Employers Asking Job Candidates for More Education, Since “Everyone Has a Degree Now”

Posted By Terri Williams on May 3, 2016 at 10:29 am
Employers Asking Job Candidates for More Education, Since “Everyone Has a Degree Now”

The job market is flooded with job applicants who possess a bachelor’s degree or higher. But the abundance of educated candidates might produce an undesirable effect: Employers have increased the educational requirements for many positions.

GoodCall recently published an article on the trend among employers to hire business grads with a master’s degree. However, “upcredentialing,” or the practice of increasing the educational requirements for certain jobs, appears to be occurring across the board.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, over the past five years, 32% of employers have increased their educational requirements. Of this group:

37% Want a college degree for positions that previously required a high school diploma
27% Want a master’s degree for positions that previously required a bachelor’s degree



Upcredentialing tends to vary, depending on the skill level of the job, and employers are most likely to increase education requirements for middle-skill jobs:

46% Entry level or low-skill
61% Middle-skill
43% High-skill



There are two primary reasons employers are increasing their educational requirements:

60% Skills for those positions have evolved, require higher educated labor
56% Tight job market allows them to obtain college-educated labor



It would appear that upcredentialing has produced the desired results. Employers observed a positive impact in the following areas:

57% Higher quality work
43% Productivity
38% Communication
37% Innovation/idea generation
32% Employee retention
25% Customer loyalty
21% Revenue



It should also be noted that upcredentialing isn’t limited to job applicants:

36% of employers said they would not promote an employee who didn’t have a college degree


While companies are increasing their educational demands, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all is lost for candidates and employees who don’t have the desired skills:

The CareerBuilder survey also revealed that some companies are reskilling their employees to fill the talent shortage.



Trained low-skill workers and hired them for high-skill jobs in 2015

Plan to train low-skill workers and hire them for high-skill jobs in 2016

50% Pay for employees to earn training and certifications outside of the company



Send employees back to school to obtain an advanced degree:

Provide partial funding

Provide full funding




Provide in-house training:

Soft skills training

Hard skills training

32% Employee retention
25% Customer loyalty
21% Revenue


“Everyone has a degree now”

The survey reveals why employers want a college degree, but is it really that difficult to land certain jobs without that piece of paper? Apparently so, according to two recruiting experts. “The issue starts with the candidate pool, as colleges are pumping out 1.8 plus million graduates per year with bachelor’s degrees,” according to Blair Mesyn, recruiting manager at Clarke Caniff Strategic Search. “And another issue may be quantity versus quality. According to Mesyn, “The colleges are almost producing more graduates than we need, because we have a lot of graduates with degrees that may not add a lot of value to a business, organization, or institution.”

She explains that having a degree is not synonymous with having a valuable degree. “What we have seen is that having any degree only helps you meet the employer’s basic requirement of having a degree unless you have a specialized degree that an employer demands. “Much of the feedback we hear from hiring managers is that ‘everyone has a degree now,’ making it harder to filter out the good candidates from the bad.”

However, Mesyn adds that those with a master’s degree can usually pass an additional filter, especially if they graduated from a good graduate degree program.

A rite of passage

Mesyn’s sentiments are echoed by Mark Phillips, managing director and founder of HireEducation, which is a member of the Sanford Rose Associates network of offices. He says that college graduation rates are at an all-time high, so the absence of a degree may not sit well with employers.

“True, there are billionaires who dropped out, but the ‘Zuckerbergonian’ dropouts are out chasing unicorns, not applying to jobs.” And Phillips says that many employers now view a college degree as an important rite of passage. “It is evidence that the graduate was able to complete a long, complex project; it is evidence of a work ethic; in some cases, it is evidence of ambition; in others, it is evidence of a network.”

And, Phillips adds that in the 21st century, all jobs depend on information and analysis of information. “A candidate without a degree is lacking a lot of information and a lot of analysis that will be valuable for nearly every career.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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