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The Surprising Jobs That Now Require a Bachelor's Degree

The Surprising Jobs That Now Require a Bachelor's Degree
Credit: Franny Anne/Shutterstock

If you don't have a bachelor's degree, it is becoming tougher to find meaningful work, new research finds.

Growing numbers of job seekers face losing out on occupations that support a middle-class lifestyle due to employers' rising demand for candidates with a bachelor's degree, according to a report by Boston-based labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies.

The study's authors say that this type of credential inflation is affecting a wide range of jobs, from executive assistants to construction supervisors, and has serious implications both for workers not seeking a college degree and for employers struggling to fill jobs.

Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, said the research shows that employers appear to be using a bachelor's degree as a rough, rule-of-thumb screening system to recruit better workers.

"For an individual employer, that may be an understandable step," Sigelman said in a statement. "When everybody does it, however, this becomes a trend that could shut millions of Americans out of middle-skill, middle-class jobs."  

The shift has been pretty significant for some of the occupations traditionally dominated by workers without a college degree. An example the report points to is executive secretaries and assistants. Sixty-five percent of job postings for those positions call for candidates with bachelor's degrees, despite the fact that only 19 percent of workers currently in those roles have B.A's. [Should You Skip College to Start a Business? ]

Some organizations are searching for job seekers with college degrees, even when it makes the task of finding the right candidate much more difficult. The research discovered that construction supervisor positions, for instance, that require a B.A. take 61 days to fill on average, compared with 28 days for postings that don't require a bachelor's degree.

Part of the reason more employers are requiring college degrees is that the work they're trying to accomplish is becoming more difficult. For example, registered nurses and drafters are two occupations where the demand for a bachelor's degree is on the rise, but in both cases job postings indicate employers have higher expectations for the level of skill those workers will need.

The research revealed that in some situations, the skill sets required in ads seeking people with a bachelor's degree are identical to those that don't. For instance, nearly half of all IT help desk jobs now request a bachelor's degree, even though the skills employers want are identical for B.A. and sub-B.A. positions.

The study's authors said this suggests that employers may be relying on bachelor's degrees as a broad recruitment filter that may, or may not, match the specific skills needed to do the job.

Sigelman said this data poses a serious problem for two-thirds of the American workforce —those who lack a bachelor's degree.

"This growing divergence between the degrees employers now require and the credentials the workforce holds suggests that the job market is becoming less efficient," he said. "Using a bachelor's degree as a hiring screen is making some jobs harder to fill, and doesn't seem to represent real market needs."

This trend also poses problems to employers that are trying to replace an aging workforce, according to the research. The study's authors said raising credential requirements would make retiring employees harder to replace.

The report shows that the positions least affected by this trend are jobs for health care workers and engineering technicians, which have established licensing or certification standards that don't require employers to look at a college degree as a sign of a candidate's capability.

Researchers said this indicates that developing certifications that better reflect industry needs, together with industry acceptance of these alternative credentials, could reduce pressure on job seekers to pursue a bachelor’s degree and help ensure that middle-skill job seekers continue to have opportunities for rewarding careers. In addition, it would continue to provide employers with access to the talent they need.

The report was based on the analysis of the education credentials currently demanded in job postings gathered from more than 40,000 websites worldwide. Data on the existing workforce's educational credentials comes from the 2011 and 2012 American Community Survey.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.