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Importance of Degrees

Degrees of Preparation
by Darrell Gurney, CPC, JCTC

How important is a degree in advancing your career?

Only as important as you make it. Having a hard-earned degree is a plus-not having one is not necessarily a minus. However, it is helpful to know what you may encounter without a degree, particularly in an "assisted" job search involving headhunters who are unwilling to handle non-degreed job seekers. This hurdle is simply erected to cull those individuals less likely to be "placed," less "marketable" to client companies. Recruiters receive so many resumes every day that they focus on ways to reduce the stacks. Unable to be all things to all people, they isolate candidates most desirable to their clients.

However, this doesn't mean an individual without a degree is more limited in opportunities than someone with one (or many). It comes down to:

a) how good you are at what you do
b) how badly a company wants you.

If you are a sought after commodity, degreed or not, even recruiters will be pounding on your door.

Education doesn't end with a degree. One's first degree is simply a degree of "preparation"…preparing for entrance into the school of life. In this school, it's not just the paper on the wall that determines one's career success but, rather, one's degree of advanced placement in particular "life skills". Calvin Coolidge referred to some of these when he said:
  "Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."  

Two cases in point:

I placed a non-degreed Senior Account Executive with a start-up a year ago at a base salary of $90K with bonuses to $150K. Prior to that, as Vice-President of Sales for a software solutions integration company, she earned $130K. What she had is what Webster's Dictionary defines as "chutzpah"-"supreme self-confidence: nerve, gall." She also had people and social skills. Of course, these qualities are essential in Sales...but success in any field requires certain non-book attributes such as these.

I know a Hollywood studio Vice-President of Development. In academic terms, she possesses only an AA degree. In "life" terms, she has several Ph.D.s and earns well into the six figures.

Keep in mind, if you happen to be blessed with a degree or two, such worthwhile academic accomplishments-along with other requisite "life skills"-will take you as far as you choose to go. If not, fear not...simply focus on those qualities of successful living that inevitably translate into career growth and happiness. As a professional recruiter who has placed many individuals in corporate America, I have seen those developing themselves academically as well as personally go on to achieve very fulfilling careers.


Excerpted from Headhunters Revealed! Career Secrets for Choosing and Using Professional Recruiters. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written consent from Hunter Arts Publishing. and without prior consent of the author. Darrell W. Gurney, Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC), Certified Jobs and Transition Coach (JCTC), and Licensed Spiritual Counselor (RScP) is Principal of A Permanent Success National Career/Search Partners ( and author of Headhunters Revealed! Career Secrets for Choosing and Using Professional Recruiters ($14.95, Softcover), available online at or by calling 1-877-4-HEADHUNT. Headhunters Revealed! received the Clarion Award for Best Book by the Association for Women in Communications, has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly and the American Library Association's Booklist, and has been featured in nationally syndicated career columnist Joyce Lain Kennedy's "Careers Now." Sign up for a FREE monthly subscription to The Career Secrets™ Newsletter at © Hunter Arts Publishing.

Need help with your career? Get a Career Coach. Darrell Gurney, CPC, JCTC can help you through your career. Email your inquiries to

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