Nicole Bidol

Take degree requirements off of jobs that don’t need them

November 16, 2022

Is graduate school really always the best option? 

With a 22% increase of graduate program enrollment in the United States over the last twenty years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it appears many students grapple with this question. 

The rate of people who had bachelor’s degrees sixty years ago is the same as those who have master’s degrees now, according to a July 22, 2011 New York Times article.

Whether this is due to the increasingly selective job market or a genuine desire to further education is up for debate, but I believe both explanations are valid. 

In some cases, like in many health fields, at least a master’s degree is necessary, but in other fields it simply acts as a resume builder, something that helps an applicant stand out but isn’t necessarily required. 

For example, in order to be a doctor or physician’s assistant, a doctorate or master’s degree is required. However, in business fields, a master’s degree is meant to help make connections, strengthen skills and obtain a larger paycheck, according to a Dec. 7, 2020 Ascend article.

Twenty-seven percent of employers are recruiting applicants with master’s degrees for positions which previously only required a bachelor’s degree, according to a March 17, 2016 Fast Company article

The growing rate of people obtaining master’s degrees makes sense given that employers are raising expectations for their applicants. Still, undergraduate degrees are already so costly and inaccessible. The average American family cannot afford college tuition without taking out large loans, according to a Sept. 8, 2015 New York Times article

If a master’s degree is used simply as a resume booster, then those who can afford one have an upper hand in the job market. Those who are worried enough as it is about paying for their undergraduate education are left with less opportunity.

I don’t want to insinuate that higher education is bad or pointless. A master’s degree may be just what someone needs to perfect their skills and feel more prepared to enter the workforce. 

Many institutions, including the University of Vermont, have programs that allow students to get their master’s degree for certain areas of study with only one year added on to the normal four-year undergrad plan. This is a step in the right direction, but only select programs have this available, leaving students in other fields without the same opportunity. 

As a college student, I often think about what the best post-graduation option will be for me. 

Choosing to attend graduate school would be a huge financial burden. Like many other students, I do not have the liberty of continuing my education without careful consideration of how I can pay for it. 

The job security and higher pay associated with a graduate degree are appealing, but the cost of two more years of education is not. 

With today’s tightened job market and the expense of higher education, it can be easy to feel hopeless about finding solid job opportunities. 

Fortunately, companies are beginning to recognize that hiring applicants solely on the basis of what degree they hold is only exacerbating the class divide. People with generational wealth have access to education that people from less privileged backgrounds do not have. 

Penguin Random House UK, among other companies, took degree requirements off of their job applications in 2016 with hopes of creating diversity in the workplace, according to a Jan. 19, 2016 article by The Cut

Penguin Random House has noted that a university degree does not directly result in good job performance and wants to create opportunities for workers who don’t have access to higher education. 

Some companies in the United States have followed similar initiatives. Hunter Johnson, the CEO of Xpedition, a creative media company, made the decision to remove degree requirements from jobs that do not require specialized training. Johnson hopes other CEOs will follow this decision, according to a Sept. 30, 2021 Forbes article

This is a decision I believe more companies should consider, especially in the United States, given the notorious underfunding of education in this country. 

Degree requirements enforce a class divide that allows those with generational wealth to have an advantage in the job market. This means that those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds will have less opportunity and lower pay. 

It is crucial to create job opportunities that do not require going into debt from college education. 

College degree or not, every job applicant deserves a chance to prove themselves in order to create a more diverse and fair workspace. 

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