Are Degrees Becoming Obsolete? Some Companies Are Now Saying Yes!

In response to the ever-increasing costs of college education and a growing recognition of the importance of practical skills, several prominent U.S. companies are revising their hiring policies, eliminating or reducing the requirement for a college degree. This shift in hiring practices is aimed at providing more accessible career opportunities to individuals who may have the necessary skills but lack a formal higher education.

Retail giant Walmart, for instance, has taken significant steps to remove barriers to career advancement by cutting back on the number of corporate roles that mandate a college degree. Walmart’s decision reflects a broader trend in the corporate world, where an emphasis on skills is taking precedence over traditional academic qualifications. The company has gone a step further by allowing candidates to demonstrate their competence through previous experience or alternative learning paths, thereby recognizing the diverse ways in which people acquire expertise.

Tech giants like Google and Apple have also made notable changes in their hiring strategies over the years. Google, for example, significantly reduced its reliance on college degrees for job requirements. In 2017, approximately 93% of its job postings stipulated a degree, which fell to 77% by 2021, according to the Burning Glass Institute. Even for entry-level positions, Google has made its online certificate program an acceptable alternative to a four-year degree. Apple, too, has witnessed an 18% decrease in job postings that specify a college degree as a prerequisite.

IBM announced in 2021 that it was shifting its focus from specific degrees to prioritizing skills for over half of its job openings in the United States. This reflects a broader movement towards skill-based hiring, as demonstrated by numerous companies recognizing that practical expertise is often more crucial than formal academic qualifications.

Bank of America, one of the country’s largest financial institutions, also revised its entry-level job requirements by dropping the college-degree prerequisite. This change acknowledges the changing landscape of employment, where skills and potential often matter more than a diploma.

Accenture, a Dublin-based company specializing in information technology services and consulting, stands as an example of a different approach to talent acquisition. Remarkably, 80% of its 1,200 employees do not possess four-year degrees. Instead, Accenture has adopted an apprenticeship program, showcasing the company’s commitment to skills development and opening doors for individuals who may not have pursued traditional higher education.

According to the Burning Glass Institute, this shift in hiring policies is widespread, affecting 46% of “middle-skill occupations” and 31% of “high-skill occupations.” As employers increasingly recognize the practical value of skills and experience, the emphasis on degrees in the hiring process continues to diminish.

The move by these prominent companies reflects the changing dynamics of the job market, where skills and the ability to get things done are gaining prominence over formal educational credentials. As the cost of higher education continues to rise, this shift is making career opportunities more accessible to a wider range of individuals, creating a more inclusive and dynamic job market.