College degrees are losing more career clout

Companies are increasingly dropping four-year college degree requirements for their jobs and putting more emphasis on experience. And that is not just entry-level jobs.

A third of those who dropped degree requirements did so for senior-level roles, a recent survey found.

The survey of HR managers by found 53% of hiring managers said their company eliminated the requirement for a bachelor’s degree for some roles in the past year.

“For so many jobs, it is an arbitrary requirement. And it does eliminate people needlessly who could be great employees,” said Stacie Haller, a career coach who worked with for its report.

There is another benefit from lowering the educational attainment requirements aside from attracting more candidates for job openings that companies are realizing.

“There is also a big chunk here about creating more equity and diversity. If you cannot afford to go to college to get a four-year degree, if it’s a financial reason or maybe a time reason, then you are already eliminated from all of those jobs,” Haller said.

What companies are increasingly focused on is experience, with 76% of hiring managers surveyed saying they favor real world skills over education.

Evaluating those skills in real-time is proving successful. The vast majority of companies now test candidates in the interview process, and 66% say they have candidates take an assessment to test hard skills. Sixty-four percent say they have applicants complete a test assignment.

Which professions are more likely to value experience over education?

“IT, which we know a college degree in computer science really doesn’t give those even in the upper echelons in those organizations what they need to successfully be in those positions. Also retail, construction, healthcare and social services,” Haller said.

More studies have shown a growing acceptance of professional certifications, associate degrees and boot camps as testament to education and skill, though’s survey diverged somewhat from that, with just 24% of hiring managers saying their company sees value in certificate programs.

Haller notes this survey included more senior managers, who may have a bias before certificates began gaining credibility a few years ago, which she called old world thinking.

People can check out’s full survey results and methodology online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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