Forty-five percent of companies plan to eliminate bachelor’s degree requirements for some positions in 2024, according to a Nov. 29 report from Intelligent.com.
In 2023, 55% of companies removed degree requirements, particularly for entry-level and mid-level roles, the survey shows. 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.
“Due to the expense of attending college, earning a bachelor’s degree is generally more difficult for people from traditionally marginalized groups and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Diane Gayeski, higher education advisor for Intelligent.com and professor of strategic communication at Ithaca College, said in a statement.
“If a student’s parents didn’t attend college or if they are from outside the U.S., it can be much more difficult to know how to navigate applying to colleges and finding scholarships and other resources,” she said. “Eliminating a bachelor’s degree can open jobs up to individuals who weren’t able to attend college.”
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.
Among respondents who said they eliminated some degree requirements during the past year, the highest percentages tended to be in industries such as information services, software, construction and finance and insurance.
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.
“While a young person may be able to get an entry-level job without a bachelor’s degree, the lack of the degree along with the other ‘soft skills’ that one gains in college can make it difficult to climb the corporate ladder,” Gayeski said. “Employers today are looking for people who are culturally fluent in diverse settings, can display and document their leadership skills and can be flexible to take on new challenges.”
Alternative education and training programs appear to be valuable to employees, according to the survey. About 75% of respondents said their company values certificate programs, followed by 68% who said associate degrees have value and 61% who said online degrees and apprenticeships have value.
Ongoing employee education is important as well. About 70% of respondents said their company pays for additional education as part of their benefits package. In addition, 45% of employers offer student loan repayment benefits.
More than half of jobs don’t need four-year degree requirements, according to a report by Bain & Co., OneTen and Grads of Life. Companies can attract a more diverse workforce by focusing job descriptions on industry-specific skills needed for the position.
Numerous state and local governments have dropped degree requirements for most jobs, including Alaska, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia. The aim is to improve access to and retention within government roles, as well as emphasize skills and work experience as job qualifications. Corporations such as Walmart have announced plans to eliminate degree requirements and rewrite job descriptions as well.
Although skills-based hiring has gained traction in the past year, hiring practices are still catching up and remain influenced by traditional requirements, according to LinkedIn data. The change in hiring appears to be less dramatic than the change in job postings, which could suggest a breakdown between recruiters and hiring managers in making this shift.