A 21st Century Journalism Project

Qualifications in the Workforce

In Organizations on April 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm

By: Tim Reeder

Today’s job market is highly competitive.  Even some educated people have trouble obtaining positions because they lack on-the-job experience. On the other hand, some people have a lot of work experience but lack required formal academic qualifications. Job candidates often are stuck applying for job positions that they’re over- qualified for so they can get some form of income.

A person wanting to get hired. Photo Credit- Google Images

In most cases, the amount of money a person earns depends on a combination of his or her education and experience. People with education and experience earn more money. Once someone loses their high paying position they have to be able to make ends meet. Unemployment only covers approximately 50 percent of your previous salary. The amount of time it takes to find another career job depends on how much someone needs to earn. It takes an average of one month of job searching for every $10,000 of salary one hopes to make. A person might take a lower paying job to pay the bills.

Over-qualification can limit job opportunities. Being labeled as “over-qualified” is a problem because companies think that someone might use the position as a “stepping stone” to a better job. Nathan Kennedy, a small business regional manager, said, “I have no problem hiring an over-qualified person if I think they will stay.” A prospective employee that is over-qualified must prove to the employer that they want to work there.

A person being interviewed. Photo Credit- Google Images

Mark Kmetz, a civil engineer supervisor at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), said, “I go and apply for other jobs within PennDOT to show my boss that I am interested in moving up in the company.” Kmetz didn’t get two of the four jobs he recently applied for because he was over-qualified. He is waiting to hear back about the other two jobs.  “Even though I didn’t get them, I thought positive and used them as a rehearsal for the job I really want,” Kmetz said.

“A problem with an over-qualified person is that it all boils down to the bottom line. Someone with more experience and or education would require more money than someone that has less of either or both. Occasionally over-qualified people can have a negative impact on other employees’ morale. Someone might be threatened about losing their job. It also can lower other employees’ motivation about getting a higher job,” Kennedy said.

Applicants have a couple ways to help them prove they are a good fit for a job that they may be over-qualified for. Before going to talk to employer the applicant needs to figure out why they are pursuing a job that they’re over-qualified for. Next, the applicant should highlight their skills in their resume and use qualifications to their advantage. Finally, they must show their strengths and abilities to fit into the company that they’re applying for.

Students coming out of college probably have little or no working experience. They are usually looking for entry level professional jobs. However, many professional jobs now require a few years of work experience along with a degree. One without the other will most likely not get a job seeker the job and classify him or her as under-qualified.

“You don’t want to hire someone that is under-qualified because there is a lot more training. The more training requires more time and money. You may be wasting your time and money on someone that doesn’t have the mental faculties or might not ever be capable of doing the job,” Kennedy said.

Some people aren’t hired for a job that they are under-qualified for because they don’t have the abilities to do that job. On the other hand, educated people aren’t hired because they don’t have the experience.  Genevieve Foote, a graduate student at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, applied for a position developing educational programs for farmers knowing that she wasn’t fully qualified. “I wasn’t hired for the position because I don’t have experience in the agricultural sector. I applied on the off chance that if I was hired for the position I would gain that experience. If I didn’t, I’d at least have the experience of trying.”

If a job candidate is under- qualified, they have the option to go back to school and take continuing education classes or complete further degrees.  These classes can further qualify a student for his or her job or help a student advance in their career. Foote said, “I’m continuing my education to be better qualified for positions with more responsibility and more pay.”

These students are back in the classroom continuing their education. Photo Credit- Google Images

Continuing education is needed to stay qualified in some fields.  Nurses, for example, have to renew their licenses and make sure they’re up to date with the latest information; continuing education credits are also required. Another job that needs further education is engineering. “I have to have 24 hours additional training every two years to stay qualified. If I don’t I will lose my engineering license and have to retake an 8 hour Professional Engineer Test, or PE, to get it back,” Kmetz said.

Another option to help qualify someone for a job is to take an internship while still in school.  Internships are a great way to get on the job experience. Students see how their academic experience applies to the job, and gain skills that cannot be learned in the classroom. “I took an internship for 3 summers for PennDOT while I was in school. After I got out, PennDOT hired me for a full time job as a civil engineer supervisor,” Kmetz said. Internships wouldn’t help every job seeker. In Foote’s case, as someone who returned to school for post-graduate degrees, an internship wouldn’t be financially responsible because of student loans.

Businesses around universities hire applicants who are enrolled in or have graduated from the university. The people hiring at these businesses are comfortable hiring students and don’t feel threatened about losing their authority in the work place. Many of the people in management at these businesses already have advanced degrees.

In contrast, looking for a job outside a university town may make finding a job, a little more difficult for those with an advanced degree. Employers might feel their own jobs are threatened by hiring those with degrees. Job seekers may stretch the truth by not disclosing higher degrees in order to get the job. Prospective employees can also be honest and risk not even being reviewed for the job.

According to Kennedy, “An ideal person is someone just barely qualified. This person is ideal because I can pay them at the bottom end of the pay thresh-hold. I can typically develop these people quickly to make them just as an effective member of the team as someone slightly more qualified would be.”

When hiring, employers are more selective because more people are looking for work. There are more people applying for the available jobs which will make the job market more competitive. Even college graduates and people with professional licenses may find themselves over-looked for positions in their field because they lack enough real-world experience.


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