What Is Degree Inflation, and How Does It Hurt Job Applicants and Employers?

Many can relate to finding their dream job online but, after scrolling through the job description, discovering they lack a required qualification. It could be years of experience, type of experience, certification, licensure, or education, for example.

The Barrier of Education Requirements

For more than 100 million American workers without a college degree, a degree requirement effectively closes the door on them. Of course, an employer can choose to waive certain requirements in the job posting’s description, but many applicants won’t apply to a job for which they don’t meet the posted requirements.

In addition, many companies may have internal policies aligned with posted job requirements that can be difficult for a hiring manager to bypass. While this is undoubtedly frustrating and disheartening to potential applicants, employers also do themselves a disservice by turning away large numbers of capable applicants.

The Degree Discrepancy in the Labor Force

Only about one-third of the American labor force holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. That means, of course, that about two-thirds don’t have one. A Harvard Business Review report titled “Dismissed by Degrees” noted that an overwhelming majority of survey respondents in most industries studied agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that a 4-year degree requirement results in their being screened out as qualified candidates.

This mismatch between the qualifications required to perform a job and the qualifications an employer requires for someone to be hired for that job has harmful consequences for both applicant and employer, as well as the broader economy.

There are a number of reasons companies require more qualifications than the position actually requires. When it comes to education requirements specifically, we need to explore the concept of “degree inflation,” what it is, and how it’s come to impact so many organizations and their job searches.

This is a subject we’ll take up in our next post on this topic.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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