Degree or Not to Degree?

Advice from experts · 1/24/2024 · 1 min read

Degree or Not to Degree?

To degree or not to degree, that's the modern-day dilemma! Hamlet pondered an existential question, but now, we're pondering the relevance of diplomas in the hiring scene. Do we all need a degree to kick down the employment door, or can we samba in with skills and experiences as our dance partners? The stage is set for a hiring Shakespearean twist!

Facts: More companies are eliminating requirements to attract the workers they need.

The change in how companies hire is closely tied to today's workplace dynamics. One key reason for this shift is the growing understanding of the importance of having a diverse workforce. Companies, aware of the need for inclusivity, are breaking down traditional barriers like strict education requirements. They aim to attract a broader range of candidates with different backgrounds and experiences.

This shift in hiring criteria also results in a larger pool of applicants, offering more potential candidates. Removing strict education requirements allows companies to consider a variety of candidates, especially for entry and mid-level positions. Instead of focusing solely on academic backgrounds, they consider individuals with a range of educational experiences.

Beyond diversity and a larger applicant pool, this change is also a response to the skills gap in certain industries. There's a mismatch between the demand for specific skills and the traditional talent pool with standard educational qualifications. Companies realize the need to bridge this gap by not insisting on strict degree requirements. They are open to candidates with relevant skills and experiences, even if gained through unconventional routes.

Leading this change are companies, especially in the tech industry, redefining hiring practices. They publicly state that certain positions don't require a specific degree, focusing instead on evaluating practical abilities and the potential of candidates. Essentially, the emphasis shifts from having a degree to showcasing tangible skills and aptitude.

Important Statistics

After doing some thinking, I've noticed that quite a few super talented folks I've worked with didn't go through the whole college degree thing. It got me wondering about the whole traditional education deal and what it really means.

I started pondering this because I realized how crazy expensive getting a degree in the U.S. can be.

I mean, the College Board's information for the 2021-2022 school year shows that the costs for getting a degree are no joke. They cover everything – tuition, fees, and all those extra expenses that add up and make it a big financial burden for people trying to up their education game. What's striking is that the financial aspect of education is a major concern for many potential students. Knowing how much it might cost has folks thinking hard about whether it's worth it.

They're weighing the big bucks against what they might get back in terms of job opportunities and personal growth from formal education. This reflection makes you question the usual thinking that says having a degree is the key to professional success, especially when you see the awesome things people without a traditional degree are achieving.

I want to really dig into the value of degrees compared to the cool skills and talents people bring, regardless of whether they followed the usual education path or not. It's time to think more deeply about it all.

  • Public Two-Year College (in-district): $3,770 per year

  • Public Four-Year College (in-state): $10,560 per year

  • Public Four-Year College (out-of-state): $27,020 per year

  • Private Four-Year College: $37,650 per year

Average estimates and actual costs can vary*

“About two-thirds of working-age adults (64 percent) do not hold a bachelor's degree, and undergraduate college enrollment fell by 8 percent from 2019 to 2022. The share of jobs that require a college degree fell to 44 percent last year, down from 51 percent in 2017, according to research from the Burning Glass Institute.”

“In a survey of 800 U.S. employers, 80% said they were “very likely” or “likely” to favor work experience over education when assessing job candidate applications. In addition, 81% said it’s important for recent college graduates to have work experience. At the same time, 95% of respondents said their companies require bachelor’s degrees for at least some roles. About 24% require a degree for three-quarters of their jobs, and 27% require a degree for half of their positions.”

Important to state the obvious, YES, certain professions will always need degrees with extensive training, many years of schooling, hands-on experience, and lengthy theses. I’m sure all can agree - we want our Doctors and Lawyers alike to go through hands-on learning, years of studying, and testing!

Skills and Experience Count

“In 2023, 55% of companies removed degree requirements, particularly for entry-level and mid-level roles. Employers said they dropped these requirements to create a more diverse workforce, increase the number of applicants for open positions, and because there are other ways to gain skills.”

What does this all mean anyways?

Skills: Employers are placing a greater emphasis on the specific skills that candidates possess. This shift acknowledges that practical skills, whether acquired through formal education, vocational training, or hands-on experience, can be valuable indicators of a candidate's ability to perform in a given job.

Experience: Companies are interested in a candidate's professional experiences, including previous roles, projects, and achievements. Work-related experiences can provide insights into how well a candidate has applied their skills in real-world situations and adapted to various challenges.

Potential: The mention of potential suggests that employers are looking beyond past achievements and experiences. They are interested in a candidate's capacity for growth, adaptability, and ability to learn new skills. This recognizes that potential can be a strong predictor of future success and contributions to the organization.

Overall, this approach aims to create a more inclusive hiring process that considers a broader range of qualifications and attributes beyond traditional educational markers. It allows individuals who may have gained skills through non-traditional pathways, such as self-directed learning, online courses, or practical experiences, to be recognized and considered for positions based on their abilities and potential. It aligns with a growing recognition in the workforce that diverse backgrounds and perspectives can contribute significantly to innovation and success within organizations.

Final Thoughts

Yes, there has been a trend in some industries and companies moving away from strict requirements for a college degree. This shift is often driven by a recognition of the skills and capabilities that individuals can acquire through vocational training, certifications, coding bootcamps, and practical experience.

Several high-profile companies, particularly in the tech industry, have publicly announced that they no longer require a college degree for certain positions. They focus more on skills, experience, and practical abilities. This change is seen as an effort to diversify the talent pool and address the skills gap!

It's important to note (once again) that while this trend exists, many professions and industries still place a high value on a college degree, and certain roles may continue to require specific educational credentials. The extent of this shift can vary across sectors and regions.

The question, 'to degree or not to degree', is really based on the employer's preference!

For the most up-to-date and industry-specific information, it's recommended to check recent news, company policies, and industry trends. Additionally, individual employers may have their own criteria, so job seekers should review job postings and requirements for the positions they are interested in.