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Why do 81% of tech employers still require applicants to have a college degree?

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

College degrees may not be necessary for many tech jobs — and they’re probably not an appropriate indicator of future performance. But many companies still insist that their employees have degrees. Lately, questions have been raised about the usefulness of college degree requirements.

Many talented people have developed specialized skills through experience, certifications, and self-study, but have been shut out for lack of a college degree. “Many employers still require a four-year degree because they haven’t updated or innovated the way they screen talent and assess their potential,” according to research recently released by Cengage Group.

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Among tech employers, 47% say vocational credentials are most important when considering a candidate for entry-level employment. Only 26% say college degrees have an impact. However, the majority (81%) require diplomas. You could say that corporate hiring practices for tech talent are inherently biased because they require degrees.

The bottom line is that companies shouldn’t expect every candidate to enter a role with all the necessary skills – instead, workforce training and professional development should be a process. continued.

Ironically, in Cengage’s survey, 79% would agree with enough work experience. “Employers in the technology sector are more likely to hire talent who has participated in their externship, internship or apprenticeship programs,” the report’s authors state.

Other voices oppose requirements for university degrees in technology, even within the upper echelons of higher education. David Nuñez, director of technology and digital strategy at the MIT Museum, says he reviewed thousands of resumes for technical positions. But the “hard truth,” he recently shared in a series of tweets, is that “a college degree, certifications, and a long list of technical skills barely matter for someone like me.”

In most cases, human resource departments use educational status as a filter when identifying and assembling potential candidates. “As I have little time to whittle down dozens of resumes to a handful I’d like to interview, I’ll take a quick look at your background, but I’ll spend most of my time on the things that set you apart. “, says Nuñez. “Remember: A college degree is only required if you intend to pursue a traditional academic career or want to work in pure research groups at large tech companies.”

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When asked why a degree is required, two in five employers (40%) in the Cengage study believe that “candidates with a college degree are better equipped for this role.” Three in five employers (62%) require a degree for all entry-level positions.

But ‘tradition’ is partly to blame, with (16%) of employers saying they require a university degree for entry-level positions because ‘it’s always been that way’.

Cengage also finds that among companies struggling to find talent, two in three (66%) believe that “removing degree requirements for job vacancies would help them find qualified talent to fill talent gaps.” personal”. Additionally, among employers who do not require a degree for an entry-level job, nearly one in 10 (9%) said they did so to expand their talent pool to fill job shortages. critical workforce.

As a more focused alternative to college education, certifications and accreditations ensure more focused vocational training in a given profession. However, seeing a four-year or master’s degree on a resume is a quick and clear identifier for many employers.

Tellingly, 47% think it’s hard to gauge the importance of certification or credentials in potential employees’ job fields. At least 16% say it’s because they don’t know the certifications/titles mentioned. Another 36% say it’s because they don’t know which certifications/credentials are credible and which are not. Then, they are 40% to say that it is because they hire candidates in a field that they do not know.

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In addition to certification and credentialing programs, many skills can be learned over the Internet at little or no cost. “Technical interviews emphasize algorithms and problem solving,” Nuñez says. “Computer science courses at a university can give you a structured way to learn the basics needed to ace those interviews. However, resources for learning these concepts are available online, for free – for example, MITx. interview in FAANG companies are so well known that you can buy books about them and study practical questions.”

Nuñez recommends becoming active in your chosen field as a surer way to advance than earning a college degree. “Do things now and put them online. Better yet, do things that you can convince other human beings to use. If you do that, recruiters will find out about you and ask you to interview.”

He suggests other ways to become visible in your field: “Write and talk about topics you learn about; contribute to open source projects as a positive team member; attend meetups and hackathons to build connections.”

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