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Are College Degrees Outdated?

Why You Should Remove College Degrees from Job Postings


“Bachelor’s degree required.” This common job posting requirement is often included in descriptions regardless of duties or responsibilities. In three little words, candidates without bachelor’s degrees are deterred from applying for a position. An advanced degree requirement may make sense if you are hiring for knowledge workers but is a questionable tactic otherwise. In today’s market, does it even make sense? A Harvard study found that close to 63% of hiring managers struggled to fill mid-level roles while the past year has ushered in a record number of job openings in the US. Something needs to change! HR business leaders should pressure-test degree requirements on roles to evaluate whether experience is a valuable alternative and increase the social and racial equity of job applicants.

To pressure test a degree requirement at your organization, consider what is traditionally valued in the recruiting process. Is it aptitude and experience or a piece of paper touting completion of a four-year degree? If you selected the latter, dig into the connection between degree and success in your field. The truth is that most college graduates end up working in a field outside of their major. In fact, less than 30% of graduates are working in the field they studied in school. What this statistic from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York means is that careers can be created by paths outside of textbooks. Applicable experience and focused training may equate to a better match for the role. Certifications, boot camps and internships may provide more applicable training than a college degree in another field.


To continue, look at who a degree requirement eliminates from your candidate pool. A college degree comes with a hefty price tag. The cost of a college degree has outpaced inflation making it largely unaffordable to a large population. Those without a college degree are not necessarily the least qualified but may be those without access to funds to support four years of school and housing. As a result, there is little racial, economic, and social diversity among college graduates. And this trend dates to World War II when educational funds from the GI Bill were denied to African American and female veterans. Byron Auguste, former deputy director of the National Economic Council during the Obama administration, points out that, "If you arbitrarily say that a job needs to have a bachelor's degree, you are screening out over 70% of African-Americans. You're screening out about 80% of Latino-Latina workers, and you're screening out over 80% of rural Americans of all races." With these startling statistics, employers should only be adding this requirement if truly applicable.


Recruiting trends come and go, and an unnecessary degree requirement is one that employers should reevaluate. A closer look may uncover that experience, or a short course are sufficient to meet the job requirements and this outdated requirement limits the diversity of applicants and employees. HR Leaders should support this initiative by creating programs to support this change in thought process. Potential ideas include offering on-the-job training, apprenticeships and partnership with training institutions that offer education tailored to career paths.


References

Carapezza, K. (April 29, 2021). No College, No Problem. Some Employers Drop Degree Requirements To Diversify Staffs. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/04/29/990274681/no-college-no-problem-some-employers-drop-degree-requirements-to-diversify-staff

Johnson, H. (September 30, 2021). Why Companies Should Remove College Degree Requirements from Job Listings. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2021/09/30/why-companies-should-remove-college-degree-requirements-from-job-listings/?sh=677161f35ee9

Kasriel, S. (June 6, 2019). Why Upwork Scratched College Degree Requirements from Our Job Descriptions. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2019/06/06/college-degree-requirements-upwork/

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