The truth about recruiting and the necessity of college degrees is an increasingly relevant topic for discussion. Being educated is always a plus and shows your commitment and dedication to being a learner. Earning a degree can definitely make you a competitive and sought-after candidate in today’s market. However, the necessity of a degree really depends on the position you are applying for. A college degree is required for many leadership-level careers, but not all. There are circumstances where experience can trump education. All of this makes it complicated to determine if a degree is actually worth the investment.

Money, Money, Money

In today’s world, tuition costs and student loans can be financially crippling and can lead to debate about whether a degree is a necessity or a “nice to have.” Years ago, having a college degree was more of a standard if you wanted to join the workforce and climb the ladder in your career. But it was also a very different time than now—technology has advanced, and the labor market has changed, as has the state of the economy.

Currently, students have to weigh how they are going to pay for an education. This might mean finding a job where an employer subsidizes some of the cost or attending classes part-time while taking out school loans. The most practical option is probably going to a community college for the first year or two, then transferring to an in-state school, allowing yourself to save money but also get a notable degree from an accredited school.

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publication, earning potential and educational achievement are directly related. In 2020, those over age 25 with a bachelor’s degree earned about $1,305 per week, versus $781 for those who only completed high school.[1] Having a degree can increase your opportunities for jobs paying higher wages. It can also better prepare you to climb the career ladder, giving you insight, perspective, and strategic ability to problem solve in the day-to-day professional grind.

Moving beyond discernible dollar values, the college experience itself can also give you lessons in life and help you build connections that can benefit your professional career, from the friendships you develop with a diverse population to the experience of adapting to a new way of living in a place where you don’t know many people. You get to know professors, new people from different places, and take on leadership and growth development roles that build skills you will use throughout your life.

Watch Out for Degree Inflation

There are many professional careers in our industry where a bachelor’s degree is required to get started. For instance, in long-term care, if you want to become a nurse, a social worker, an administrator, or a director of nursing, you will need some level of education that prepares you for the skills of the specific job. However, many of these positions don’t demand a bachelor’s degree, but it is often required. The licensure and experience is necessary, and the higher level education can be a bonus, but to set a bachelor’s degree or above as a requirement is something that needs careful consideration for each position. Degree inflation can keep competent workers out of good jobs where they could do well.

In today’s competitive labor market, when you limit the pool of applicants by requiring higher level education that isn’t always necessary, it creates an even smaller applicant pool to choose from, which can wreak havoc on your business success. Competing for a limited pool of college educated workers forces businesses to overpay for talent. One of the silver linings that came out of the pandemic is employers moving away from inflated degree requirements. According to a report from Harvard Business School and Emsi Burning Glass, summarized at the Harvard Business Review, “the change is most noticeable for middle-skill positions” and “to a lesser extent, the change is also noticeable at some companies for higher-skill positions.”[2]

In conclusion, yes, a degree can be necessary and is often a crucial part of success whether you want to change your career or progress in your current career path. But it’s not always necessary for companies to require it. If we want to increase equity in the labor market, one important way to do so is by removing barriers to well-paying jobs, including inflated degree requirements.

Contact Us

As a national leader in senior care and living management and consulting services, Health Dimensions Group (HDG) is uniquely positioned to assist organizations currently facing recruiting challenges. If you would like to learn more about how HDG can aid your hiring efforts, please contact us at 763.537.5700 or