Virginia just joined the bandwagon of states removing four-year degree requirements from state jobs.

This week, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced a change in labor regulations that will unlock thousands of state jobs for those without college degrees. State agencies will eliminate degree requirements for about 90% of the jobs they are seeking to fill. This change is set to take effect on July 1, 2023. 

Removing degree requirements is an effort to fight degree inflation or the proliferation of jobs that require a four-year degree despite the functions of the job not changing to warrant the added education. Increased credentialing may seem like a way to attract better-qualified candidates, but employers have tested that assumption and found it to be false. Unfortunately, individuals who may have skills and years of experience are locked out of opportunities because of this paper ceiling.

Governor Youngkin said in a press release:

This landmark change in hiring practices for our state workforce will improve hiring processes, expand possibilities and career paths for job seekers and enhance our ability to deliver quality services.

Secretary of Administration Margaret “Lyn” McDermid added, 

Changing how we think about workforce planning, talent acquisition, and leveraging knowledge, certifications, technical skills, apprenticeships, and work experience into measurable business results has been a Day 1 Workforce Development priority for this Administration… giving equal consideration to all job applicants, including those who have experience solving real world problems is a smart business practice.

Even better news, the Youngkin administration is not stopping with degree requirements, but plans to implement other reforms as well. 

According to Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater: 

We are also working hard to examine regulated occupations and professions to find ways to simplify and speed up credentialing processes and universal licensing recognition for individuals who want to live and work in Virginia.   

State efforts with national implications

Virginia now joins Alaska, Maryland, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Utah in opening more state jobs to those without a college degree. As we’ve reported, states have been able to remove degree requirements for nearly all of their available positions signaling just how widespread degree inflation is.

More states should follow. There are currently over 10 million open positions despite there being over 5 million unemployed individuals. Currently, 70 million workers do not possess a college degree. The unemployment rate for non-college grads is 3.6% and 5.8% for those without a high school diploma. 

State jobs offer these individuals pathways to careers in their communities which improves their economic well-being and may alleviate labor shortages that many states are grappling with.

Retiring Baby Boomers are a driver of labor shortages in the public and private sectors. By removing this barrier to opportunity, states may be able to keep aging workers (who do not possess a four-year degree) employed in the labor force a bit longer.

States which want competitive labor markets can set themselves apart from their regional competitors by implementing labor reforms that will attract talent from nearby states.

Bottom Line

Removing degree requirements is a smart reform that unlocks economic mobility for non-degreed workers and expands the labor pool of qualified public servants. It’s a win-win and one that other states should adopt.