College Degrees No Longer Required?

Did you know that Apple, Google and IBM no longer require that you have a college degree to work there? I didn’t either…

Glassdoor recently published a blog post with the following headline:

15 More Companies That No Longer Require a Degree—Apply Now

On a normal day, this type of blog post would be viewed by anyone for exactly what it is: search engine fodder to get people to look for jobs through the Glassdoor website. However, this was not any particular day, it was the day that the Marketing Gods were smiling upon the Glassdoor intern that wrote the article.

First, it was picked up by CNBC. Then the CNBC article was picked up by Yahoo Finance, Axios, TechRepublic, and Quartz at Work. The results were headlines like:

Google, Apple among 15 top companies where you can get hired without a college degree

Google and Apple are ditching degree requirements

Apple, IBM, and Google don’t care anymore if you went to college

I watched these articles flow across my Twitter feed and asked myself…

Is there, you know, any actual news here?

I read the Glassdoor blog post several times. No company announcements were cited. No press releases were highlighted. Only an old Google quote from Laszlo Bock in 2014,  and another from Ernst and Young from 2017. Otherwise, it is literally just a list of companies that, in Glassdoor’s opinion only, don’t require college degrees. So, I visited the “press release” page for each company in question. I couldn’t find any announcement that would merit the headlines above (see list of press release links below).

Then, I looked at the company’s on the list. Here are 12 of the 15: Ernst and Young, Penguin Random House, Costco, Whole Foods, Hilton, Publix, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Home Depot, Bank of America, Chipotle, Lowes.

Is it news that you don’t need a college degree to serve coffee at Starbucks, work as a bank teller at Bank of America, or make burritos at Chipotle? No. Not news. News would be Home Depot signing the Pledge to America’s Workers, agreeing to train 50,000 workers over 5 years. News would be Chipotle’s role in being the first partner to Guild Education, which just raised over $40M in venture capital to help companies provide education as a benefit to employees. That would be news.

Wait…what!? I’m missing 3 companies from the list? Oh, that’s right…the clickbait compan…I mean tech companies…Google, Apple, and IBM. Yes, I agree with you that it would be news if these companies stopped requiring college degrees for their jobs.

So, I looked at the #1 company on the list, Google. Then, I looked at over 100 job openings in my hometown of Mountain View, California, Google’s headquarters. I compiled a database (see below) of their “minimum” education requirements and their “preferred” education requirements to see how many required “no college”.

I only found 7.

Yes, out of over 100 job openings at Google Headquarters, I found only 7 that didn’t require a college degree.

GoogleJobs

Every other job required either a Bachelors or a Graduate degree. Furthermore, 47% of the Bachelors degree job postings had “preferred” degree requirements for either Master’s, PhD’s, or MBA degrees. And yes, I know that it is theoretically possible to demonstrate “equivalent experience” to a bachelors or a master’s degree. However, in the real world (I believe but have no way to prove) that is is probably the exception and not the rule.

The Real News:

There are companies on this list that are making serious attempts to hire workers without formal credentials, but they have been doing it for years, not the last few days or weeks.

IBM has been active for the last several years in training American workers without college degrees, committing over $500M in training for over 12,500 workers in the last two years. IBM also recently signed the Pledge to America’s Workers along with Home Depot. IBM has even coined a phrase for its focus on workers with the right skills, regardless of credentials: New Collar workers.

IBM is the exception, however, to a wider trend of “degree inflation“, whereby the number of jobs requiring college degrees is increasing over time, not decreasing. A recent study by Burning Glass, a labor data analytics software company found that:

Employers now require bachelor’s degrees for a wide range of jobs, but the shift has been dramatic for some of the occupations historically dominated by workers without a college degree. The credential gap can amount to 25 percentage points or more for middle skill jobs in some occupational families, like Office and Administrative and Business and Financial Operations. For example, 65% of postings for Executive Secretaries and Executive Assistants now call for a bachelor’s degree. Only 19% of those currently employed in these roles have a B.A.

Why does credential inflation happen? Because employers use college degrees as a rough proxy for intelligence and skills. On the other hand, the report found that:

Jobs resist credential inflation when there are good alternatives for identifying skill proficiency. Many health care and engineering technician jobs, such as Respiratory Therapists , show little sign of up-credentialing. That is likely because those positions are governed by strict licensing or certification standards, well-developed training programs, or by measurable skill standards such that employers do not need to look at a college degree as a proxy for capability.

Ultimately, it’s up to employers to find new proxies for human abilities, such as evaluating work samples. Until then, college degrees will unfortunately continue to be used as the blunt evaluation tool used by hiring managers everywhere.

Even Google, Apple, and IBM.


Google Jobs Database:

Corporate Press Release Links for the List of 15 Companies:

 

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Micah

Micah is the author of Rethink the MBA. He works and lives in Silicon Valley.

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