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Is getting a university degree even worth it?

You’re out in the workforce, busily fitting shifts around friends, family and other interests – unsure whether you’ll ever do that degree. Or maybe you’re ploughing through Year 12 and you can’t wait to finish school and stop studying.

So do you even need to go to university?

Like so many things in life, there’s no answer to this question that’s right for everybody. But while going to university is an individual decision, it’s definitely one that’s worth considering from all angles.

Why ‘learning to learn’ at university matters

According to Gavin Walker, manager, graduate recruitment services at Deakin University, an undergraduate degree – in any field – represents a vital opportunity to ‘learn how to learn’. In today’s rapidly changing jobs market, he says this capability is critical.

‘Lifelong learning has never been more important,’ says Walker, who with his team provide extensive, free support to Deakin graduates to land their first job.

‘The future of work is evolving at an incredible pace. Consider that when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone there were maybe four app developers in the world. Today, there are more than 4 million people earning a living as an app developer,’ Walker adds. ‘It’s just one example but it illustrates how quickly the employment landscape is changing.’

‘The only real certainty is that employees will be required to continuously learn new skills and new ways of thinking. A university degree gives you the ability to do this.’

But doesn’t school teach you how to learn? If you’re approaching the end of 13 years at school, surely you’ve learnt how to learn already?

‘Not necessarily,’ Walker says. ‘Learning in a university setting is more about developing as a truly independent, adult learner who can engage with new content or ideas and apply them in multiple contexts.’

Get degrees of flexibility

Unlike school, a university degree offers more freedom to focus on the things you enjoy learning about.

‘Because of this, many students find university a more enjoyable experience. It’s very flexible too, with students having more control over their study timetable and often combining university with a part-time job.’

‘There are also multiple pathways through university. You can complete your degree part time, or take a year off to work or travel. It’s not as linear as school – uni students take many different routes along the way to earning a degree.’

Develop your softer side

‘In today’s era of rapid change, employers in all sectors are increasingly looking for soft skills like written and oral communication, problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration,’ Walker says.

According to Graduate Careers Australia, the top six skills employers want include teamwork and interpersonal skills – the kind you develop at university through working on projects, creating constructive arguments, collaborating on group tasks and analysing complex ideas.

‘These sorts of skills transfer to virtually any role, in any industry,’ Walker says.

'Employees will be required to continuously learn new skills and new ways of thinking. A university degree gives you the ability to do this.'

Gavin Walker,
Graduate Recruitment Services, Deakin University

Open the door to hidden jobs

A university degree can help you broaden your network and even access the ‘hidden’ jobs market.

‘Students develop networks at university that routinely lead to employment,’ Walker explains. ‘This might be through membership of student societies and clubs, through networks with others studying in the same field, or via connections to academics.’

‘Any degree at Deakin also offers opportunities to round out your CV and make you more attractive to prospective employers. I’m talking about work experience placements and internships as well as the incredible opportunity to study overseas.’

Fatten that wallet

There’s no question a uni degree gives you an edge in the jobs market, enabling you to apply for graduate roles and career opportunities that simply aren’t accessible to non-degree holders.

A bachelor’s degree will also pay dividends throughout your life. According to AMP-NATSEM’s Smart Australians income and wealth report, those with a university degree are likely to earn almost twice as much as their peers in the same industry with no university degree. Meanwhile, Grattan Institute research underscores the significant impact of a degree on lifetime earnings:

  • A male with year 12 equivalent earns $1.7 million whereas a male with a bachelor degree earns $2.8 million
  • A female with year 12 equivalent earns $1 million whereas a female with a bachelor degree earns $1.8 million.

A university degree also impacts employability, with the OECD’s Education at a glance 2017 report showing unemployment rates in Australia are significantly lower for those with a degree than those without.

Still not sure?

‘If you’re sick of studying and not sure where you want your career to go, it might be tempting not to do a bachelor’s degree,’ Walker says.

‘But when you look at the skills you’ll develop, the flexible nature of the learning and the impact on employability and earnings across your life, it really is hard to go past university.’

See whether a university degree could be the right path for you: the Deakin Explore tool allows you to filter courses and careers by what matters to you and what you’re interested in. The opportunities might surprise you.

Or, check out our essential guide to finding your place at uni

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Gavin Walker
Gavin Walker

Manager, Graduate Recruitment Services, Graduate Employment Division, Deakin University

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