Companies Ditch Degree Requirements for Job Applicants

By: James Flippin · August 21, 2023 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Paper Ceiling

Roughly 70% of US job postings require a bachelor’s degree. But less than 50% of the workforce has one.

That means millions of workers are locked out of well-paying jobs and benefits before they even have a chance to interview, a concept known as “the paper ceiling” in reference to a degree certificate.

To counteract the stubbornly tight US labor market, companies are starting to rethink their degree requirements for applicants. Filtering out job applications by college degree status may help to whittle down candidates but many employers are in no position to turn away candidates.

Removing Degree Requirements

To encourage more qualified workers to apply to open job listings, major companies like Kellogg’s (K), General Motors (GM), and Bank of America (BAC) have removed four-year degree mandates for select job opportunities.

The shift is not limited to the private sector. Governments in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Utah have dropped bachelor’s degree requirements for thousands of public-sector jobs as well.

If the decision proves successful, more employers may follow suit.

Hiring Culture

Torching the paper ceiling may in theory create more opportunity for workers. But only time will tell whether conditions really changed.

First, getting rid of degree requirements is no guarantee applicants without a degree will get hired more often. To truly become inclusive to those with non-traditional education backgrounds, companies would need to change their hiring culture as well.

Companies may also add more behavioral skill requirements and screening steps. To compensate for a lack of degrees, employers could lean more heavily into things like background checks, personality tests, skill evaluations, panel interviews, candidate presentations, and drug tests.

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