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Does it pay to take a degree?

Is studying for several years really worth it? Leaving aside the knowledge you acquire, the creativity and ability to structure, analyse and dissect facts, is it really worth it in terms of money? Yes, it would appear so. Not least as a Master of Science in Engineering or as a woman in particular.

At least according to the survey published by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) late last year on how higher education is valued on the job market.

The survey shows for example, that someone who has studied a Master of Science in Engineering and gained a job after graduating, will be well placed, in third place after doctors and lawyers. What’s more, KTH graduates do slightly better salary-wise than graduates from other universities with a corresponding degree. And even though men seem to get a higher salary whatever their education, women do appear to benefit from continuing their studies, compared to having an upper secondary school certificate in their locker.

This indicates that the job market values a highly educated workforce.  And there is a big need – many people are concerned that there will be a shortage of people having a degree of Master of Science in Engineering in particular in the future – within AI for example, there is expected to be a shortfall of around 70,000 people with the right skills sets in the next few years.

However, the picture is not entirely clear as some newly graduated  don´t get a job. Here, I think that companies would benefit from viewing this as an opportunity to employ someone with a first and second cycle education of high quality and then allow the individual to gain experience and add skills based on needs.

Sometimes I hear the argument that a study programme does not reflect the knowledge requirements of the job market. Our study programmes naturally change as society changes – for example that every graduate of KTH should now be able to work towards sustainable societal development.  A degree from KTH does not cover the same things as a degree from 30 years ago of course. Certain subjects and areas that are studied today, didn’t even exist back then.

I still think that the path to better matching  lies in an even more developed interaction and dialogue between educators and employers. A better understanding of the knowledge and skills our students take with them when they graduate is needed. This applies to both bachelor, master and doctoral degree graduates. They are all needed and will contribute over time with different skills sets.

Only then can we have a serious discussion about skills provision. Without creative and developing jobs in Sweden, these talents will look further afield internationally and that would be a real shame.