Research

Recruiters Value Degrees and Credentials Equally

Recruiters give equal value to degrees and credentials when they're considering new candidates. Across the board, the top qualities — knowledge of industry trends, technical skills, specialized knowledge, networking skills and so on — are the same whether a student arrives with a full-fledged degree or credentials from alternatives.

That's a finding in a new survey recently published by Ellucian, which produces software for higher education. Ellucian worked with Wakefield Research to conduct the project, which surveyed 500 students ages 18 to 45 and currently enrolled in either a college or credential program as well as 500 recruiters and hiring managers who fill salaried positions.

The survey also found that the recruiters have more optimism about the capabilities of their new hires than the students themselves do. While 39 percent of college students said they felt "very prepared" for the workforce, 62 percent of recruiters said the same about their candidates. However, the student responses varied based on age. Among Gen Xers — those born between 1965 and 1979 — 68 percent felt very prepared, compared to 36 percent of Gen Zers, the youngest generation joining the workforce.

Recruiters Value Degrees and Credentials Equally

Employers give equal value to credentials and traditionally-earned degrees. Source: "Credential cloud: How higher ed can prepare for an evolving job market" from Ellucian.

Recruiters and students came close to but didn't exactly agree on the soft skills that potential hires need to hone. While 40 percent of recruiters said students should develop stronger communication skills, 56 percent of students said they want to learn more about communication; and while 30 percent of recruiters highlighted critical thinking and problem solving as a lack in candidates, 55 percent of students said that was an area where they wanted more development.

Almost nine in 10 students (88 percent) said they expected to pursue an additional degree or credential after their current educational program. More than half (51 percent) said it would be another formal degree; and a third (37 percent) said it would be a credential. Credentials are gaining steam among employers, according to the recruiters. Over the next five years, according to 97 percent of the recruiters, credentials "will be important" in their company's hiring decisions, especially when choosing between two otherwise equal candidates.

Recruiters Value Degrees and Credentials Equally

What skills recruiters find lacking and students are seeking. Source: "Credential cloud: How higher ed can prepare for an evolving job market" from Ellucian.

"The message from this survey is clear: Students want and need to become lifelong learners, and in response, institutions must expand opportunities for perpetual learning," said Katie Lynch-Holmes, Ellucian's director of global enablement, in a statement. "Colleges and universities will continue to offer traditional degrees, but should also incorporate or expand upon certifications, credentials and other micro-learning opportunities aligned with local industry needs.

The full report of results is openly available on the Ellucian website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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