Get ready for a new word to enter our discussion: “upcredentialing.” It describes a growing trend for employers to require bachelor’s degrees for positions that didn’t used to need them. In other words, as this interesting report from the Washington Post makes clear, “a college degree is becoming the new high school diploma, the minimum credential required to get even the most basic entry-level job.”
The report, citing research from Burning Glass, a labor market analytics company, finds an big difference between the credentials of people already employed and new hires that companies are looking for. As an example, only 25% of those already employed as insurance clerks have a BA, but 50% of job ads for insurance clerks require the degree. Just under one in five secretaries and exec assistants have a degree, but almost two-thirds of job postings demand one.
“The most benevolent explanation is that technology has changed the nature and responsibilities of many jobs,” says the Post article. “Duties are becoming more complicated, requiring more technical knowledge and stronger critical thinking skills. Being in charge of logistics a generation ago required strong organization and management skills, whereas today it might also require familiarity with sophisticated optimization and simulation software. And on the bright side, the pay in many of these upcredentialing careers is rising as workers are expected to be higher-skilled and more productive.”
But on the darker side, “With college attendance more routine today it was than in the past, degrees are becoming a common, if blunt, tool for screening job applicants. In 2013, 33.6 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had a BA, vs. 24.7 percent in 1995. Bachelor’s degrees are probably seen less as a gold star for those who have them than as a red flag for those who don’t. If you couldn’t be bothered to get a degree in this day and age, you must be lazy, unreliable or dumb.”
In other words, if a college degree isn’t all that special, it becomes just a routine entry-level requirement for more and more people. The only problem with this, of course, is that it’s a terribly expensive “minimum credential.”
Read the Post article here.