Is that degree really necessary?

So many postings on job boards list a BA or BS degree as a requirement for the position. That could be changing.

In April, for example, The New York Times reported that more than 100 companies had pledged to open their hiring to workers without four-year degrees

That story said, in part, “Work force experts see removing the four-year college degree filter for some jobs as key to increasing diversity and reducing inequality. Workers, they say, should be selected and promoted because of their skills and experience rather than degrees or educational pedigree. And companies that do change their hiring practices, they add, benefit by tapping previously overlooked pools of talent in a tight labor market, as well as diversifying their work forces.”

Choosing candidates based on the skills they have rather than the degrees they don’t have ­– nearly two-thirds of American workers do not have a four-year college degree – seems like a great way to close the talent gap.

After all, a recent study by the Cengage Group found that 65 percent of employers are struggling to find talent.

And, because 76 percent of Black adults and 83 percent of Latino adults lack a four-year degree, eliminating the requirement of a college degree can also be a great way to achieve your DEIB goals.

Some very notable companies had already moved away from requiring degrees for so many jobs.

As a Forbes article in late July noted, blue-chip companies like Apple, Google, IBM, and Bank of America turned heads as long ago as 2017 with announcements that they would no longer require applicants for certain jobs to hold a degree, including for such posts as senior manager of finance.

Companies often follow the trail that blue-chip organizations blaze, but not in this instance. Those companies are still the exception.

The reluctance of so many companies to move away from their insistence on a college education for most jobs was highlighted in a recent study by the Cengage Group. That study found that 62 percent of all companies still require degrees for entry level jobs, with more than a quarter, 26 percent, admitting they do so to “filter the candidate pool” or because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

It's unclear why that’s the way it’s always been done, because many employers find that the college graduates they hire aren’t fully prepared for the workplace. A May 2021 article in the Harvard Business Review cited a survey of college graduates which found that nearly one-fifth of graduates reported that their college education experience did not provide them with the skills needed to perform their first post-degree job.

Again, that was a survey of graduates who felt unprepared for the workforce.

What are you doing in your organization? Are you requiring four-year degrees because you’ve always required them, or are you changing your focus to actual skills? We’d like to hear from you.