Employers: Stop Asking For A Degree, Now.

I can’t tell you how many job descriptions I’ve helped employers and friends write over the years but I can tell you that every single one of them had to include a “designated level of education required”. For some, this is typical. For others, like myself, it leaves a foul taste in my mouth. Let me go ahead and start this post off by adding before I say anything else that some professions obviously require college experience i.e. Doctors, Lawyers, etc. However, one could argue that almost every other profession can be learned at home just as well if not better. I am not saying getting a college diploma isn’t valuable, especially since it’s something no one can ever take away from you. I am simply saying that it shouldn’t be listed as an absolute requirement… here’s why.

If you’re posting a job listing, and it isn’t for a Doctor, I highly recommend that you leave out the requirement of a college diploma and would even go as far as leaving out the years of related experience necessary. By listing those things as requirements you are immediately closing the door to hundreds, if not thousands of well-qualified applicants. In fact, you could be missing out on finding an applicant that would be far better qualified for your organization for other reasons typically ignored by recruiters. If you’re a small company, someone who is self-taught, young and under experienced might be just the right fit! They’ll be hungry to learn, most likely have a bit of entrepreneur in them, and eager to bring new things to the table. In my opinion, those are far more valuable qualities than a related BA or 7-10 years experience. Of course, all of this should go without saying for new-age tech companies who just want to see examples of what you can do.

I encourage you to take a quick peak at the jobs listed on LinkedIn, regardless of what they are, and see if you can find a common thread. In fact, see how many you DON’T qualify for. That’s not to say you wouldn’t apply anyways, but how many would be discouraged from doing so? Point is, how many potentially great employees are you leaving in the dark? Keeping the disclaimer I listed above in mind… a degree should no longer be necessary to fill a position at your organization, same goes for related experience. I always laugh when someone would ask me to write a job description that required 5-7 years related experience and thought to myself “How is anyone supposed to get experience when you need experience to get experience?”. As self-help (no not the dirty kind) resources become more and more available and technology gets to a point where learning almost everything at home from an internet-enabled computer is possible, you will find a new generation of job seekers who for whatever reason didn’t go to college but took the initiative and trained themselves. Why isn’t this seen today as an incredibly valuable trait – taking the initiative?

My hope is that employers will begin to learn from their mistakes, or at least open their eyes to the opportunity they are missing and correct the way they seek out future employees. I’m not saying you don’t have to prefer a college diploma or related experience, just don’t list it under the big bold word: Requirements. If you’re a job seeker, don’t be discouraged by the requirements! Get out there and apply anyways, follow up with your application and be sure you continue to express how you feel you will be a perfect fit for whatever the reason might be.

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8 thoughts on “Employers: Stop Asking For A Degree, Now.

  1. I myself always thought growing up that my friends that weren’t THAT good in school were usually the most creative problem solvers and had other amazing skills that book-smart people didn’t have. I went to school and have my Bachelors, but I don’t see it as a necessity for success. Often it actually holds people back from taking the risks necessary to get ahead

  2. Some of the most successful people do not have degrees or are not doing what they went to college to learn. I think you make a good point Josh! Some of us despise formal eduction methods because they do not help us learn. Learning to be successful using whatever method fits our learning style should trump a piece of paper every time.

  3. @Alex – I did get my AS in an unrelated field, thankfully it was my core study and I didn’t spend too much time in general ed’s. However, it is often that those of us that are creative thinkers are the ones that have the most trouble in school. I was never book smart… but I don’t consider myself dumb. Thanks for reading!

  4. @David – Exactly! Unfortunately, most organizations don’t take this into consideration when posting a job opportunity and miss out on what I am sure is quite a few very differently qualified candidates!

  5. I have a four year degree in Computer Science. With that said, what I had to do to earn it is not what is applied in the “real world.” I have noticed that those who go through vendor specific certifications like Cisco or Microsoft are more apt and trained to get the job done. As a matter of fact, more colleges are using the vendor curriculum as part of their degree programs! Anyone can sign up for these classes directly and get the same training for a lot less money!

  6. @David – Exactly! I imagine more technical companies who aren’t part of the new-age tech movement will begin to value technical certifications much higher than a college diploma, especially since it was a core focus.

  7. You make a very great point. Employers should take into consideration other traits than a college degree. I believe college should be seen a a choice, not a requisite.

  8. Thanks Sam. It’s important to consider everything, including the in-person interview process which could turn a “so-so” candidate into an all-star.

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