- College-degree requirements have locked out millions of Americans from good-paying jobs.
- Persistent labor shortages are causing more and more companies to drop degree requirements.
- These seven companies in tech, finance, and aviation are leading the charge.
You used to need a college degree to work at these companies. Not anymore.
After the Great Recession, degree requirements locked out nearly two-thirds of American workers from millions of good-paying jobs that didn’t actually call for a four-year college education, according to a 2017 report. Holding fewer degrees than their white peers, Black and Latino workers were disproportionately left behind.
While figures like Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, and Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, have questioned the need for college degrees, more and more companies are realizing degree requirements put them at a “competitive disadvantage” as labor shortages are not going anywhere anytime soon and the practice shrinks their hiring pools: As of February 2023, the unemployment rate for American high school graduates was 5.8% compared to 2.9% for those with a bachelor’s. That gap represents millions of potential workers who could do a great job even if they don’t have a college degree.
Now, a number of companies have scrapped degree requirements to widen their net and diversify their workforce. Between 2017 and 2019 employers cut degree requirements for 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill jobs, which have been most pronounced in finance, business management, engineering, and health care occupations, the think tank Burning Glass Institute reported in 2022. The vast majority of these “degree resets” are expected to be permanent.
These companies are tapping into the over 70 million workers nationwide who’ve obtained skills and experience outside four-year colleges, whether through community college, military service, boot camps, or working on the job, as estimated by the workforce development non-profit Opportunity@Work. As more companies cut degree requirements, Burning Glass Institute predicts another 1.4 million jobs will open to these workers in the next five years.
Here are seven companies who’ve dropped degree requirements and are leading this skill-based sea change in the job market.