Having a Bachelor’s degree is generally a requirement for a professional job. Sure, there are people who have such jobs without one, but I don’t recommend it as the way to go. But, what does having one really mean? Charles Murray argues, in the Wall Street
Journal, that it’s not necessary, and in fact absurd:
Imagine that America had no system of post-secondary education, and you were a member of a task force assigned to create one from scratch. One of your colleagues submits this proposal:
First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn’t meet the goal. We will call the goal a “BA.”
Well, when you put it that way, it sounds so silly. He proposes certification tests for all sorts of subjects as substitutes. He uses the CPA exam as an example. This sounds all well and good, but being a CPA is very different then, oh, behing an HR person.
I have a PHR certificate, so theoretically I’m now qualified to do all sorts of HR stuff. Great! Hire me! (Well, I’m not looking for a new job, but if you want to give me lots more money, we’ll chat.) But I worked in HR for 8 years without one. Was I not qualified to do what I did before? (Debatable…)
I have hired people who knew squat about the actual tasks they had to perform in the job, but who could think and write and learn. They turned out just fine. Theoretically, a BA (or BS) degree shows that you can do those things. But, there is, in actuality, no guarentee that the student learned anything. (For a story of a student I “taught” go here.)
So, if you were to set up certification exams, how would you do it? What requirements would you meet? Wouldn’t everyone freak out? I mean, look at how peole deplore “teaching to the test” in elementary, middle and high school.
I’m an old school hardliner on math facts, history time lines, hard sciences, and grammar. Really. But, I also realize that some of the soft skills, such as those needed to handle a delicate employee relations issue, can be difficult to test for.
So, what kinds of careers would you set up tests for? What would they test? My brother the lawyer tells me that even the Bar Exam doesn’t cover Labor and Employment law, which makes me wonder why it matters that my boss passed the bar, except that it’s required for her to work as a lawyer. It certainly doesn’t certify that she understands FMLA. (Does anyone really understand FMLA?)
(Via Joanne Jacobs.)