Even very good grades to go with the requisite university degree don’t indicate anything more than the possession of a pulse and a large student loan. And the problem isn’t limited to the United States:
The universities awarding the highest proportion of firsts or 2:1s last year were Exeter, where 82 per cent of graduates received the top degrees compared with just 29 per cent in 1970, and St Andrews – Scotland’s oldest university, where Prince William met fiancée Kate Middleton – where the figure was also 82 per cent compared with just 25 per cent in 1970. Imperial College London and Warwick both granted 80 per cent firsts or 2:1s last year, compared with 49 per cent and 39 per cent respectively in 1970. At Bath University the figure was 76 per cent last year compared with just 35 per cent in 1970.
I’m not saying that credentials aren’t important in practice if you’re concerned with getting past the HR gatekeepers. But the important thing is to understand that you’re not purchasing an education any longer, you’re just buying an employment ticket. So, your object should be to figure out the fastest, least expensive way to buy the ticket that will get you where you want to go. That may mean a conventional 4-year degree at a private university, but it may not now that more and more quality schools are offering degrees online. The important thing is to approach the process with open eyes and an open mind.
And, of course, to pursue an actual education on your own because you’re certainly not going to get it at a university. Given what we’ve learned in looking at the undergraduate and graduate science curriculums, even those with the sort of hard science educations that require university schooling have to admit that pretty much everything they’ve learned outside their core scientific discipline has been learned outside the academic system.