A recent study by Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute estimates that by 2020, 65% of all job openings will require education beyond high school; 35% will require at least a bachelor’s degree. The emphasis on post-secondary education in the labor market has been growing steadily over the past four decades, with recent years showing an increased demand for competencies such as decision-making, communications, analysis, and administration - and a reduced demand for “physical skills.”
In many industries, a bachelor’s degree is the signal that the prospective employee is “trainable” at a rigorous level, has acquired skills in critical thinking and research, is an effective communicator, and is capable of both self-direction and leadership. The degree is a gateway credential, needed by those hoping to advance - or even be hired - regardless of employment experience. While individuals who have earned some college credit are better positioned than those with only a high school diploma, a lack of a college degree still contributes to a greater risk of unemployment: in South Carolina, the unemployment rate among individuals with some college is nearly 3% higher than those who have earned a bachelor’s degree.
This trend in the labor market has implications beyond the employability of those lacking a college degree, also influencing earning potential over time. The Bureau of Labor statistics lists individuals who have earned some college credit as earning only 65% of the weekly salary of those who have earned a Bachelor’s degree. This disparity is likely due not only to lower starting salaries, but also the lack of advancement opportunities for individuals with some college credit.
Godfrey Gibbison, the Dean of the School of Professional Studies at the College of Charleston, has long been concerned with “stop-outs,” students who attend college but do not complete their degree, and how increased degree completion could serve to elevate educational attainment in South Carolina. Over the course of the past five years - under his direction - the School of Professional Studies (SPS) has demonstrated leadership in providing degree completion options for Charleston-area adults. Acknowledging that those adults are often employed full-time while working toward stronger credentials, the SPS has created programs that allow students to leverage the college credits they have already earned, within programs that are flexible, efficient, and cost-effective.
The Bachelor of Professional Studies degree-completion program, launched in 2013, is focused on preparing adults for life and work in the 21st century. Through an innovative curriculum, students develop key competencies in self-leadership, critical thinking, creativity and innovation, while building an understanding of global economics, politics, and ethical decision making. Although this program meets the needs of many students seeking degree completion, Gibbison realized that students needed an alternate option - one with a greater variety of curriculum options, a highly flexible schedule, and multiple modes of delivery.
In Fall 2018 (pending approval by the Commission of Higher Education), the SPS will launch the Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) program. Developed by Gibbison and his team, the BGS was designed to be particularly attractive to students with earned credits from a four-year college or university. The program foundation - the College of Charleston General Education Curriculum - focuses on building strength in critical thinking, written and oral communication, scientific literacy, and appreciation of art and literature. Students must select two minors - from the 75 offered at the College - in favor of the traditional major, completing all minor requirements. “This is a huge advantage for students who started a major in college, but were unable to complete all of the required coursework,” explains Gibbison, “as well as for students who want to explore a variety of subject areas, and gather a wide array of skill sets.” The combination of liberal arts curriculum, with a double-minor, emphasizes breadth of knowledge, encourages intellectual curiosity, and gives students flexibility to choose their own path; building a program of study based on interests and employment goals.
Students who graduate with a degree in General Studies, a widely acknowledged major offered at many colleges and universities, will be well-prepared for the modern labor market. Two of the program’s foundational courses are crafted to increase collaboration and teamwork, and to advance students’ ability to articulate their experiences, feel capable and comfortable with their subject knowledge, and be able to share their knowledge with others. These skills will serve students well in the pursuit of employment, and as they climb the career ladder in various professions.
According to the latest data available (payscale.com), individuals who hold a Bachelor of General Studies degree find employment in a number of industries, including education, manufacturing, health care services, and financial services. Within these industries, career pursuits are quite varied, with degree-holders finding success in banking, sales, marketing, human resource management, and project management. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that many of these fields will see additional growth over the next decade, with degree-holders experiencing steady salary increases concurrent with experience.
The Bachelor of General Studies - as with all degree programs within the School of Professional Studies - offers a flexible, convenient, and swift means to degree completion, while preparing students for a successful and rewarding career path. Whether studying in traditional on-campus daytime classes, or through online evening courses, the BGS program will allow students to attain their degree completion goals, and be fully prepared for the realities of the modern labor market.