Does your bachelor’s or master’s degree matter?

This is a personal topic for me because I have lived this journey of discovery and am lucky that along the way I have found mentors that have helped me find clarity in what I do and why I do it. A lot of times I meet students coming from university very energized to get into the job market and with this misconception that their degrees matter.

Long gone are the days when a Diploma, Degree, or even Masters was a guarantee to a well-paying job. The Kenyan Job Market is now heavily saturated with thousands of graduates. The sad part that still puzzles me though is the fact that if we don’t get a job with the bachelor's degree we rush for a master’s degree with the misconception that an advanced degree comes with more money, more opportunities and more prestige.

Job Market in Kenya

According to a World Bank report, In 2019 Kenya had 21,500 jobs being advertised in the various job posting sites a decrease from 23, 000 jobs the previous year. The number of university graduates in Kenya per year ranges between 15,000 and 30,000. That tells you that around 9,000 students have to seek new opportunities or create them. Further, according to the Brighter Monday Jobs Market Report, the unemployed are not the only ones job hunting. 73% of those who are employed are also actively looking for jobs. On top of this, another 25% of those employed would be open to a new role if it came to them. This paints a cut-throat job market where the decision to be hired for a job goes beyond I have a bachelor’s degree or I have a master’s degree.

My University Experience

Don’t get me wrong. Am not saying don’t do a degree or a masters or get that certificate. It is imperative to have a comprehensive and critical understanding of your field however it doesn’t stop there. During my first and second-year level in university, I knew getting a first-class would set me apart from the rest so I read and memorized all the books I could read and of course pass my exams with flying colours as we would say. I was nicknamed after one of the authors, Andrew Tanenbaum. My realization that this wasn’t enough came during my third-year level when I got an opportunity to intern with one of the Insurance Brokerage firms. I came to understand that there was a big gap between what I had been learning and what the marketing was looking for. I was asked to support a vendor-based technology system that I knew nothing about. I had to research and read about the product something I could not have known going through Calculus 1,2 and 3. That realization helped me to balance between education and gaining experience relevant to the market I was planning to go into. A 2018 Skills Mismatch Report by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) indicated that 66 per cent of university graduates came ‘unprepared’ to take up jobs that they apply for. According to the survey, only 34 per cent were ‘very prepared’ for the positions.

Get that degree and masters but it won’t be enough to sustain you in this cut-throat job market unless you add the requisite skills, experience and understand the impact you want to create from them.

Daniel Mainye

Passion is not enough

So how prepared are you for the job or business that you want? Have you asked around to understand what it takes and whether what you are learning in university is enough to get you there? If you take some time to ask and answer the above questions you will understand why the degree or certificate is not enough. Let me breakdown what my mentor told me early on in my career that has helped change the way I look at things especially careers. Am sure we have all heard these statements “Follow Your Passion!” “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” “Go after your dreams and the money will follow!”. Earlier in our lives, we are told this will lead us to success however they represent an idealized image of the world where pursuing hobbies leads directly and easily to success. Now when all the young individuals go to Tusker Project Fame, they are passionate about singing. It is only until they open their mouths to sing then you question who their friends are since they cannot sing and no one bothered to tell them as much. Even the person that smokes weed is passionate about it. Now, this isn’t to say that passion doesn’t matter. But you shouldn’t blindly follow your zeal wherever it leads, nor should you necessarily make career moves based on the things you love most. Remember passion is bound to change.

When we spend so much time talking about our desires, we inevitably ignore other things. Developing useful skills, making a meaningful impact through our work, producing something of value, understanding and shaping our place in society—none of these things is as glamorous or romantic as chasing our innermost interests. But reality rarely measures up to expectation, and for the majority of the population, these less attractive (on the surface, anyway) things lead to a far better quality of life

Live as a Genius, Not as a hustler

 We do not get paid because of what we know but what we do with what we know. Knowledge is power and truth is knowledge on its own it is powerless but when used properly it can change the whole world. There are two types of people in the world. Those who know the how and those who know the why. Whoever knows the how will always have a job but at the end of the day, they will always work for those who know the why. The challenge is how to connect the two dots. Do you know that 10% of the world's population controls 90% of the world's wealth? The majority are the hustlers who simply understand the how of things in life. The person who only understands the how is called a labourer but the ones who lives out of the why is called a genius. (Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see) –Genius is not about new ideas as it is about the clarity of ideas and in this case clarity about what it takes to succeed in the job market.

In conclusion. A degree lays a foundation upon which you need to derive passion, then build a useful skill and make a meaningful impact through your work. Just like a home foundation, you need to build the walls and roofs before you can move in. The walls and roof represent the skills and experience you need to gain. Get that degree and masters but it won’t be enough to sustain you in this cut-throat job market unless you add the requisite skills, experience and understand the impact you want to create from them.

You can also read: Do not rush to enroll for a Master's degree


  1. Great insight buddy, i also think being able to link your passion to a purpose comes handy in developing your skills.

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