No Degree, No Job? Why You Need to End This Requirement

Imagine you’re looking to fill a role. A resume comes across your desk, and the person checks every box. They have experience, certifications, and all the knowledge, skills, and abilities to do a fantastic job.

You’d absolutely bring this person in for an interview!

Except, perhaps your applicant tracking system weeded them out. Or your recruiter hit reject already. Why would this happen? Because this candidate didn’t have one completely irrelevant skill: A bachelor’s degree.

An experienced HR professional with a Professional in Human Resources Certification (PH) and solid references shared this experience:

To keep reading, click here: No Degree, No Job? Why You Need to End This Requirement

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15 thoughts on “No Degree, No Job? Why You Need to End This Requirement

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. Disclosure: I’m a victim of 21 years of formal education. A college degree is some evidence that a person has the discipline to persevere through a years’-long, largely self-guided, process to completion, and to achieve a significant goal. It also indicates that they have at least a basic mastery of language and math skills. So, the employer is, in essence, allowing the higher education system to do some of the candidate vetting for them. All of this may be less valid now that there are a plethora of on-line colleges, some of which are mere “diploma mills,” lacking substantial academic rigor. Nevertheless, my second job out of college was as a caseworker for a state child protective services agency. A degree was required. Children’s lives were — literally — dependent on how well we did our jobs. Did the required degree have to be in child development, social work or some allied field? No, it could be in anything. I like to believe that my liberal arts degree was an asset in that role. It’s less likely that a co-worker’s degree, say in Dance, was that helpful.

    1. With respect, you just invalidated everything Suzanne said. Many, many people don’t work in jobs related to their degrees.
      If the qualification is ANY degree, then how is a dance degree not valid? It still requires applied study to earn the degree. Dance is extremely disciplined—being art doesn’t make it less valuable. It’s not just jumping around a studio all day any more than a vocal music degree is just singing. I know, because I studied opera for four years. I still had to write papers and take the required general education classes. I didn’t graduate; I got an English degree later, but if I had, my BA in vocal performance would still demonstrate that I could achieve a goal.
      Additionally, if someone got an initial degree in dance and then worked in a government human services agency to pay the bills, they’d have transferable work experience.
      Yes, certain jobs do require specific training, and it might be better fulfilled by a college education. But Suzanne is talking about asking otherwise experienced candidates to have a degree when it makes no difference to the work itself. Certifications can fill in knowledge gaps for non-degreed employees. I know IT people who ONLY have certs and they have no trouble doing their jobs or finding employment.

    2. ” A college degree is some evidence that a person has the discipline to persevere through a years’-long, largely self-guided, process to completion, and to achieve a significant goal.”

      That’s what the marketing departments say. Is there any evidence of this? Given that our culture incentivizes degrees, and there are numerous institutions within the university system designed to help students stay in until graduation, I’m not sure this follows.

      For my part I’m much more impressed by someone who makes a successful career without a college degree. They are essentially on their own, often learning trades on the job–and the folks in the trades aren’t the gentlest of teachers. The kids taking that route seem more self-driven and goal-oriented than kids with degrees, who often drifted through without much thought as to what they’d do with the degree or why they were there except “Mommy and Daddy said so.” There are exceptions of course, but most university students are not impressive.

    3. While a college degree does demonstrate a certain perseverance, and self starting drive, it is not the *only* way those qualities can be demonstrated. And, given that there have *always* been diploma mills, and universities where someone with the right parents can skate through will little effort and learn little more than beer drinking and chasing the opposite sex, a degree’s value in establishing even that much is questionable.

  2. Finally someone is recognizing that degrees are not a “must” in all situations. A certification such as a PHR/SPHR or from a college with Labor Relations certifications demonstrates the core body of knowledge required in that field. When you add years of progressive experience, you have a qualified candidate.

    I’ve worked for a manager, who held a graduate degree in HR and an MBA, who had not clue about the real business world. It was a nightmare.

  3. In fields that don’t require very specific training – doctor, lawyer, etc. – I’d definitely put a degree as preferred vs required. There can be a lot of value in getting a degree, but there can be as much or more value in 4 years of work experience.

    To commiserate with Barbara, I have had 2 employees who had Masters Degrees in HR from a prestigious school, but not a lick of common sense.

    1. Professions that are licensed usually require a college degree at some point in the process of getting a license. To be a doctor, you have to serve an internship, and to get an internship, you’ll need a medical degree. Many states won’t even allow you to take the bar exam without a law degree. And so on.

      Aside from that, real world experience is often worth a lot more. As an IT professional with no degree, I *know* the value of various computer related degrees, and it’s . . . pretty limited, in the real world. My sister minored in computer science, and is, at best, a competent user. My brother owns a silk screening shop, and has no degree of any kind, and knows at least as much about computers and network engineering as I do with 30 years experience.

  4. I was told after 15 years in HR and holding my PHR and SHRM-CP that I was not chosen for a position because the other final candidate had a BA and 5 years of experience. It was interesting to find out later that the person they picked had HR Assistant experience to my Generalist experience and the position was for a Generalist. It is ok though it motivated me to get my Bachelors in Human Resources Management at 45 years young and to improve my interviewing skills. I won’t settle for mediocre jobs going forward!! I am interviewing the employer now for a good fit not vice versa!!

  5. My otherwise excellent company decided at one point to require degrees for exempt staff. Those who held such positions and didn’t have degrees could either get one or meet a certain training level within so many years to keep their jobs, otherwise they’d be demoted to a non-exempt position. A few engineers who were working on new products in the lab were insulted by the whole thing and left instead. They were brilliant people, the sort for whom schools are too slow and rudimentary, so they were self-taught. It was a big loss for rather little gain.

    1. Ugh, Kathy, that’s terrible. Like I said above, I know IT people who only have certifications and they have years of experience in the field. They know more about IT work than I ever would even if I went back and earned a full-on Computer Science degree. Not a smart move by your company.

  6. I think that your value of what the college degree developed in your thinking attitude process ability to adapt/adjust to real life versus theoretics is what should be appreciated and not the simple fact that one has a piece of paper that states you earned a degree. Remember it doesn’t take high grades to earn a degree just passing scores.
    I blame this lack of evaluating possible great candidates on increasing use of computer programs for weeding out applications and even worse eliminating potential candidates from applying, by reliance on keywords versus the actual person. Even interviews are forms of elimination because of expectations that the interviewer needs to be entertained and impressed by the potential candidates.
    Not every single job needs potential candidates to be personable to perform the job, especially if the job requires skills not used to entertain/ have conversations someone else while working. And not every job requires a college degree, this is just another form of discrimination made by an elitist viewpoint.

  7. I think it depends on the job. For example , if it’s for a college professor position then a degree should be required. If it’s for a receptionist position then yes please stop requiring Bachelors degrees. It’s ridiculous.

  8. This article really resonated with me. I am Hispanic and come from a family where education was not a priority. I was a young wife and mother (married at 22 and mother at 25). I landed a job where I was doing basic office administration and then eventually payroll at 22 yrs. I was fortunate to have many great mentors who gave me an opportunity to learn and grow. I was also very ambitious because of my background. I wanted my children to have more opportunities than I had. I did not want them to struggle like I did as a child growing up in the barrio. I took college courses in HR and consumed everything I could related to the principles of all things HR. I signed up for any HR educational seminars I could and eventually earned my HR Professional Certificate through SHRM. I worked my way up from Payroll Specialist to HR Generalist/Specialist to eventually the position I have now of HR Manager (not with the same agency and mostly within the public sector). I may not have a degree, but I do have 26 yrs. of practical, hands-on work experience that cannot be taught in any college (I took five years off to be home with my kids when they were in middle school). If I had the opportunity, I would have gone to college and I guess I could have while working and having a family. I have much respect for parents who have done that. But I have no regrets. I was able to do my job and be there for my kids when they were young without having to sacrifice a thing. I have a supportive husband and family and I am grateful for it all. I do think degrees are important and can give someone an edge in the job market, but I do not think it is a must have for certain career paths.

  9. This article resonated with me as well. I am a certified HR Practitioner with no degree; however, I bring 20 years of HR Generalist experience. Unfortunately, I have been overlooked and rejected for many HR roles because of the no degree requirement. However, I found a wonderful forward thinking company that was willing to give me a chance to demonstrate my skill set and HR knowledge.

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