Does having a degree make you a better employee?
In the last year or so we have seen a number of big employers – PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst and Young being two of them – state that they will not require a degree from people who want to work for them. This is an interesting position to take. I would guess that their accountants, for example, need accountancy degrees, no matter how broadminded they might be on the topic.
It does raise a more general question, one which can be answered by science. Are people with degrees better employees? The research has been done, and there are decades of results which prove to be quite consistent. The way it has been done is to correlate work outcomes such as quality of work and quantity of work with levels of academic achievement of employees.
The answer is that more educated employees are very slightly better at their jobs than less educated employees. Research suggests that there is a correlation of 0.1 between years of education and job performance (e.g. Robertson and Smith, 2001). This is a very weak correlation, suggesting that if you want to predict someone’s work performance from how educated they are then you are likely to be about 1% more accurate than chance.
Measuring psychological characteristics such as IQ, personality, and integrity gets you closer to 50% accuracy. So, if someone has a PhD and a low IQ (which we encounter in our psych testing practice quite regularly) I would rely way more on the IQ score than the PhD. If you would like to find out how to measure these characteristics, click here.
Robertson, I.T & Smith, M, Personnel Selection Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology (2001), (74), 441-472.