Are “Practical” Degrees Better? 5 Benefits of a Skills-Based Path

Merriam-Webster defines “practical” as “of, relating to, or manifested in practice or action: not theoretical or ideal.” A subsequent definition adds some context: “disposed to action as opposed to speculation or abstraction; qualified by practice or practical training.”

In other words, “practical” is about action, not talk.

What does this mean for your choice of career? For starters, that you may be better served by investing in a practical degree or certification. You’ll find no shortage of options at digital arts schools like Centre for Arts and Technology; indeed, this may be the best time in history for ambitious students looking to break into skills-based careers.

Not convinced? Let’s take a closer look at five possible benefits of enrolling in a “practical” degree program and pursuing a skills-oriented career path.

  1. Your Skills May Be More Marketable

For better or worse, many employers still view “practical” degrees as more valuable than, say, liberal arts degrees. That’s because they believe – again, for better or worse – that holders of such degrees are more “marketable” than their artsy peers. Which means…

  1. Your Lifetime Earning Potential Could Be Higher

Although millions of liberal arts graduates do very well for themselves, practical degree-holders may begin their careers with higher lifetime earning upside. Your precise “paper” earning potential will depend on your actual course of study and career choice.

  1. You’ll Have a Well-Defined Skillset (And the Certification to Back It Up)

One thing that’s not up for dispute: As a “practical” graduate, you’ll have a well-defined skillset and the credentials to back it up. On this point, at least, prospective employers can’t question your bona fides.

  1. You May Find It Easier to Get Your Foot in the Door

Overworked hiring managers may be more likely to grant interviews to candidates with practical degrees, even when liberal arts grads present with equivalent work experience.

  1. Prospective Funders May Take Notice

If you’re planning to launch your own business in the near future, know that prospective funders – from angel investors and VCs to banks and private equity firms – will be more likely to part with their money if they believe it’s in good hands.

Are You Well-Rounded Enough?

As we’ve seen, there’s much to be said for enrolling in a “practical” degree or certification program as an early step in a skills-based career path. At the same time, it’s important not to put too much stock in the benefits of a practical degree. We’re not talking about a magic wand, here. To reach the pinnacle of success in your chosen field, you’ll need to work harder, longer, and smarter than your peers.

And that may require more than supreme confidence in your career-oriented skill set. Increasingly, employers prize soft skills, those ephemeral personality traits and proclivities that either take years to learn or can’t be taught at all. Before you leap headlong into your career, consider taking a “systems check” of your personality – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, the whole nine yards – and using the results to determine which skills need the most work. More so even than your “practical” degree, this could be the best investment you make in your economic future. 

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.