When a College Degree Doesn't Matter in the Job Creation Equation

Friday, December 07, 2012

Employment application (Kathryn Decker/flickr)

The U.S. Labor Department released its monthly employment numbers this morning, showing that the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.7 percent, with 146,000 jobs created in November. The report is better than expected, and indicates that the economy is continuing to recover, however slowly.

As the economy recovers, most employers prefer candidates to have a college education, but that's not the case for Sharon Virts Mozer, founder and CEO of FCi Federal. Mozer believes that most employers overestimate the power of a degree. She only hires high school graduates - employees who she thinks work hard, are eager to learn, and are more likely to stay loyal to her company.  

Mozer has created over 1000 jobs at FCi Federal, a clerical staffing agency that matches workers with federal offices around the country. She is featured in the December issue of Inc. Magazine as a hiring force in the American job market.

"We have a lot of folks who have high school diplomas, or GED equivalents, and they are really undervalued, I think, by today's employers," Mozer says. Though they do give competency tests and perform background checks, she thinks it is far more important to have a "can do" attitude than a diploma. "We bring them in, and we train them." And they embrace the training that her company provides.

"We find that, when we do hire college graduates to do a lot of this administrative, back office, production processing work, they don't stay with us long," Mozer explains. "The high school graduates find this work rewarding, they take great pride in supporting the mission of our customers and the constituents that they serve."

But FCi employees without college degrees also have the opportunity to advance beyond the back office jobs Mozer describs. "One of our vice presidents does not have a college degree," Mozer says. Simply put, she says, "College is not necessary to do the kind of work that we do."


Sharon Virts Mozer

Produced by:

Jen Poyant

Comments [22]


If you work for FCi Federal you will soon know that a degree is all that matters...she contradicts herself with her comments. TRUST me if you work for FCi Federal, RUN or don't take the job...very poor management decisions.

Dec. 05 2013 09:26 AM
Tina from Queens

Anybody can help me with listening to these WNYC sound bites on my iPhone?
Tried the app - did not work; Tried the websited directly - did not work.
Help, please!

Dec. 12 2012 01:54 PM
unkerjay from Puget Sound, WA

You can teach a person about creativity, but that doesn't, won't make them creative.

Education provides a richer, fuller understanding of life and events, but not how to best navigate through life.

Some of our best innovators have NOT had college education - Bill Gates, no degree, Steve Jobs, no degree not at the point of their creation of and growth of Microsoft, Apple.

They were smart, motivated, and had clear visions of where they wanted to go and how to get there.

There is no clear, compelling test for who possesses the skills necessary and beneficial for a company to thrive and grow. GROWTH is not
the proof. Irrefutable evidence tying it explicitly to practice IS. Knowing Michael Jordan may likely have been a deciding component of Chicago Bulls' success is useful, last I checked there's only one born of a lifetime of experience. Do what he did, no guarantee you'll get what he got, "Your mileage may vary".

That formula is no better than the one that oversees education. Theories ABOUND as to how best to educate.

We have MANY politicians, theories on child rearing, economic interpretations and to each his or her respective ideology. Ask parents about practical application of the theories (or have they been abandoned in the wake of child rearing). Last I checked no overwhelming consensus of economic theory. Politicians tell us who's right, who's wrong. And we are where we are - militarily, academically, economically, employment, health, crime.

We're either looking for cookie cutter solutions, one size fits all or the very knowledgeable, very charismatic and influential oversee the implementation of ineffective, unproductive decisions.

Susan Boyle happened by accident. The TV was invented by Philo Farnsworth. Tucker gave us many of our, still in use, automotive innovations. Robert William Kearns had to fight for the credit he deserved for the intermittent windshield wiper.

This is not our first implementation of the electric car.

Education isn't a means to a better end in and of itself.

Officers TRAINED to pickup their shells on the firing range died with their hands, full of empty shells, in their pockets in the field.


Draw a circle, place a dot in the middle of it. What do YOU see?
Here's what she saw:


Some of our best soothsayers are comics. George Carlin, Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock.
They challenge(d) our assumptions.


Roger von Oech: A Whack on the side of the head
Ken Robinson: Out of our minds
Patch Adams

and maybe the occasional TED talk

Education is valuable - no question. But success and happiness, I think come from not just knowing the rules, but when and how to break or ignore them as well.

Let's not just do what we've always done. Let's get something better.

Dec. 08 2012 01:30 PM
Anita Danker

As a lifelong educator, I am continually dismayed with the question of the "value" of a college degree being considered almost entirely in terms of economics or earnings potential. Although they were not central to my career as a history teacher and later as a professor of social studies education, those core courses I took long ago as an undergraduate in English literature, philosophy, science, art appreciation, and the like have enriched my life immeasurably in ways that cannot be measured quantitatively. I can analyze a novel, reflect on the unexpected, understand medical advances, or go to a museum exhibit or a concert and enjoy the experiences to a much fuller extent than would have been possible had I never had the opportunity to go to college. I would like to think that at least a few of the many, many young people I have had the pleasure of teaching and debating with about the big events in US and world history, how people lived their lives in the past, the meaning of the American Constitution, and various other civic questions are more informed citizens because they were required to take history and social studies classes that may have nothing to do with their ability to make a living but a great deal to do with their ability to understand the past and to make reasoned decisions about the future.

Dec. 08 2012 12:03 PM

I think some of those who left posts have missed the point. It's not a question of whether or not the degree is of value to the candidate. The question is whether the person with the degree is of value to the hiring organization.

Often, those with a degree are given more respect and better opportunities even when they are not better candidates than those who have equivalent or more advanced and varied business experience.

I have read the resumes of many candidates there with advanced degrees who don't spell correctly and frequently misuse words. And their emails are even worse! I worked with a person who had a Communications degree but was unable to transfer simple, critical information in a way that was useful to those who had to run projects using it.

I absolutely believe that it is crucial to be (and have the attitude) of a lifelong learner. However, there is a huge difference between that person - who might not have a formal degree - and the person who "got through" college and graduated but who never figured out how to apply anything they've learned to real-world problems.

I am so grateful for those hiring managers who are willing to consider Candidates who can show accomplishments but who are for one reason or another lacking the hallowed collegiate piece of paper.

Dec. 08 2012 07:31 AM
Jim from kansas

Is it too simple to understand that a college degree is worth something only so long as it puts you into a category where there are less of you than there are jobs. Once the majority of people have an education (high or college), the status of graduate means nothing. The only way a degree is of assistance in getting a job is where your talents resulting from the education put you in a class where there are more jobs than there are equally educated persons looking.

Dec. 07 2012 07:24 PM
MariofromBK from Brooklyn

The bad thing about not have a degree in this time and age is the lack of respect you get from people that do have that piece of paper.
With every new position I start, I have to start from the bottom and earn respect and prove myself time and time again.

Then I work with young adults in their very early twenties who can regurgitate tons of information from books but have trouble deal with real world aspects of their first jobs. They can memorize facts until the exams are over but then have to be taught common sense thinking that only comes from day in and day out activities that come with being in the work force for so long. While their degrees most likely have nothing to do with the positions are filling, they are paid more money, given more consideration, shown more respect, and to a certain degree babied until they get the swing of things.

They are young and enthusiastic, filled with energy and will but nothing is more proven than the knowledge that comes from age and experience. I with no degree, am passed up for promotions and to a certain degree left out of tasks that will eventually fall on my lap for me to review at a later point anyway.

Give me someone with experience over a degree any day.

Dec. 07 2012 04:15 PM
Jennifer from NY

The unemployment rate for college grads is 3.8%. for HS grads, it's 8.1%. And that figure holds steady... Unemployment rate, historically, is double that of college grads for high school grads. Worth it.

Dec. 07 2012 03:54 PM
Lilo-La from ny

I went to a basic 4 year college and got a very dull/average degree...the jobs I did after school were depressing at best.
I went back to school - older, at night, surrounded by younger minds and wide-eyes and studied what I REALLY wanted to study the first time round - today, with the ups and downs I've had at my job - I don't regret going back to school as an older adult. My sole regret is that I didn't do it sooner and skipped the first "dull and average" bachelor's degree.

The Takeaway here is study/do what you love. College is good for those who think it's necessary to get them to do what they want/love/enjoy. There are always the "lucky" ones who find their way regardless (Steve Jobs et. al) - but why rely on lady luck, she can be so unpredictable.

Dec. 07 2012 03:30 PM
Rodney Hill from Long Island, NY

What many people fail to realize, especially parents, is that the purpose of college is not to train students for specific job skills. There are institutions that do that, and they're called vocational schools. (Nothing against vocational schools -- in fact I think they serve as key function; but college is something different.)

The value of a college education is that it broadens one's mind and one's perspective on the world. More and more employers of various stripes are looking for employees who can think on their feet and can deal effectively with clients from vastly different backgrounds. It turns out that a quality liberal-arts education helps to develop those very aptitudes. A solic liberal-arts education produces a graduate capable of being a life-long learner, rather than someone who merely possesses the knowledge to do a particular job.

Dec. 07 2012 03:28 PM
jmurphy from Long Island

Unfortunately Sharon is in the minority. I have been looking to change jobs for several years and employers are requiring a college degree for even the most entry level positions. Meanwhile I am in my 40s, have been working for 30 years, am very computer literate, and don't switch jobs more than once every 5 to 10 years. Experience should be counted as highly as a degree.

And I agree with Sue that apprenticeship is the way to go, especially for specific industries and high tech manufacturing. How do we get employers to do that though?

Dec. 07 2012 03:04 PM
Erin Taylor from Utah

I recieved my Bachelors of Science degree in Health Administration with an IT minor at a small but reputable university. It cost me less then 20,000 dollars and I now have a great job with great perks and fringe benefits. My degree helped me get my first job in my field and has helped me move up the corporate ladder. No, my job couldn't be done without my college degree because the cost of on-the-job training in my field would not be cost effective. I just turned 30 and am very happy with the return I've recieved from my college degree

Dec. 07 2012 02:57 PM
ariel from portland, OR

I'm 26. I have a GED. I have been cooking in university cafeterias full time since i was 18 years old. I am DEBT FREE, have a 401k and love my job.

My segment of the economy is booming. Everyone else should go to college, and if you can't find a job, come on back for your master's!

Dec. 07 2012 02:25 PM
Lillian Karabaic from portland, or

I got my GED at age 16 and found success in the non-profit sector, moving up through a variety of different roles in the same organization and being given a lot of responsibility. But at age 22, I decided that the only way I could move up in my field was to go to college - I'd hit a "degree ceiling" where people who had worked with me respected me, but people who were evaluating me without knowing me disregarded me because I didn't have a college degree. I went back to college and found that it has been very professionally useful to me.

Dec. 07 2012 01:28 PM
Sue Pearce from Oregon

I do not have a College degree. I worked my way up in Banking to an Underwriting position. Several years ago when everything was crazy in lendng I remember our department had taken on a newly hired college graduate on his way up to management. I had to review the loans he was approving. I was declining to agree with one of his decisions and his comment to me was "It's not like I am giving away the Bank..." I think apprenticeship in most jobs is much more important than a college degree, and a good offshoot of apprenticeship is that people tend to stay with one employer longer.

Dec. 07 2012 01:25 PM
Nick from Detroit

I'm a 25 year-old computer programmer and college drop-out. I get requests for work every week that I have to turn down because I am too busy. If you can learn on your own with books and web search, you absolutely do not need a degree.

Dec. 07 2012 01:00 PM
Kay Merkel Boruff from Dallas

John,my college degree was necessary for me to become a teacher. My Masters was for my pleasure. As I told me niece, who paid her way w/o loans, graduating with honors, every semester makes you smarter. It tells employers you persevered, jumped through hoops, to graduate. If you're lucky, you strengthened your reading, writing, & thinking/skills in logic. I wish every child in the US could attend my private school, with bright students, talented faculty, engaged admin & board, and a beautiful campus, to be bitten with the "love of learning." Kids need to find their passions and become educated to pursure their dreams.

Dec. 07 2012 12:36 PM
Kay Merkel Boruff from Dallas

Sharon,BRAVO!! When women are in 50% DC & 50% CEOs, we'll move forward. Thanks for helping the economy!

Dec. 07 2012 12:11 PM
Jose from Boston

I have worked in the Information Technology field. I used skills I learned in college but I could have learned them in trade school. I never paid attention to education when I interviewed applicants. I just needed to know that they had the technical aptitude. Degrees had no correlation to their abilities.

Dec. 07 2012 12:00 PM
Amy Crawford from Rhode Island

I do not understand why police officers are not required to have a college degree, to broaden world view and to demonstrate the ability think critically and and perform rationally before wielding a gun and holding authority in our communities.

Dec. 07 2012 11:52 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ms. Mozer mentioned that she does a credit check on applicants, is that to find out that potential employees really need money to pay a student loan, or that they lost their homes? What does a credit check do for an employer in relation to how that employee can perform in the work place?

Other than my ruffled feathers about the "credit check," Ms Mozer sounds... sound in her approach to hiring people.

Dec. 07 2012 11:50 AM
Kevin from Bloomfield, NJ

I think a Bachelor's degree or higher is required for hiring process today, but not to do the work. I was a successful, self-taught PC application developer from the early 90's until 2006. I worked for several major corporations in the NYC area and found jobs through headhunters who had personal contact with me and with the hiring managers. Today, job-search and candidate-search is done on-line and overloads both hiring managers and applicants with too-much unusable information. Filters applied to resumes generally reject those without degrees, so people like me without a degree or personal recommendation are not considered. I started college part-time in 2009 and now I'm a Junior and working full-time at a crappy retail job. I hope to be able to restart my career when I graduate in another year and half from now.

Dec. 07 2012 09:57 AM

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