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You no longer need a college degree to work at these 7 companies

PTECH School Brooklyn 8IBM’s P-TECH School is inside the Paul Robeson School for Business and Technology in Brooklyn, New York.

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  • College-degree requirements have locked out millions of Americans from good-paying jobs.
  • Persistent labor shortages are causing more and more companies to drop degree requirements.
  • These seven companies in tech, finance, and aviation are leading the charge.

You used to need a college degree to work at these companies. Not anymore.

After the Great Recession, degree requirements locked out nearly two-thirds of American workers from millions of good-paying jobs that didn’t actually call for a four-year college education, according to a 2017 report. Holding fewer degrees than their white peers, Black and Latino workers were disproportionately left behind.

While figures like Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, and Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, have questioned the need for college degrees, more and more companies are realizing degree requirements put them at a “competitive disadvantage” as labor shortages are not going anywhere anytime soon and the practice shrinks their hiring pools: As of February 2023, the unemployment rate for American high school graduates was 5.8% compared to 2.9% for those with a bachelor’s. That gap represents millions of potential workers who could do a great job even if they don’t have a college degree.

Now, a number of companies have scrapped degree requirements to widen their net and diversify their workforce. Between 2017 and 2019 employers cut degree requirements for 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill jobs, which have been most pronounced in finance, business management, engineering, and health care occupations, the think tank Burning Glass Institute reported in 2022. The vast majority of these “degree resets” are expected to be permanent.

These companies are tapping into the over 70 million workers nationwide who’ve obtained skills and experience outside four-year colleges, whether through community college, military service, boot camps, or working on the job, as estimated by the workforce development non-profit Opportunity@Work. As more companies cut degree requirements, Burning Glass Institute predicts another 1.4 million jobs will open to these workers in the next five years. 

Here are seven companies who’ve dropped degree requirements and are leading this skill-based sea change in the job market.

IBMibm ceo Arvind KrishnaIBM’s CEO Arvind Krishna.

Brian Ach / Stringer / Via Getty

In 2016 International Business Machines Corporation coined the term “new collar” for positions seeking transferable skills instead of a bachelor’s degree, which the company said in 2020 accounted for 15% of new hires and included roles like application developer, system administrator, software developer, and cyber security specialist. 

In 2021 IBM announced it had stripped bachelor’s degree requirements for more than half of its US openings.

To build a new collar pipeline, the tech firm developed its P-TECH program to help students in under-served communities develop practical technology skills and land a paid internship with IBM.

While their degree requirements for software QA engineer and network administrator roles are lower than the national average, IBM required a college degree for only 31% of its software developer/engineer roles — the lowest of its tech competitors, according to Burning Glass Institute.

AccentureAccenture CEO Julie SweetAccenture CEO Julie Sweet.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Accenture, which competes with IBM in information technology services and consulting, launched its apprenticeship program in 2016. Since then, 80% of its 1,200 hires do not have four-year degrees, according to CNBC as of April 2022. The company now wants apprenticeships to fill 20% of its US entry-level roles, including application development, cybersecurity, and cloud and platform engineering.

In 2021, only 26% of Accenture’s postings for software QA engineer roles required a college degree — the lowest of its tech competitors, the Burning Glass Institute reported. Compared to the national average, the company’s degree requirements are also less prevalent for computer support specialists, software developers/engineers, and network administrators.

OktaOkta Todd McKinnonOkta CEO Todd McKinnon.

Okta

To keep up with growth targets and diversify its workforce, the user authentication service removed college-degree requirements for a number of sales positions in 2021 and developed a business development associate program to hire workers based on skills and potential, the Wall Street Journal reported.

DellDell laptopDell laptop.

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The technology company, perhaps known best for its personal computers, launched a program in 2021 focused on hiring from community colleges, filling roles in cybersecurity, engineering, tech support, tech sales, and marketing, according to CNBC.

Bank of AmericaA person is using a Bank of America ATMBank of America ATM.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In 2018 the company launched a pathways program to hire from lower income neighborhoods for positions in sales, operations, and software development, aiming to reach 20,000 such hires by 2025, CNBC reported. The company said it dropped college-degree requirements for the majority of entry-level jobs.

GoogleGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at a panel at the CEO Summit of the Americas.Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

According to the Wall Street Journal in 2022, the big tech company cut educational requirements for certain positions and counts its online certificate program as the equivalent of a four-year degree if students apply for entry-level positions at Google. The company’s job postings requiring a bachelor’s degree fell from 93% to 77% between 2017-2021, according to Burning Glass Institute.

Delta AirlinesThe Spirit of Delta 767.The Spirit of Delta 767.

Delta Air Lines

The airline dropped college-degree requirements for its second-in-command pilots in January 2022, joining its competitors Southwest, United, and American Airlines, according to the aviation school North Central Institute. The industry has faced a labor shortage, having to lure new pilots with salary increases and cancel regional flights.

Previously, Delta eliminated degree requirements for 90% of the 4,000 jobs it advertised in 2019, according to The Center Square

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