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It's commonly believed that higher education is the key to success in the job world. It's thought that if you have a college degree you'll be able to get a job without any trouble, you'll enjoy career stability, and you'll be able to achieve your personal goals, thanks to increased financial freedom. There is a lot of truth in this statement. Research has shown time and again that higher educational attainment is directly related to increased earnings. Those without a college degree just don't earn as much as college graduates. For this reason, young adults are often advised to go to college and study whatever interests them. The reasoning behind this is, if students are interested in what they are studying, they will be more likely to finish their degrees and more likely to get jobs that they enjoy after graduation.

Valuable Degrees

Although this all makes a high degree of sense, it's important to recognize that there's more to the story. For example, some college degrees are more valuable than others, as research has shown and as common sense indicates. Industries that are characterized by high earning potential, such as finance and law, are seeking employees who are educated in these areas. Although a college degree is a good thing in most circumstances, accounting firms are not likely to hire individuals with any degree; some degree related to accounting is necessary. Individuals with history or philosophy degrees often don't enjoy such an abundance of job prospects because there is no industry that's directly associated with what they studied.

It's Who You Know

Another, more subtle factor that adds complexity to the value of a college degree is the general competitiveness of the job market, especially in difficult economic times. Put quite simply, there are more college graduates than there are jobs to accommodate them in almost every field. This means that something is needed above and beyond a college degree in order to land the best positions. This something could be an outstanding resume, a stellar recommendation, or an outgoing personality, but oftentimes it's personal connections that determines who gets a job and who doesn't.

The Element of Chaos

Most people have heard at least one story of someone getting a job that they weren't specifically qualified for just because they knew someone who knew someone who was in charge of the hiring process. This type of thing is difficult to predict and adds an element of chaos to the equation when determining how valuable a degree in a particular field really is. Put this way, it might make the situation sound dire and fraught with insurmountable obstacles. After all, who can hope to be a better candidate for a job than the boss's niece or nephew? With a little foresight and a positive attitude, however, realizing this situation is an important first step to overcoming it.

Test Scores Aren't Enough

It's very important to get a college education, that much is certain. But just going to class and doing well on exams might not be enough to land the perfect job. There are things students can do to improve their prospects upon graduation, and one of the most important options relates to the importance of knowing the right people. The academic world is a great place to meet people, for several reasons. First, it's easy to meet people at school, whether those people are fellow students, professors, or graduate research assistants. Everyone gathers in a small area for large spans of time, so getting to know people is a breeze. Also, lots of people who are involved in the higher education process have connections outside academia. This is especially true of professors. Professors know lots of people, and getting to know professors could help students make important connections later on.

Developing Social Capital

While students are busy working on their degrees and planning their next moves, they should remember not to neglect the importance of connections and networking. Someone on the intramural ultimate Frisbee team might have a cousin who needs an assistant in a powerful research lab or law firm. The point is, the element of connection and randomness in the job world means that, while studying to get the degree, students should also devote some time to meeting people.