Is competency more important than credentials? A warning against degree inflation

December 18, 2017

This US-focused HBS article discusses “degree inflation” – the practice of employers demanding bachelor’s degrees for job that don’t require them.

Because the pool of graduates is limited, the author explains, this practice can cause a misalignment between supply and demand, especially for middle-skills positions.  Complicating matters are automated hiring tools often exclude applicants without college degrees.

There are some great stats based on a review of 26 million job postings and a survey of 600 HR executives:

  • Only about one-third of the US population have earned a four-year degree
  • For typical middle skills job titles, sixty-seven of job postings required a bachelor’s degree or higher; yet just 16% of workers in those jobs held such a degree

The author suggests organizations invest in work-based learning opportunities, co-op programs, or paid apprenticeships. The article gives one example from a healthcare company that reviewed all job descriptions to identify skills associated with each position. The author closes with this:

“Competency is more important than credentials. Degree inflation is not just hurting individual workers; it undermines American competitiveness. American companies can’t let that happen.”

Harvard Business School, Working Knowledge | Why Employers Must Stop Requiring College Degrees For Middle-Skill Jobs | December 18, 2017

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