34% vs. 28%, respectively. Here’s the full breakdown of the answers to the question, “Which of these factors is most important to a successful career?”:
- Education – 34%
- Experience – 28%
- Soft skills – 14%
- Positive relationships with coworkers – 14%
- Hard skills – 9%
- Other – 1%
Other research discoveries to mention:
- 39% of participants viewed experience and education as equally important in professional life.
- Almost 8 in 10 (79%) respondents claimed they didn’t judge people by their educational level.
- Overall, 42% of respondents considered people with higher education to be better employees than those without degrees. At the same time, having an academic degree did not impact how much participants respected their colleagues (41%) and direct managers/supervisors (42%).
Is getting a college degree worth it, then? Based on our study findings—yes, it is.
But it is you who decides. Everyone has different dreams to follow.
The above-presented findings were obtained by surveying 1148 respondents online via a bespoke polling tool. They were asked questions about the role of education in professional life. These included yes/no questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of potential answers, and a question that allowed open responses. All respondents included in the study passed an attention-check question.
The data presented relies on self-reports from a randomized group of respondents. Each person who took our survey read and responded to each question without any research administration or interference. There are many potential issues with self-reported data like selective memory, exaggeration, attribution, or telescoping. Some questions and responses have been rephrased or condensed for clarity and ease of understanding for readers.
Fair use statement
Want to share the findings of our research? Go ahead. Feel free to use our images and information wherever you wish. Just link back to this page, please—it will let other readers get deeper into the topic. Additionally, remember to use this content exclusively for non-commercial purposes.
At Resume-Now, we educate ourselves about the latest job market trends. Our carefully curated collection of expert-reviewed resume examples and professional resume templates let you adapt to these trends and showcase your skills for career success. Check out our guides and user-friendly online resume builder to create a job-winning resume. Get your career on the right track, whatever your education level.
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