This State Is Making the Switch to Hiring Based on Skill, Making College Degrees Obsolete

By: Lauren | Published: Feb 09, 2024

For decades, it was common knowledge that the majority of positions within the United States government and the country’s workforce as a whole required applicants to have a college degree.

However, as of January 2024, the State of Massachusetts has changed its application requirements for more than 90% of its internal jobs. Now, candidates will only need a college degree when it’s completely necessary.

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey Signed the Executive Order

Democrat Gov. Maura Healey took office last January, and just one year later, she has made a major change to the Massachusetts state government.

Facebook profile picture of Massachusetts governor Maura Healey

Source: @MauraHealeyMA/Facebook

Healey signed an executive order that is all but eliminating the need for college degrees among state employees. In fact, more than 90% of the jobs available within the government now have no higher education requirements.


Healey Is Passionate about This Change in Policy

In a recent statement, Gov. Healey explained, “As the state’s largest employer, we rely on a strong, diverse workforce to deliver crucial services and programs for Massachusetts residents, businesses, and communities every day. But too many job applicants are being held back by unnecessary degree requirements.”

Then-Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks during a press conference at the office of the New York Attorney General

Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

And continued, “This Executive Order directs our administration to focus on applicants’ skills and experiences, rather than college credentials. It will expand our applicant pool and help us build a more inclusive and skilled workforce than ever before.”

Focusing on Skills and Experiences

Healey, as well as others who support the change, believes that focusing on an applicant’s skill set and experience rather than their degree is the best way to ensure the most qualified candidates are chosen for the position.

Application forms spread out with a pen

Source: Adobe Stock

For decades, millions of intelligent, hard-working Americans have been denied from even applying to certain positions in the government because they couldn’t or didn’t want to get a college degree. Gov. Healey hopes this executive order will change that.

College 100 Years Ago

At the start of the 20th century, the vast majority of Americans considered going to college to be both an honor and a challenge. Only those who excelled in academics and had the financial means to attend could do so.

Faculty and Students in the College of Architecture at Cornell University in June 1920

Source: Cornell Library

Young Americans who did decide to go to college often got jobs as doctors, lawyers, or leaders, but those without a degree could still find high-paying positions in a variety of corporate and government offices as long as they worked hard and learned quickly.

Degrees Have Become a Requirement

However, over the past 50 years, that mindset has changed, and college is now somewhat of a necessity if one plans to work in any kind of traditional corporate or government role, even in an entry-level position.

Graduates of Bowie State University put messages on their mortarboard hats during the school's graduation ceremony

Source: Chip Somodevllia/Getty Images

So many young Americans who struggle academically or can’t afford a four-year school have to decide if they want to struggle through school and wind up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt or ostracize themselves from the majority of jobs available.


Speaking of Student Debt

Last year, President Biden and his administration forgave $127 billion in student debt among more than 3.5 million Americans. However, that $127 billion is nothing compared to the total owed, $1.74 trillion.

People rally in support of the Biden administration's student debt relief plan in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Reports show that the national student loan debt has tripled in the past 15 years, and as the price of a college education is increasing, that debt will continue to grow. Unless young Americans stop going to college.


There Are Now Fewer College Graduates

While Gov. Healey’s order to remove the requirement for a four-year degree for the majority of state employees is certainly forward-thinking, it may be necessary for all governments and corporations in the very near future.

Applicant handing over a resume to a hiring manager

Source: Freepik

According to Pew Research, “In 2022, the total number of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college was down by approximately 1.2 million from its peak in 2011.” That means that over the next few years, there will be about 1.2 million fewer college graduates entering the workforce than there were 15 years ago.


Companies Around the Country Are Making Adjustments to Application Requirements

The state of Massachusetts is also not alone in its decision to open up the majority of its positions to people without college degrees. Companies such as Google, Bank of America, IBM, and Walmart are doing the same.

A sign hangs outside a Walmart store in Chicago, Illinois

Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

In fact, Walmart removed the need for college degrees for hundreds of its corporate positions and has vowed to assess candidates based on their skill set and prior experience as opposed to higher education.


The State of Massachusetts Plans to Train Its Leaders to See Potential Outside of a Degree

Changing application requirements will, of course, make a big difference for those applying, but it’s important to understand that it also affects the hiring team.

Group of older students studying together

Source: Freepik

And while this has been a worry for some against the changes, Gov. Healey promised that hiring managers within the state government will be specifically trained to ensure they know how best to hire a new employee based on skill set.


Everyone Is Hoping for a Diverse and Dedicated Team of Employees

Various companies eliminating the need for a college degree, as well as the state government of Massachusetts, are hoping that the new procedures make a real difference for Americans as well as their staff.

Group of employees from different age brackets and ethnicities

Source: Freepik

By selecting employees based on their dedication to the job, experience within the industry, and their personality and abilities, they are optimistic that they will consistently have a diverse and hard-working team.


Will College Degrees Become Obsolete?

The Burning Glass Institute reported that “an additional 1.4 million jobs could open to workers without college degrees over the next five years.” And many are wondering if, within the next decade, college degrees will essentially become obsolete.

Massachusetts State House, the seat of Government, with a golden dome and patriotic Stars and Stripes flag in the city of Boston

Source: Tim Graham/Getty Images

Other than those who decide to become lawyers or doctors, this may very well prove to be true, though it’s too soon to say for sure. But Gov. Healey hopes that her decision will “encourage the business community to join us by adopting similar skills-based hiring practices.”