Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  18 Nov 2010

MANAGEMENT: Degrees Help Executives Reach The Top


Recent Western Cape Business News

More and more corporate employers are reluctant to consider candidates who lack a formal university education for senior management and executive roles, no matter how deep their track records are.


And employees without tertiary qualifications may well feel the effects of the ‘glass-ceiling’ as their careers no longer move beyond a certain level, according to a top executive head hunter.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, MD of Cape Town-based Jack Hammer Executive headhunters, who is responsible for the placement of many of the top executives in SA’s blue chip companies, says there is a noticeable academic ceiling within corporations.

The importance of a university education today can be compared to that of a high school education forty years ago. And the value of tertiary education is growing as it serves as a gateway to better options and more opportunity.”

Goodman-Bhyat says the ceiling for non-university educated employees is evident across all industry sectors. She says it becomes more evident as competition in terms of supply balances against the demand for talented and experienced employees.

There are fewer jobs and more candidates with credible-looking CVs.  It is now more important than ever for corporate job seekers to make every effort to complete their undergraduate degrees to remain competitive the job market, with post graduate degrees continuing to add impact when a CV hits an HR Directors desk.

Although rare, we have come across exceptional corporate execs without degrees, who have earned their stripes the hard way, working their way up the corporate ladder without the assistance of a formal education. But when competing against candidates with degrees and experience, clients prefer to appoint degree educated individuals”.

Another troubling trend in South Africa, Goodman-Bhyat notes, is the large number of individuals who embark, at great expense, on a post graduate education such as a MBA, complete all the course work but fail to complete the final dissertation, leaving the qualification null and void. 

Considering the market demand for qualifications and the need to be competitive in the employment market, Goodman-Bhyat reiterates the importance of not only completing all coursework but also paying close attention to grades and final marks as these too are used as yardsticks by employers when comparing candidates for top jobs.

She notes further that “Even during the recession, employees with degrees seemed to enjoy greater protection from unemployment. In the US the 2009 unemployment rate of university graduates 25 and older was 4.6 percent, compared with 9.7 percent for high school graduates without tertiary education.”

Goodman-Bhyat cites a recent US report called Education Pays which studied the benefits of higher education for individuals, which found the median earnings of full-time workers with bachelor’s degrees were $55,700 in 2008 — $21,900 more than those of workers who only finished high school.

And the pay premium for those with bachelor’s degrees has grown substantially in recent years. Among those aged 25 to 34, women with college degrees earned 79% more than those with high school diplomas, and men earned on average 74% more then their less educated contemporaries. A decade ago, women with college degrees had a 60% pay premium and men 54%.”

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