Degree Free Jobs Are Growing In Popularity With Employers

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Published March 12th, 2024

Employers may finally realize that a college degree may not be the key to finding great employees.

The long-standing tradition of requiring a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions may be a thing of the past based on a new study by The study shows that 45% of the 800 U.S. companies surveyed plan to remove the degree requirements for some roles in 2024.

This change in recruitment strategies is driven by several factors.

  • Lack of work ready college graduates
  • The need to broaden diversity
  • A desire to increase the pool of potential candidates
  • Acknowledgment of non-traditional educational options

This article will cover the reasons for this drastic change in hiring requirements.

The Shift in College Degree Requirements

In a significant shift anticipated for 2024, nearly half of all companies, representing 45%, plan to eliminate their bachelor’s degree requirements. This is a move that builds on the trend observed in 2023 when 55% of employers decided to drop these academic prerequisites.

This strategy aims to foster diversity and broaden applicant pools by removing potential financial impediments. It is also a step towards embracing other educational options that focus on hands-on learning.

The value of practical experience over formal education is finally being recognized after decades of putting college as a priority. An overwhelming 80% of hiring managers now prioritize experience over education in job applicants.

Furthermore, an emerging practice to assess candidate suitability involves the use of test assignments and assessments during the interview process. This shift in hiring criteria signifies a fundamental transformation in the world of work.

college cap on dollar bills
Image credit: Depositphotos

Why Companies Are Ditching Degrees

Companies are offering several reasons for their interest in ditching college degree requirements.

1. College graduates are not workforce ready

College degree requirements are not practical for many businesses. A 2023 survey of business leaders shows that 40% find recent college graduates needing more preparation for the workforce. 

These same leaders note work ethic and communication skills as the main reasons grads are unprepared for the working world. To further reinforce how big this issue is, 94% of those surveyed admit they try to avoid hiring recent college grads. 

Entitlement and a lack of technological skills are why grads are not prepared. 

But are they entitled – or are they intelligent? 

The generations coming into the workforce do not want to be undervalued – they want a better work-life balance. Many were also dealt with years of lockdowns and lack of social communication due to the pandemic. 

So, maybe it is not that they are entitled or lazy, but they have more respect for themselves and have had setbacks that have changed their skill sets.

2. Increasing workforce diversity

The average cost of college per year in the United States is $36,436 per student. This cost is a significant and one that not everyone can afford, and companies are becoming increasingly sensitive to this fact.

Most companies want to create a more inclusive workforce by eliminating financial barriers to getting a degree. A large pool of talent cannot afford to earn a college degree; companies want to start embracing them.

This strategy will allow jobs to accept a bigger pool of applicants who may have a better experience than a degree can provide. 

This brings us to the next point, experience over education!

3. Prioritizing experience over education

There is a growing recognition that skills can be acquired through other means, leading to an enhanced focus on experience over formal education.

Shifting the focus from academic qualifications, the rising trend of companies placing higher value on hands-on experience over formal education merits close examination. 

Research indicates that 80% of hiring managers now favor experience over education in job applicants. This approach is with reason.

Experience often provides a practical understanding of industry operations, which academic curricula might need to fully encapsulate. Furthermore, prioritizing experience opens opportunities for those who might have been excluded due to financial or other barriers to formal education.

However, it also challenges higher education institutions to reassess their programs and relevance in the job market. As such, this shift towards experience could redefine talent acquisition and workforce diversity.

4. A lot of great talent may just not do well in college

Estimates show that 33% of all undergrads still need to complete their degree program. Our society places so much pressure on kids to attend college, but only some kids have the learning style or desire to attend. 

This does not mean they are not talented or skilled; they may learn better in a different environment. Hands-on learning is an alternate option for those who prefer not to sit in a classroom. Thankfully, 80% of employers are now showing a preference for experience over education. 

Even if college graduates are applying for jobs, 81% of employers noted the importance of these applicants having some work experience. 

Other educational options are considered valuable.

  • 68% of respondents said an Associate’s degree has value
  •  61% stated online degrees and apprenticeships have value
  •  79% value certificate programs
  •  29% indicated that boot camps are valuable

This data shows the value of additional education, even if it is not college.

5. Testing is seen as more valuable

Employers perceive assessments as more critical in the hiring process. Test assessments are given for both personality and work-based. These can help employers understand an applicant’s interest in a job and if they will be a good fit for the company.

  • 68% of employers request a test assignment to do to verify skills
  •  64% of employers request a personality or work-style assessment
  •  81% stated their test takes 2 hours or less
  •  44% compensate applicants for their time, 24% never do

Change is slow, but happening

It is really great to see these changes happening. While this is a small sampling of data, it is indicative of a big change in the corporate world. Together, we need to work harder on changing the perception around those that do not attend college.

Societal norms should really be focused on embracing all skill and educational levels. Not just those with college degrees. Without our skilled workers and certificate holders, many jobs would go unfilled.

We hope more companies will embrace the “no-college degree” mantra when hiring. This could open doors for so many and build a better workforce over all.

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.

Share your thoughts!